(Name withheld) , of  Sutherland NSW, made the following submission on the project:

Legislative Updates

The amendments seek to improve the planning system through greater consultation and streamlined assessment of applications.
As only the draft Bill has been exhibited and the draft Regulations are not available, people are unable to see how the various legislation and regulations intertwine, underpin and support each other.
We are unable to see ‘the big picture.’ How can you seek informed consultation with only a part of the ‘big picture’ on display?

The culture of planning in NSW is such that it is viewed with mistrust and cynicism from communities.

Department processes leave local government planners to explain the decision-making process arising out of a complex system yet now you intend to reduce consultation at the development application stage?
Council’s role as consent authority, the ability of elected representatives (Councillors) to represent the local community, and the ability control local planning outcomes will be reduced.

Your Draft Medium Density documents state oeThe desired future character can vary from preservation of the existing look and feel of an area, to establishing a completely new character based on different uses, street patterns, subdivisions, densities and typologies. Council establishes the desired future character through consultation with the community, industry and other key stakeholders.” and oe The future character of an area is to be determined by the local council and community. The Design Guide encourages a design-led strategic planning process to determine the type, scale and built form of medium density housing permitted in an area.”
However, Community Participation Plans and principles state
oeIn preparing the plan, the planning authority must consider the community participation principles in the Bill, developed from the community participation charter proposed in 2013.2”
Hence you consult us " but again are not required to take any notice of those who have aspirations for the areas in which we live? This is tick-in-the-box consultation.

Pre-application Consultation
There is no indication of how such pre-application consultation will work to resolve impacts. Not all parties act fairly and reasonably which creates difficulties.. The reform overlooks hostility between parties and the potential for dishonesty and corrupt conduct. This is tick-in-the-box consultation. Dependant on wording, it could also be of the ‘push-polling’variety.
Early consultation is not just relevant to major developments, but would also benefit complying development (now expanding significantly) and other forms of local development.

The Medium Density Code proposes to make dual occupancy, terrace houses and manor houses permissible as complying development. The draft provisions will allow development with greater bulk and density than currently permitted by Sutherland Shire Local Environment Plan 2015 (SSLEP2015). These changes will jeopardise neighbourhood character in low density zones creating greater impacts on neighbours and have fewer opportunities to accommodate trees. Are your proposed reforms intending to further this approach to facilitating development while dis-regarding its’ negative impacts?

Complying development was intended to cater for low impact development that required no qualitative assessment and which only had minimal environmental impacts. However, the amendments serve to make complying development one of the main approval mechanisms.

Standardisation of Development Control Plans (DCP)
The reforms propose to standardise Council Development Control Plans.
The documentation does not provide details of how this will work, but this is likely to limit Council’s ability to respond to local issues.
DCP’s are deregulated in 2012 via PS 13-003 Proclamation of certain provisions of the EP&A Amendment Act 2012, 18 March 2013. The objectives of the changes were to: a) reinforce the purpose and status of DCPs as guidance documents used in local planning decision-making, and b) introduce flexibility in the way in which provisions in DCPs are applied by consent authorities when assessing development applications. The Amendment Act removed ‘conflicts’ that were ‘allegedly’ barrier to delivering new housing.
Another ‘get out of jail’ card for developers? Flexibility to use the DCP as a guide when and if required, yet the ability to ignore it when desired?

Changes to State Significant Development (SSD)
The reforms transition the end of Part 3A Applications. Changes to State Significant Development will also require applicants to demonstrate how they have consulted with the community prior to lodgement of an application.
The applicant must demonstrate consultation? How much integrity will this mooted consultation be as applicants will have the ability to use expensive PR firms to state their case?
Will they be required to prove that the consult was free of ‘spin’ and to document how they have responded to community concerns prior to lodgement?
‘Transferrable conditions’ also present a number of risks unless clear and robust protections are built-in.
Risks include:
• discretion and ambiguity as to whether a condition is ‘adequately addressed’ (or equivalent);
• still requiring the community (and others) to navigate multiple, changing approvals;
• lack of public scrutiny over changing conditions;
• loss of public rights to enforce a planning breach,
• lack of responsiveness by other regulators, and lower penalties under other laws.

Changes to Regional Planning Panels
Thresholds for regionally significant development increase from $20 million to $30 million under the amendments.
A number of other categories of development have also been changed, and as a result Council will be responsible for determining larger scale development applications.
Will rate-payers bear the increased costs leaving developers to reap the profits?
Under this model applicants/developers should be required to meet all costs. It is not acceptable that rate-payers bear the increased burden.

Standardisation of Independent Hearing Assessment Panels (IHAP)
IHAPs will become standardised and comprise an independent expert chair, a second expert and a community representative.
The Regulations have not been exhibited, however if the Minister directs a Council to have a Panel, it will have consent powers. There is no opportunity for elected members to sit on panels.
This is an unacceptable change because it would remove elected Councillors from major development decisions.
Councillors are elected to represent their constituents. They know their local areas and local impacts.

A Planning Panel can delegate any of its functions to the General Manager or a council staff member?
They tried this is Sutherland Shire. It generated great community anger. It also undermines transparency and democracy.
Elected Councillors have direct accountability to the community.
Elected Councillors debate contentious DA’s on the Council floor.
DA’s should not be delegated to unelected officials as they are not accountable (we cannot vote them out) should they follow a path unacceptable to the community.

Environmental Offsets
Amendments propose that offset requirements to be applied to any environmental impact, (not just biodiversity impacts.)
Offsets can have wider implications in local areas for example impact on wildlife corridors.
There is significant scientific debate about whether offsets work in practice " that is, ensuring ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity.

Probity and Accountability in Decision Making
Decision makers, including councils, will be required to provide reasons for their decisions and how community views were taken into consideration. However, there is still no requirement to ACT on community views.

Compliance Action for Complying Development
The changes recognise that complying development is often not compliant. A compliance levy MUST cover the costs of compliance action and should be met in full by the developer.

Councils should be able to suspend building works for up to 28 days to investigate whether the works are in accordance with a CDC. 7 days is too short.
Additionally, a court can declare a CDC invalid but only within three months of issue of the CDC, however the work may not have commenced.
The time frames proposed for Court actions are unworkable.
It is important to the integrity of code-based developments that compliance is viewed as a matter of fact, and not as a matter of the certifier’s opinion. A note could clarify that third parties (community members) can ask the Court for such orders, not just councils and state planning authorities
Ongoing concerns about code-based assessments Analysis & recommendations Several issues with code-based assessment have not been addressed in these updates.
These issues include:
1. Assessing, avoiding and accounting for cumulative impacts of code-based approvals, especially on environmentally sensitive areas
2. Improving enforcement and governance of private certifiers
3. Ensuring meaningful community engagement on design standards
4. Mandating leading practice sustainability standards (BASIX and beyond).

It is proposed that Certifiers provide the CDC plans, approval and compliance tables to neighbours in order that the process is more transparent. The success of such transparency is dependent on the accuracy of the information provided and the honesty of the parties. Neighbours are unlikely to know if the information provided is, in fact, correct.

More guidelines are needed on Section 94 in relation to the cost, design and provision of local infrastructure funded through Section 94 contributions. The changes will further tighten the Section 94 framework and are likely to result in less discretion and reduced contributions.

Local strategic planning statements
Although local strate...