NSW Department of Planning and Environment: New approach to rezoning in NSW – Environmental Law

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The NSW Department of Planning and EnvironmentDepartment) is currently in the process of introducing a new approach to the planning system to alleviate complexities in the rezoning process.

In December 2021, the Department released the Discussion paper ‘A new approach to rezonings’.

Uncertainty around rezoning time-frames and an overly complex process can impact development, viability of projects, community engagement and public participation. The Department has made several proposals with the intention that the new approach to rezoning will commence later in 2022.

Objectives of the new approach

The primary objective of this revised approach is to strengthen strategic planning in order to limit ad hoc, site-specific rezoning, which is likely to cause inefficiencies and subsequent delays.

The reforms include new ways to achieve this objective by:

1. minimising the time required to process a proposal by a third by 2023; and

2. establishing an appeals pathway for planning proposals to ease delays and progress rezonings that are consistent with strategic plans.

These proposals aim to support strategic planning by:

  • simplifying the rezoning process and minimising duplication;

  • creating more certainty and consistency by setting clear matters for consideration, timeframes and consistent fees;

  • improving the transparency, trust and quality of proposals;

  • enable councils to make decisions and bolster NSW Government’s role to support, monitor and assist councils where beneficial; and

  • recognising private proponents in the process and giving recourse opportunities.

Key Proposals

Terminology

To prevent duplication and confusion, the Department proposes a streamlined approach to rezoning which includes replacing current terminology. For example, the new approach would see all council-led processes renamed ‘rezoning applications’ in place of ‘planning proposals’ and the relevant local plan-making authority (LPMA) would be described as the ‘Rezoning Authority’.

Categories and timeframes

Categorisation of applications during the pre-lodgment stage of the process aims to improve progress and provide parties with more certainty. The introduction of four categories include benchmark timeframes suggested for each stage and category of the new approach.

Roles

The shift in roles of the various parties under rezoning applications is expected to give councils greater responsibility, accountability and enable the more efficient use of resources. Additionally, the Department’s time and attention will be refocused on strategically significant proposals.

New process

The Department proposes changes at all levels in the process. Under the new approach, the scoping stage is suggested to be mandatory. This will build on the new Local Environmental Plan Making GuidelineLEP Guideline), by ensuring parties have the opportunity to discuss, provide feedback and clarify standard information required early in the process.

Once documents are lodged, the Rezoning Authority will check that the application is adequate, confirming in 7 days if the requirements have been met with a standard public exhibition period of between 14 – 42 days, commencing on confirmation (depending on the categorisation). Following exhibition, standardized matters of consideration will be assessed and clearly communicated decisions.

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