Planning Minister details IPC planning benchmarks

Planning Minister Rob Stokes

Planning Minister Rob Stokes has set the State’s Independent Planning Commission (IPC) new accountability benchmarks to ensure greater timeliness and transparency in decision-making.

The move follows allegations made last week by Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast Adam Crouch that Central Coast Council was stalling development in and around the Gosford CBD by referring too many projects to the commission for consideration.

These included Kibbleplex in Gosford town centre, the Northside medical precinct at West Gosford and the Central Coast Quarter in Mann St, Gosford.

But Central Coast Mayor Lisa Matthews said referring significant development proposals to an Independent Planning Commission allows for a further layer of transparency and independence on the final decision being made.

This week Stokes issued his Statement of Expectations, outlining timeframes and process for planning decisions and advice to be issued, as part of the roll-out of reforms recommended by the NSW Productivity Commission.

“The recommendations from the Productivity Commission’s review reinforced the importance of independent decision-making in upholding the integrity of the NSW planning system,” Stokes said.

“Everyone benefits when we have clear and transparent benchmarks: the IPC knows what is expected of them in making a decision on a project; the community knows what role they have to play; and proponents know how and when their project will be determined.”

Once a planning assessment is completed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and referred to the IPC, the Commission will be expected to provide: a determination within five weeks for projects that do not require a public meeting or public hearing; a determination within eight weeks for projects subject to a public meeting; a determination within 12 weeks for projects subject to a public hearing; and advice to the Planning Secretary within five weeks for gateway and rezoning reviews.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has also been signed between the Department and the IPC to eliminate duplication of roles in the assessment process and align with the Minister’s Statement of Expectations.

The MoU includes probity commitments to maintain independence, guidelines for the provision of additional information required in determinations and clarity on the implementation of policy guidelines.

“We want the Department and IPC to work cooperatively and effectively to ensure the State’s most contentious projects are determined as quickly as possible, providing certainty for both the community and proponents,” Stokes said.

The State’s planning laws clearly identify which State significant development applications are to be determined by the Independent Planning Commission and which are delegated to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to determine.

The Independent Planning Commission is the consent authority for State significant development applications in circumstances where: there are 50 or more unique public objections to the SSD application; and/or the applicant has made a reportable political donations disclosure; and/or  the local Council has objected to the SSD application and has not rescinded that objection following exhibition.

In circumstances where a Council has rescinded its objection following exhibition of the application – and Council’s objection was the only reason for the Commission to be the consent authority – the SSD application would be delegated back to the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment (the Department) for determination.

The Commission will also continue to be the consent authority for modification applications in circumstances where the applicant has made a reportable political donations disclosure.

Media release, May 14
Department of Planning Industry and Environment
Department of Planning website, May 19
Coast Community News,
May 15