Since the new State government was sworn on 14 February 2015, the industry has been eagerly awaiting details of its planning reform agenda for Queensland.  This anticipation has been off the back of extensive planning and development reforms pursued by the previous State government during its term of office.  The centre piece of those planning reform activities had been the Planning and Development Bill 2014 (P&D Bill) and the Planning and Environment Court Bill 2014 (P&E Court Bill), which were to replace the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA).  Both the P&D Bill and P&E Court Bill were introduced into Parliament in November 2014, but automatically lapsed upon the Legislative Assembly being dissolved.

Today the Government has released a directions paper confirming its intention to deliver a new Planning Act in Queensland.  The focus of the new Act is to deliver “better planning for Queensland”.  Key drivers for the new Planning Act are the delivery of better planning and development outcomes, stronger public participation and community engagement and the creation of a more transparent and accountable planning system.

A new package of Planning Bills is proposed to be introduced into Parliament by October 2015.  In this Alert, Partner James Ireland and Associate Thomas Buckley discuss the key points that industry and local governments need to be aware of.

What will be in the new Planning Act?

Draft Bills are not currently available, however, the Government has confirmed its key priorities for the new Act.  It appears that a large number of the planning reform aspects of the former P&D Bill and P&E Court Bill are to be retained, including:

  • A simpler and refined development assessment framework – new categories of development (accepted, assessable and prohibited), replacement of the existing decision rules (conflict and sufficient grounds), simpler provisions relating to currency periods and lapsing of development approvals.

  • Replacing the Queensland Planning Provisions and simplifying the hierarchy of State planning instruments from four instruments to two instruments.

  • Simplifying the process and provisions for plan making, community infrastructure designations and Ministerial call-in powers.

  • Establishing the jurisdiction of the Planning and Environment Court under its own separate Act.

The Government has also committed to retaining the State Assessment and Referral Agency, State Development Assessment Provisions and Single Planning Policy.

There are, however, some significant changes proposed, including:

  • The preparation of a new statutory guideline that introduces new community engagement standards for local government in the plan making process and retaining existing statutory requirements for consideration of, and rights to make, public submissions in the plan making process.

  • Ensuring that all publicly notified applications continue to attract third party appeal rights and removing the general discretion of the Planning and Environment Court with respect to costs in litigation.

  • Retaining the requirement to obtain owners consent before a development approval is granted, although further consultation is proposed with respect to the requirements for State-owned land, land burdened by easements and land that is compulsorily acquired.

  • Extending the current statutory timeframe for the making of a Local Government Infrastructure Plan (LGIP) by a further two years, subject to an approved LGIP preparation program.

Where to from here?

The Government has committed to introducing a new Planning Bill in Parliament by October 2015, with the new legislation expected to commence in the second half of 2016.  It is anticipated that draft Bills will be released for public comment in the coming months and that targeted consultation will be undertaken with local governments, the development and construction industry, the planning and legal professions and environmental and community groups.