The next stage: SA Planning Reform

25 June 2019

It is eve of the next stage of the SA Planning Reform: we are expecting the release of the new Development Assessment Regulations (which will amend the Planning Development and Infrastructure (General) Regulations 2017)(Regulations) in July. Alongside the Regulations, we also understand that additional provisions in the Planning Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 (PDI Act) will be “switched on”, and the amended Practice Directions (consulted upon in January) will be confirmed. Delegated legislation relating to accredited professionals, fees and charges, transitional provisions and staged commencement has already been gazetted.

This new legislation brings with it major changes in the way that planning policy administration and assessment will be undertaken in this State. It provides for the creation of State Planning Policies (already operational), Regional Plans (to be drafted by Joint Planning Boards if constituted, and in relation to which a pilot has been completed) and the Planning and Design Code (Code) (being the central planning assessment policy, set to replace all local development plans and upon which many of the legislative provisions in the PDI Act and Regulations will rest). The Code is being rolled out in Phases and is due to be in place by July 2020. The Code is underpinned by a suite of policy position documents, guides and standards (e.g. heritage and character), which will assist relevant authorities in planning decision making.

Examples of where the new legislation differs from the existing legislation include:

  • The characterisation of a planning proposal (i.e. being an exempt development, accepted development, code assessed development (deemed-to-satisfy or performance assessed) or an impact assessed development;
  • The creation of new development assessment pathways (in which the pathway for notification and decision-making on an application is sought to be matched with its complexity);
  • Changes to “relevant authorities” for different types of planning and building consent application;
  • The introduction of accredited professionals and their powers;
    The verification of development applications, and timing of further information requests and amendments;
  • The requirements of public notification and consultation (e.g. signage on land now required with many applications);
  • Referral requirements and timing;
  • Representations (written and oral);
  • Timing on final application decision-making;
  • The introduction of deeming consent notices;
  • The drafting of standard conditions;
  • Requirements and changes relating to buildings and building work; and
  • Enforcement and appeal rights.

Following public consultation earlier this year, we understand that the final Regulations (when compared with the draft Regulations) will reflect:

  • A reduction in the information required to accompany development applications;
  • A reduction in the number of development applications that are to be assessed by Council Assessment Panels;
  • Changes to the State-Coordinator application call-in powers; and
  • A reduction in the referral response timeframes for SA Water (statement of requirements) and the Commission (land division reports).

Arguably the most practical change of the Reform will come from the introduction of ePlanning. Planning will be “digital by default” via the SA Planning Portal. The Portal is proposed to act as a “one stop shop” for planning and building consent applications and decisions. An applicant need only upload his/her documentation on the Portal and it will thereafter be assessed, referred and decided upon, online. The public will have access to the Portal at all times, and will be able to view applications (and supporting documentation and plans), make representations (where relevant) and obtain decisions, as required.

It is clear that we are moving into a new planning era in South Australia; this new legislation has sought to streamline and simplify development assessment. It has expanded the parties who can act as “relevant authorities”; it has sought to more definitively categorise proposals such that they can follow a set “pathway” from application to decision; relevant authorities must give consideration to one Code in making such decisions; timing for decision-making is stricter and tighter, and some development applications will be deemed to be approved if not decided in time. Finally, the categories of application that can be appealed are arguably more limited. In short, the Planning Reform seeks to reduce delays in assessment thereby lowering overall costs of development.

The State has been hard at work. In July, our work in applying this new legislation must also start.

This article was written by Emma Herriman, Partner.

HWL Ebsworth Lawyers will be running seminars in relation to the PDI Act and the new Development Assessment Regulations following the commencement of the Regulations. If interested, please feel free to contact Emma Herriman on the details below.

Emma Herriman

P: +61 8 8205 0841


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