Tag Archives: Government of New South Wales

Planning NSW New Planning System 2012 paper by David Holland

22 Sep

Submission to NSW State Government on Green Paper

For some time myself and colleges in the planning discipline have felt that a more strategic approach to planning would be a better course. We have watched the integrated approach produce a variety of unintended developments over the years.

Following are some links to some of the work we have done with this philosophy of strategic planning in mind.

Central Coast Regional Growth Area by Dr. Ray Rauscher and Kevin Armstrong

Submission for the North Wyong Structure Plan NSW Australia

Submission on discussion paper on long-term transport planning for NSW: Paper

Submission on discussion paper on long-term transport planning for NSW: Article

Wyong Transport precinct, a proposal for renewal

Blue Haven Train and Bus Interchange 2012 

While subscribing to the move towards a more strategic approach to planning environments, I have concerns that proper consideration of natural environments could be sidelined in favor of economic consideration. My concerns stem from the stated overarching objectives of the new planning system as stated below:

  1. Promote economic development and competitiveness
  2. Connect people and places
  3. Protect the environment
  4. Improve people’s quality of life
  5. Resolve land use trade-offs based on social, economic and environmental factors
  6. Effectively manage growth and change.

Perhaps a cynical view, but with one chance to get the strategic plan in place, often real public participation is limited to a few interested persons until the final reality of a project going ahead. A typical human trait is to let others do the work until it affects themselves. So as a result big business, who are able to pay consultants to be engaged in this strategic phase are likely to sway the public participation component away from natural environmental considerations in favor of economic advantages.

Very few of the public have both the expertise and the time to be intimately involved in the strategic phase for planning.

Let us remember the strategic approach made some 10 or so years ago by the Department of Planning in NSW and the public participation on the Central Coast of the “Shaping the Central Coast “ strategic planning project.

Two observations are worth mentioning.

  1. Not many people participated in this planning phase
  2. No follow-up or resultant plan was produced connected to the project.

Possibly some of this data collected in around the year 2000 during the project was used in the 2006 Central Coast Strategic plan, however this plan, having its own public participation phase did not gain a lot of public participation in the broader community either.

Following is a paper using a model example in the Wyong Shire for public participation:

Local Government precinct committees and ecologically sustainable development, ESD based urban planning by Dr. Ray Rauscher

Concerns related to the Green paper proposal for New Planning Scheme objectives

I have some concerns and issues with the language of the objectives of the new plan.

The objectives are as follow as from the green paper.

Objectives

The new planning system will need to be:

  •  Simple – reduce complexity and remove red tape
  • Certain – provide predictability and certainty about how decisions are made for both investors and the community
  • Transparent – base decisions on strong community participation and evidence
  • Efficient – achieve time frames for completion of planning processes through increased 
accountability for efficient decision-making
  • Integrated – promote greater cooperation and partnerships between all levels of government, and 
balance environmental protection with economic growth
  • Responsive – provide flexibility to respond to change and ensure markets are competitive 


These form the objectives of the new Act.

The achievement of sustainable development will remain the main objective of the Act.

Commentary on the language of the Objectives

“The Removal of Red Tape”

Language like “the removal of red tape”, both lack professionalism and is an emotive term. It suggests that the current system of checks and proper assessment has no value except to bind up the process. These checks are in a system of integrated development, where objectives are codified.  As stated in the green paper these codes may not seem to be relevant in the assessment process, but one should remember that they were put in place to achieve an objective often not in the interests of a developer. These checks, while in my opinion often inadequate to preserve the integrity of natural systems, are an attempt to consider non-economic relationships in the landscape.

Another concerning phrase is “balance environmental protection with economic growth”.

The word balance can be interpreted in at least two different ways that can result in inappropriate developments occurring.

These meaning are:

  1. Balanced with the idea of equality. This would mean that an equal amount of loss of the environment must be the required balance for an equal amount of provision for economic growth. As equality is difficult to measure between these notional ideas, it is most likely that developer sponsored consultants will argue for a significant loss of unquantifiable environmental values as a trade-off for economic growth arguments.
  2. Balanced in the sense of reasonability. The argument would be on the part of the development proponents consultant, that it is reasonable to destroy a specified amount of environmental values to achieve a ‘reasonable amount of economic growth.

