Client Update: Reforms to Queensland's planning laws
21 september 2012
In brief: The Queensland Government recently introduced a Bill into Parliament with the intent, as the Deputy Premier has stated, to 'fix the planning system'. Partner Bill McCredie (view CV) and Senior Associate Anna Vella outline the proposed changes to the sustainable planning legislation.
Since taking office in March 2012, the Newman Government has undergone a process of consultation with industry and local governments to identify those parts of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) (the SPA) that were not considered to be operating as effectively as originally intended.
This consultation has already led to recent reform in terms of reducing the role of referral agencies in assessing some types of development applications, and the commencement of a new temporary State Planning Policy, which is geared towards local governments making economic growth a primary consideration in the amendment of planning instruments and the assessment of development applications.
The Sustainable Planning and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012, introduced to Parliament last week, seeks to implement further reforms to the Queensland planning regime. The Bill proposes changes to the SPA that are to:
- Give the Planning and Environment Court the discretion to order an unsuccessful party to a proceeding to pay the successful party's costs. Historically, this jurisdiction involved each party paying its own costs. The Bill states that, among other things, this has lead to commercial competitors fighting in court for the purposes of delay or developments that were approved being challenged by third parties on weak town planning grounds. It is intended that for new matters brought before the court, it will have power to take a variety of factors into account when making a costs order, in addition to 'the mere fact of success'. Costs may be awarded in relation to investigation costs and costs of applications brought in a proceeding.
- Provide an alternative dispute resolution process to enable the Alternative Dispute Resolution Registrar to hear and decide minor disputes and routine procedural applications in place of the Planning and Environment Court. This is intended to enable less complex disputes to be resolved quickly and cheaply without the need for a trial.
- Amend the timing requirements for providing evidence of State resource entitlement so that having evidence of such entitlement is not required at the time of lodging a development application. Where a proposed development will impact upon State interests, evidence of the State's consent to the development will be required before the development can occur; however, it will no longer be required at the time of lodgment of the development application.
- Permit local governments some discretion so that they may accept development applications that have 'sufficient information' to enable assessment of that application rather than delaying an application from proceeding in the absence all of the 'mandatory supporting information' currently required by the SPA.
- Change the way the State (either as a referral agency or as an assessment manager) deals with development applications. The State Department of Infrastructure and Planning is to become the sole referral agency for development applications, and will consider an application from a whole-of-State perspective in resolving any conflicts between codes and policies and the conditions to be included in any development approval.
- Remove the 'master planning' and 'structure planning' processes prescribed in the SPA, with the intent that the integrated strategic land use and infrastructure planning that these instruments were to consider will again be carried out by local governments and be reflected in planning schemes.
- Enable some provisions of the Queensland Planning Provisions to apply to all planning schemes, so that the highest level of assessment for low-risk operational works will involve compliance assessment – examples given include car parking, landscaping and sediment control works.
Key implications of the proposed amendments are:
- Litigation in the Planning and Environment Court may involve the court making costs orders against an unsuccessful party.
- Master planning and structure planning are being removed from the Act, with responsibility for strategic planning shifting away from land owners and proponents and back to local governments.
- Multi-departmental assessment of a development application will now be coordinated by the State Department of Infrastructure and Planning.
- Greater flexibility and discretion will be given to local governments in accepting and assessing development applications.
Planning and development processes in Queensland will be significantly affected by the changes the Bill proposes. We will provide a further update once Parliament has considered the Bill.
- Bill McCrediePartner,
Ph: +61 7 3334 3049
- Chris SchulzPartner,
Ph: +61 3 9613 8772
- Paul LalichPartner,
Ph: +61 2 9230 4026
- Jim ParkerPartner,
Ph: +61 2 9230 4362