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Another step forward…or is it? The NSW Government announces essential criteria for the Planning System Acceleration Program

Earlier this month, the NSW Government introduced the Planning System Acceleration Program which aims to help fast-track the planning process during the COVID-19 crisis.

These policy changes are driven by the underlying fact that the building and construction industry significantly contributes to the economy and has been flagged by the State’s Treasurer as a key lever for re-stabilising the economy and aiding in the return to a growth economy in the future.

On the 28th April 2020, the NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes announced the first tranche of fast-tracked applications under the Planning System Acceleration Program. The first wave of projects that will have their assessments fast-tracked have the potential to:

  • Create almost 9,500 new jobs during construction and once complete
  • Inject $7.54 billion into the State’s economy
  • Deliver more than 325,000 square metres of new public open space, parks and environmental conservation lands
  • Allow more than 4,400 new homes to be built, including more than 1,000 social and affordable homes.

There is a clear focus on infrastructure and publicly funded “shovel ready” projects in this first tranche. It will be interesting to see these projects come online within the 6 month period and a test for the Government to see whether this exercise proves beneficial.

What are the criteria for these projects?

The NSW Government has announced the three criteria used to identify and progress projects through the fast-tracked assessment process:

1. Jobs

  • Does the project create jobs during construction and ongoing?

2. Timing

  • Can a decision on the project be made quickly?
  • For DAs, can the project commence within six months?
  • For planning proposals, can the project proceed to DA within six months?

3. Public Benefit

  • Can the project deliver or support public benefits (e.g. affordable housing or significant public space)?

Details are yet to be provided on where and how to submit projects for consideration by the Department. Barker Ryan Stewart was involved in early consultations for projects that are currently in the pipeline and awaiting consent from Council.

The NSW Minister for Planning and Public Space and the Treasurer’s Goal for the Program

Some of the Barker Ryan Stewart team attended a webinar following the media release with the NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, The Hon Rob Stokes and the NSW Treasurer, The Hon Dominic Perrottet. It was clear from this webinar that the Treasurer is committed to working closely with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to ensure that the government provides a holistic response to these planning reforms. The attendance of the Treasurer highlighted the value placed on the building and construction industry for economic recovery and post COVID-19 economic growth.

Both the Minister and Treasurer discussed a number of items raised by industry representatives. These included discussions around funding and banking reform to assist investors, developer contributions, and the long term focus for improving productivity across the sector. Although a lot was discussed, the brevity of the event meant that very little specific detail was provided.

Our Response

While Barker Ryan Stewart welcomes the Planning System Acceleration Program, we remain concerned that the planning reforms are unlikely to see real change to an industry crying out for reform and improved productivity. These reforms are simply too modest and are being rolled out too slowly to effect real investment during the COVID-19 crisis.

Do we need a Taskforce like our Victorian counterparts?

We would urge the Ministers to think bigger in these times that require multi-faceted, innovative and sophisticated solutions to this once in a generation event. We must have an eye to recovery, and the decisions that are made now will influence the effectiveness of that recovery.

One reform that we are keen to see adopted is the lifting of restrictions on subdivision certification to allow for private certification of subdivisions. This would allow some relief to the subdivision approval arm of the local authorities who are currently undertaking both the approval and certification stages. Private certification for subdivision would allow:

  • Faster processing of approvals leading to the faster release of land for development;
  • Investment in the industry and creation of jobs for certification; and
  • Long term impact of streamlining the approval system.

How can we assist?

Barker Ryan Stewart is well-resourced and positioned to assist in obtaining your development approvals during this time and we will continue to bring news of these vital changes to the Planning System as they are released by the Minister in the coming weeks.

At present, the NSW Government is seeking feedback on current applications and developments that need to be given higher importance. Barker Ryan Stewart can provide you with the details on how to make your submission directly.

If you have any queries relating to the Minister’s latest announcements, or need any assistance in getting your projects “shovel ready” contact our friendly team today on 02 9659 0005.

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