This term ‘balanced’ in this context is a word that becomes very subjective. In other words, its application depends on the views of the user. In this case the proponents consultant and the proponent of a development that has clear economic values attached to it. Having been a consultant for a range of developers I am aware of such arguments.

As a result, developments will be far from what others might consider “balanced”.

Another term used is ‘flexibility’

Flexibility seems a progressive term, but in reality could dilute the intentions of a planning instrument. Under the current scheme State Environment Planning policy Number one (S.E.P.P. 1) provided up to a 10% variation to the planning Codes and instruments. This variation was sort by proponents and assessed by local council planners. However, all applications with such a provision under the current system went through a public exhibition stage.

Flexibility in the context of the objectives is more nebulas than just applying it to variations of standards or of a strategic plan, it seems to be weighted towards providing unplanned for economic values to a development to assist developers to get bigger profits. I hope that I am too cynical in saying this. If this were the case and provision was built into the planning legislation to maximize profits of a development, then properly considered and public participation endorsed strategic plans and their defining planning instruments will be heavily eroded through an unfettered flexibility approach.

Concern and recommendations:

  • The new planning system must have ecologically sustainable development (ESD) as its overarching objective. A genuine commitment to ESD requires legislative mechanisms that mandate consideration of environmental matters and set minimum environmental standards. The new planning act must enshrine ESD including the use of the precautionary principle and intergenerational equity.
  • Proposed planning instrument regime: NSW Planning Policies, Regional Growth Plans, Sub-regional Plans, Local Land Use Plans must ensure that existing environment protections are maintained in the new planning system (including those set out in existing State Environmental Planning Policies). Natural Resource Management (NRM) targets should be included in strategic and sub-regional plans.
  • Although I subscribe to more initial strategic planning, codes may still be used for assessment of individual developments under the new integrated development model, recognizing that this component in the new planning scheme will be smaller than the present scheme. However it is recommended that the use of a code assessment process be used for genuinely known impact developments. That is developments that comply with the strategically formulated planning instrument. (Assuming the instrument has gone through scientific rigger and gone though a public participation process.)

The Government’s proposal to substantially expand code complying development will limit public participation opportunities, reduce accountability and weaken environmental protection unless the strategic planning implement or instruments are strong and prescriptive. (This statement opens the opportunity for a class of sub instruments similar to Development control plans (DCPs) providing finer detail for development compliance. These instruments should be reviewed regularly as planning opportunities change.)

