On 22 October 2015, the NSW Government introduced the Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015 (Bill) which has three main objectives:

  • to establish the Greater Sydney Commission (Commission);
  • to provide for the constitution of Sydney planning panels for the Greater Sydney Region; and
  • to amend the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) which will authorise the Commission to make LEPs for the Greater Sydney Region.

The local government areas affected

Schedule 1 of the Bill identifies Greater Sydney Region as follows.

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The Commission

If the Bill is passed, the Commission will be a new NSW Government Agency with several key objectives, including:

  • preparing district plans for each of Sydney’s six districts (Central, West Central, West, North, South West, South) and reviewing the NSW Government’s metropolitan plan, ‘A Plan for Growing Sydney’;
  • promoting development in the Greater Sydney Region by integrating social, economic and environmental considerations with regard to the principles of ecologically sustainable development contained in Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1991;
  • integrating the NSW Government’s infrastructure decision-making with land use planning. The Bill proposes to achieve this by having secretaries for Treasury, Transport, and Planning and Environment on the Commission; and
  • promoting the supply of housing, including affordable housing.

The Commission will not be subject to the control and direction of the Minister, but rather will have the role of providing advice and making recommendations to the Minister on planning and development matters in the Greater Sydney Region. It will also assist local governments in the Greater Sydney Region with the implementation of any plans or proposals relating to development in the Region.

The Commission will consist of:

  • a Chief Commissioner, an Environmental Commissioner, a Social Commissioner and an Economic Commissioner who will be appointed by the Minister;
  • six people appointed by the Minister to represent each of Sydney’s six districts – the Minister is to seek the advice of the local council of each local government area in the district in relation to the proposed appointment; and
  • the Secretary of each of the following
    • Department of Planning and Environment,
    • Department of Transport,
    • Treasury.

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Sydney Planning Panels

The Minister will have the power to constitute the Sydney planning panels which will replace both the Sydney East Joint Regional Planning Panel and Sydney West Joint Regional Planning Panel.

New Part 3B

The Bill inserts a new Part 3B into the EP&A Act which relates to strategic planning. This part provides for the following:

  • the Minister may declare any area of the State (other than the Greater Sydney Region) to be a region, and any part of any region to be a district;
  • a relevant strategic planning authority (such as the Commission) may prepare a draft regional plan for the region, and a draft district plan for a district in the region,
  • district plans are to give effect to any regional plan applying to the region, and LEPs are to ‘give effect’ to district plans (or regional plan if no district plan exists) applying to the local government area; and
  • once district plans are made, the Council for each local government area in the district to which the plan applies must review the LEP for the area and prepare a planning proposal under s 55 of the EP&A Act.

Conclusion – How will this impact current planning powers?

The aim of the Bill is to encourage greater cohesion and integration in the planning system for the Greater Sydney Region. Some of the key changes to the current planning powers include:

  • Replacement of the Sydney joint regional planning panels with Sydney planning panels;
  • The power of the Minister to make LEPs (under s 53 of the EP&A Act) will be transferred to the Greater Sydney Commission for local government areas in the Greater Sydney Region;
  • Creation of strategic plans (ie district and regional plans) and the requirement for LEP to ‘give effect’ to these plans.