EARLY community engagement and an elevated strategic role for NSW councils are two of the key changes to NSW's Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) that have come into effect, the Department of Planning and Environment announced last week.
The Department said the changes, which it described as the biggest overhaul to the NSW planning legislation in 40 years, will focus on enhancing community participation by requiring planning authorities to prepare and implement community participation plans that detail how they engage with their community.
Deputy Secretary of Policy and Communications at the Department of Planning and Environment Alison Frame said engaging with the community early in the planning process is essential to delivering the best planning outcomes.
"Planning to accommodate the extra 2.2 million people who will call NSW home over the next 20 years will require clear and transparent engagement with the community," Ms Frame said.
The new requirements for community participation plans seek to increase opportunity for community input into local plans and make it simpler and easier to get involved.
The Act also recognises the role of councils in strategic planning, with each council required to prepare a local strategic planning statement that will set out the 20-year vision for land use in the local area, describe the distinctive character and values that are to be preserved, and discuss how change will be managed into the future.
The local strategic planning statements must identify the planning priorities for an area and explain how these are to be delivered. They must also show how the council will monitor and report on how the priorities will be implemented.
While the majority of the changes to the Act came into effect on 1 March 2018, other changes will take longer to come into effect as they require further guidance and consultation.
More information is available from the Department of Planning and Environment website at <http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Policy-and-Legislation/Planning-legislations>.