  • The new Planning system must prescribe mechanisms for managing climate change impacts and mitigation. Climate change adaption and mitigation must be considered during strategic planning processes.                                  See link: Planning for Climate Change in the coastal regions of NSW .
  • Ensure that merit appeal rights are available for all state significant development and infrastructure.
  • Under the strategic planning instrument making phase, requirements for the carrying out of environmental studies, consideration of environmental criteria, and processes for effective community engagement must be included.
  • That regular 5 year reviews be undertaken for the plan making instruments both at the state and local/regional government levels to enable continued public participation on the evolving directions of the strategic plan over time.
  • Existing methods of public participation (for example notification procedures and exhibition periods) should be retained in the new planning system for individual proposals under the planning instruments. This is to ensure that the variety of potential controls that apply to the development within an instrument for a particular location is appropriate and acceptable to the community. And that any conditions set by the planning authority is acceptable to the community.
  • The Government’s proposal to require consideration of cumulative impacts during the strategic planning phase is a step in the right direction. The new planning system needs to provide a clear process for this to occur.
  • Flexibility for development applications The proposal to allow developers to make applications that do not comply with development controls will tend to undermine strategic planning efforts, goal and intentions.  In these circumstances, a full and comprehensive public consultation process should be engaged in. In the case of major land use change proposals, proponents should be required to wait until the 5 year review of the planning instrument to get approval. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to conduct a mini review at a 2 and a half year interval. However all public participation requirements must be met. As with plan making under the present scheme, merit appeals may have to be assessed by a regional planning panel or land and environment court. The only flexibility that should be allowable in this strategic new planning model should be the review process related to the planning instruments.
  • Public priority infrastructure applications – These must be assessed at the times of the planning instrument reviews. Government agencies should be able to work on plans well in advance so that these infrastructure priorities can be considered in the same way as a zoning change under the planning instrument, unless it is a complying development.
  • Merit Assessment The new planning system must mandate that environmental impacts must be considered during the development assessment phase of a development application. Recommendations 71, 72 and 73 of the Planning Review outline matters for consideration including Aboriginal heritage, air quality, biodiversity, climate change projections, human health and livability, soil, water and the water cycle, and the public interest.  These are important considerations and should be enacted in a similar way to present legislation which in part relies on other acts such as the Threatened Species Act etc.
  • Removal of concurrences There are insufficient reasons for departing from the recommendations of the Independent Panel for an improved concurrence process. It is not enough to require agency input at the strategic planning phase. Proper assessment of a development by concurrence agencies is required once all the impacts of a proposed development are known and to test its compliance with the planning instrument through a review process.  This insures that all related agency interests and stakeholders are consulted through the processes of the development application.
  • Accreditation of consultants .The new planning system should strengthen penalties for proponents who deliberately provide false and misleading information in the course of seeking an approval or permit under the new planning system. This advice or information should be able to be challenged by credited professionals and be available to the public on request to the regional planning Authority.
  • Corridor Planning – In this new planning proposal the government has proposed a strategic approach to planning a landscape or region. This means that a range of land use components will be considered and planned for in the plan. This should include natural areas connected by natural area corridors suitably wide to enable connectivity for biodiversity transfer and the provisions for habitat for a wide variety of naturally occurring organisms. This green paper must be applauded for including this component of the landscape. The attached link may be helpful in planning these natural spaces, as it is the intension of the new planning scheme to wind back the provisions of voluntary conservation agreements (VCAs).

See link:

Submission on the Review of the Biobanking scheme in NSW

I agree with the statement below from chapter 23, headed “Planning Culture” in the green paper.

“There needs to be a shift of culture and 
resources to focus more on strategy, outcomes and innovation, and move away from statutory planning, repetitive processes and bureaucratic procedures. In particular, resources need to move toward a next generation of planners who can lead the integration of infrastructure and land use, and better understand land economics and growth management.”

As a development control planner in the 1990s, I found the job less that stimulating, churning out similar development approvals all day. Since becoming independent, I have found a freedom to contribute to planning in NSW by offering ideas and submissions on a much more strategic level.  Hopefully, some of the papers available in the links above may contribute to this innovative approach hoped for in the ‘new planning scheme’.

Conclusion

Overall the strategy has given hope for a bright and prosperous future for the NSW planning. It is encouraging to have planning move towards a more holistic approach. The green paper flags that even with the growth in population the natural environment is important to preserve. It proposes green corridor links and will revolutionize the current planning scheme making the strategic a larger part of planning policy than the integrated planning approaches of the past.

We look forward to reading the White Paper with the above considerations included.

by

David Holland

Bachelor of App. Sc. Environmental Planning,

Grad. Dip. Environmental Management

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NSW Planning Reform – Submission-re Green Paper September 2012

22 Sep

by Kevin Armstrong

Firstly, I comment that the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act should always have ecologically sustainable development (ESD) as its overarching objective.

A genuine commitment to ESD requires legislative mechanisms that mandate consideration of environmental matters and set minimum environmental standards.

The new planning act must enshrine ESD including use of the precautionary principle and intergenerational equity.

These considerations appear to have been lost in the proposed reforms.

The new Planning system must prescribe mechanisms for managing climate change impacts and mitigation. Climate change adaptions and mitigation and coastal management practices must be considered at Statewide level during strategic planning processes.

Urban sustainability .. and best practice design appear to have faded from prominence in the proposed reforms. Energy use and environmental footprint are, to a large extent, determined by the type of residential housing we build; knowing what we do about global warming ands sustainability, it’s just plain dumb to continue building poorly oriented houses with black roofs, no eaves and air conditioning !

