Planning Minister Brad Hazzard.
Planning Minister Brad Hazzard.

Councils to get more LEP power

COUNCILS will be given greater powers to approve local environmental plans (LEPs) under draft proposals to make the planning system more transparent and accountable, according to Planning and Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard.

Mr Hazzard said LEPs were the cornerstone of the state's planning system and typically outlined land-use zoning, subdivision sizes and controls on floor space and heights.

"However, many steps in the LEP-making system are slow, wrapped in red tape and there's no guarantee for proponents to get a fair hearing," he said.

"Since March 2011 we've sped up the creation of new council-wide LEPs and now we're turning our attention to the smaller but equally important amending and site-specific LEPs."

Under a discussion paper released for feedback:

  •  Councils (rather than the NSW Government) will have the final approval role on a number of LEP types, including when they support spot rezonings which are consistent with an endorsed strategy or surrounding zones;
  •  Proponents will be able to request an independent review by a Joint Regional Planning Panel if a council refuses or fails to make a decision on, their request to prepare a draft LEP, and;
  •  Councils and proponents will be able to request independent reviews of NSW Government decisions as to whether a draft LEP should be exhibited (and any conditions in the department's decision).
  • Proposed reviews of council decisions will need to first pass a strict assessment by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to:
  •  Ensure they are consistent with endorsed local, regional or State planning strategies, and;
  •  Are properly serviced by infrastructure and deliver orderly planning outcomes.

"For many LEP types, there's no reason for the NSW Government to make the final decision and therefore we are proposing to hand back approval powers," Mr Hazzard said.

"However, if councils are going to get greater final decision-making powers, then we need to ensure that the system is more accountable and an independent review will assist this."