Although there are many positives, Urbis is of the view that some of the changes may not bring about desired outcomes, including the following:
1. No ‘complying development’ for heritage affected schools
Currently, all existing schools can gain approval for certain works in a faster, more streamlined process through complying development certification. The proposed expansion of the use of complying development within schools is an effective pathway for rapidly upgrading school facilities and updating school design for better student outcomes. However, the draft ESEPP clearly removes this pathway from heritage affected sites.
Over 570 government schools and many independent schools within NSW are identified as local or State heritage sites. Removal of the complying development for these schools appears contrary to the intent of the policy to streamline development and assist in the timely delivery of improved school infrastructure.
2. Schools on small sites may need DAs
Now more prescriptive controls have been introduced for complying development which will facilitate building delivery on sites with ample space. However, schools on small lots or with limited space will still require to submit DAs to locate certain buildings closer than 10 metres to the boundary.
3. Opportunities for self-assessment
Non-government schools can now be classified as a ‘public authority’ for certain development set out in the draft ESEPP. This is a positive step which enables both government and non-government schools to undertake a self-assessment approval process under the provisions of Part 5 of the EP&A Act.
This is a new role for non-government schools and a likely need to build capacity in these schools to undertake these new responsibilities. All schools can now equitably benefit from the efficiencies the draft ESEPP is aiming to provide.
Urbis currently assists government schools, and several Universities and other public authorities in preparing the necessary documentation in support of this self-assessment planning pathway.
4. New flexible use of State owned school land
Currently, only uses permissible on a school site (under zoning requirements) may be developed on that land. Generally, this is highly restrictive to ‘education’ purposes only.
The draft ESEPP provides the opportunity to develop state-owned school land for additional purposes, compatible with the neighbourhood, for use by the school and the wider community. This has the benefit of allowing complementary uses and the sharing of infrastructure on the school sites.
This new opportunity only applies to state owned land. This negates the opportunity for flexible use of school sites and community infrastructure on non-government school land.