I believe that BASIX needs strengthening to include passive solar design. There should be a mandatory requirement to install photovoltaic generation when installing either air conditioning or a pool pump. Surely we are smart enough to make a connection between the use of these two devices and the availability of solar energy !

At the urban level, planning must more closely co-locate residential and service facilities (schools, shops, recreation, employment) to reduce transport demands and should mandate techniques such as WSUD (Water Sensitive Urban Design) including separation or drinking and non-potable water supply and capture and re-use or storm water run-off for irrigation.

The remainder of my submission will follow the order of presentation of the four fundamental reforms to the NSW planning system:

1. Community Participation – Involving the community early on key decisions that will shape our cities, towns and neighbourhoods

The reform proposals provide no mechanism for community engagement – especially when engagement is required at the strategic level removed from immediate impacts and outcomes.

Whilst they may have a keen interest in what is to be built ‘next door’, across the road or in the immediate vicinity of their homes … few in the broader community have any real understanding of planning legislation, theory or processes. There is a real lack of understanding the processes and timeframes of strategic planning.

Extensive community education and information will have to be provided to empower the community to participate in any meaningful way at the strategic level.

Most communities have engaged at various times with ‘strategic planning’ – on the Central Coast with numerous versions of the Central Coast Regional Strategy, REDES, Conservation Strategy, Transport Plan, Infrastructure Strategy etc – only to experience long delays, many revisions of ‘draft’ documents, then a change of government and a new round or proposals.

Whilst such processes may appear ‘normal’ to bureaucrats, the community will rapidly tire of extensive delays in finalising top-level / peak framework strategic documents. I instance the ‘North Wyong Shire Structure Plan’ which remains in ‘draft’ form – despite having been exhibited in 2010 and the long delays and internecine squabbling over establishment of the Warnervale Town Centre .. over some 15 years !

The NSW Government – via DoPI – will need to ensure conciseness, clarity and transparency of documentation to encourage effective community consultation. By way of example, most in the community were effectively precluded in participating in comment on the recent Part 3a application relating to Gosford Waterfront / The Landing … because of the dozens of ‘old’ / prior documents submitted as part of the application, the thousands of pages of reading required to properly understand the proposal .. and the extensive GIPA process required to obtain key information such as proposed building footprints, heights and likely shadow effects.

In return for its engagement, the community will expect DoPI to ensure that merit appeal rights are available for all significant proposals … including state significant development and infrastructure.

2. Strategic Focus –Preparing good policies up front to guide growth and development

I agree with a more strategic approach to planning, rather than the current system where decisions are made development by development or site by site. That is inherently inefficient, time consuming, costly and wasteful.

The proposed planning instrument regime: NSW Planning Policies, Regional Growth Plans, Subregional Plans, Local Land Use Plans will require that DoPI NSW finalise the upper level planning instruments.

In my local area, there have been totally unacceptable delays in finalising the (draft) North Wyong Shire Structure Plan, the (draft) Central Coast Conservation Strategy, the (draft) Central Coast Transport Plan and a regional Infrastructure Strategy. DoPI NSW has nevertheless forced both local Councils (Gosford / Wyong) to submit new LEPs.

Existing environment protections must be maintained in the new planning system (including those set out in existing State Environmental Planning Policies). NRM targets should be included in strategic and subregional plans and flow down to Local Land Use Plans.

The integrity of the system would be enhanced by annual reporting of performance / changes at all levels .. similar to the current “State of the Shire” / State of the Environment reports.

3. Streamlined approval: a faster and more transparent development approval process, aiming to maximize code complying development

Most would agree that efficient processes are desirable, provided there are safeguards to address environmental concerns and protect citizens’ rights.

Greenfields sites

I applaud the strategic level planning undertaken by the Growth Centres Commission in developing greenfields sites in North West and South West Sydney. GCC planning at precinct level) integrated residential, services and employment lands and ensured co-ordination between various government service providers. Planning such development is much simpler because of the unconstrained nature of greenfields sites.

