SOUTH Australia's Expert Panel on Planning Reform last week released its second report outlining 27 proposals that aim to create a planning system characterised by transparency, consistency, consultation and a strong connection to regional areas.
The report, 'Our Ideas for Reform', follows 12 months of research and consultation with stakeholders across the state and outlines and explains the Panel's reform proposals, which include the establishment of a state planning commission and the creation of a network of regional planning boards.
"Through 2013, we heard a clear call for a range of reforms to South Australia's planning system," Mr Hayes said. "South Australians want a system that operates at the highest standards - both now and as we tackle future challenges," said Panel Chair Brian Hayes.
Core reforms proposed by the Expert Panel include:
- Providing 'arms-length' decision making and transparent advice through a State planning commission, an independent authority appointed to improve the quality of planning decisions and co-ordinate infrastructure;
- Placing regional futures in regional hands, through the creation of regional planning boards to take the lead role in developing planning strategies and policies in their regions and overseeing assessment;
- Creating a citizen engagement charter setting new benchmarks for community participation – enabling consultation and debate at the points in the planning system where it can have the most influence – upfront when planning rules are set;
- A requirement that all assessment be undertaken by independent professionals, from local, minor developments to major projects on a state-wide level; and
- Streamlining planning processes, removing duplication and red tape and making planning documents more manageable.
"South Australians want a simpler system that all users – from large development companies to the 'mums and dads' that put in the majority of development applications - can easily access and use," Mr Hayes said.
"This is simply not possible now in a system that relies on around 1200 land use zones that are expressed in more than 20,000 pages of planning rules and maps."
Mr Hayes said the Panel had acted on the consistent concerns raised about the role of elected representatives in the planning system – whether these elected members are from state or local government.
"We've responded to this by clarifying that the role of all elected representatives is to set the key directions for the future of their communities, while leaving the day to day business of implementation and assessment to independent professionals," Mr Hayes said.
"The State planning commission and regional planning boards are crucial to this," he added.
Mr Hayes also noted the fact that the Panel heard more comments on development assessment than on any other aspect of the planning system.
"We've suggested reforms that make assessment more consistent and more efficient, through placing day to day business in the hands of professionals across the system - from councils to the planning commission," he said.
Along with proposals that are fundamental to the system as a whole, the Panel said it has also put forward ideas that seek to have a real impact on the future of South Australia's suburbs and towns.
"We have learned how important high quality urban design is and how it can make such a difference to people's lives, from extending the planning system beyond the control of private development to improving the public spaces, streets, paths and parks," Mr Hayes said.
"Our reforms propose to place design at the heart of our state's planning system. This will also act to maintain the character of our suburbs and towns that is valued by local communities. Better infrastructure planning and delivery is also crucial to our urban future."
Mr Hayes said the proposed reforms would build on the foundation of the existing planning system to meet the needs of people today and for many years to come.
"That's why it's vital for us to hear what people think about our ideas for reform before we make our final recommendations to the State Government at the end of the year. The panel is very keen to hear from as many people as possible to make sure we have these right – or how we can build on or improve our ideas," he said.
Submissions can be made until 26 September 2014 and the Panel is due to present its final report to the State Government in December 2014. The report, 'Our Ideas for Reform', is available from South Australia's Expert Panel on Planning Reform website at <http://www.thinkdesigndeliver.sa.gov.au/>.