Together with this shift to strategic planning, the revised system will provide new approval pathways, designed to stimulate and promote economic development. In short, development that is consistent with the new adopted strategies will be ‘fast-tracked’.
There is much community concern that this shift will favour developers and prevent local communities from having a real say in local development.
The reality is that, if the strategic planning is done properly, communities will have a greater say in how their local areas will look and feel in the future. The difference is that they will need to do this more holistically, rather than fighting development application by development application.
This is the first potential problem with the new system – governments do not have a strong track-record in either strategic planning or real community involvement. It is also clear that many of ‘the general public’ find it difficult to think strategically or understand the wider planning process – it’s easier to fight a DA when there are very specific proposals for change.
This will make the transition to the strategic model difficult. It is also likely that the process of this change will take some years, as the State Government must first finalise regional strategies before local councils can move to the required new plans – all with strong community input.
Once those strategies are in place, the next challenge will be to define a clear process through which Councils will determine whether particular development proposals are ‘consistent’. Evidence in South-East Queensland, which has a similar system, is that this can lead to significant project delays.
One thing is very clear – the next 3-5 years will bring confusion and delays, as State and Local Governments works toward transitioning to an entirely new planning model.
Our advice to clients who might have development projects in mind – act now to lodge applications before the new planning legislation is enacted. The government has said that applications lodged, but not determined, before that new legislation will be dealt with under the current system – better the devil you know!
GeoLINK are ready to help you with this process. If you need to understand how this change might impact your projects, please call our Directors Rob van Iersel (at Lennox) or Simon Waterworth (at Coffs).