Brownfield sites / development within existing established areas
Planning extensive new development in existing areas is, in my view, considerably more complex by reason of limitations of existing land use characteristics and existing infrastructure.

DoPI will need to develop strong processes to properly explain zoning proposals which significantly change the character of existing areas .. be they residential, commercial or industrial.

I instance the Gosford Waterfront / The Landing proposal where a proposal for a Regional Performing Arts Centre was not opposed by locals; however, they strongly opposed its proposed location adjacent to the Central Coast Highway with inadequate access and parking. Proposed 4-6 storey wharf-like structures projecting into Brisbane Waters were also strongly opposed; these would forever destroy waterfront views and recreational use and threatened the character of existing low-key development along the waterfront.

I express real concerns regarding ‘flexibility’ and the ability of developers to submit non-conforming plans. Such an approach is totally inconsistent with strategic land use planning and zonings.

Any community supporting a strategic approach to land use planning must be provided with full consultation and objection rights where any proposal does not conform to the agreed land use zoning.

Again, merit appeal rights should be available for all significant development and infrastructure proposals – whether proposed by developers or the State.

4. Provision of infrastructure: ensuring that infrastructure supports growth by integrating planning for infrastructure with the strategic planning of land use .

It seems axiomatic that additional infrastructure be provided as part of the development of new communities; however, there are huge backlogs and endless arguments over who should pay for new infrastructure.

Three local examples will illustrate ‘worst practice’ –

1.  an extensive new community was developed at Kariong – but waited some 15 years for a ‘high school’; an underpass was belatedly provided only after a high school was built (on the opposite side of the Central Coast Highway to existing residences a multi-purpose (adaptable) school should have been provided on a timely basis as the residential area was developed.

2.  only in the last 5-6 years has there been any real attempt to upgrade strategic regional roads (Central Coast Highway, Avoca Drive, Tuggerah Straight, Warnervale Rd) – despite massive increases in the local population over 15 years previously.

3.  thousands of people moved into ‘Warnervale’ and surrounding suburbs up to 12 years ago – they still have no adequate railway station, regional shopping centre / service facilities or adequate road access

The NSW Government must integrate infrastructure planning with land use planning .. and ensure adequate funds are available (‘government’ provided or sourced from developer levies) to provide a range of infrastructure services on a timely basis.

Equally .. and missing from the current draft proposals, sustainable development requires that land use planning be integrated with natural resource management – to ensure local environmental issues are managed and wildlife corridors are provided as an integral part of effective land use planning.

5. A ‘delivery culture’ – Promoting a ‘can do’ culture in planning with government and local councils accountable for delivering results

Clearly the government sees itself as under pressure to respond to demands for increased / affordable housing. Whilst understandable, this approach is itself reactive .. rather than strategic.

A strategic approach to planning … must first address the key issues of desirable /

sustainable population including the key issues of food and water availability, transport and energy use.

There is a huge difference between ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ – the former essentially being about productivity, timeliness and minimal cost .. the latter being about longer term values-based ‘worthwhileness’.

Our community will gain little if we make more ‘efficient’ our rush to develop everything before our eyes .. without considering longer term sustainability with a balanced approach to the interests of the community (social), our economy (financial), environmental concerns and governance processes (the quadruple bottom line).

Conclusion

NSW needs a holistic approach to resources use, community development, economic development and environmental management across the whole of NSW …

The current proposals for strategic land use planning might well be incorporated into such a broader framework. At a minimum, a foreword should explain this broader context.

Strategic land use planning .. even at the regional level .. will be totally ineffective if exploration / production of coal seam gas destroys aquifers and rivers (water supply), coal-fired electricity generation expands exponentially because of inefficient and inappropriate housing and profligate energy use (increased greenhouse gas / pollution), the community has to truck its food over hundreds of kilometres because prime agricultural lands close to the cities are covered with houses (ineffective energy use) and we continue planning in a fragmented way which requires each household to own several private cars and mandates multiple car trips – rather than public transport.

Email: Kevin Armstrong

This paper is subject to copyright; the written consent of the copyright owner must be obtained before any part of it is reproduced, adapted or communicated.   © Kevin Armstrong Copyright 2012