Key Points:

The Greater Sydney Commission will have a significant determination function and will operate as an overlay to the Joint Regional Planning Panels.

The structure of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC), originally announced in June 2014, was revealed last week.

The GSC will be a critical element in the implementation of the Government's Plan for Growing Sydney, as its seeks to usher in a new age of integrated planning and development to cater for the more than one million extra people expected to live in the city in the next 10 years.

The Greater Sydney Commission's main functions

The GSC will be responsible for planning in metropolitan Sydney. It is charged with:

  • taking district plans for six Sydney districts through to finalisation (these are the north, central, south, south-west, west and west central districts, as set out in the Government's "A Plan for Growing Sydney");
  • reviewing local environmental plans. These are environmental planning instruments which help set zoning and regulate development in each local Council area. Councils will also be required to give effect to regional growth plans and district plans when they amend their local environmental plans;
  • carrying out the Minister for Planning's decision and plan making functions relating to rezoning proposals;
  • the assessment and plan making functions that are currently held by the Sydney Joint Regional Planning Panels. This includes pre-gateway reviews;
  • reporting and monitoring the implementation of "A Plan for Growing Sydney".

Who will sit on the Greater Sydney Commission?

There will be several different appointees to the GSC, including six district commissioners who will be nominated by local Councils for their respective district. There will also be:

  • an independent Chair, reporting to the Minister for Planning;
  • independent Environment, Economic and Social Commissioners, which is meant to reflect the principles of ecologically sustainable development; and
  • ex-officio roles given to the heads of the Department of Planning, NSW Treasury, and Transport for NSW.

Representatives of Urban Growth NSW and Infrastructure NSW would be involved with the GSC, but will not formally participate by sending commissioner representatives.

The intention is that the GSC will be a slim organisation, utilising rather than duplicating the resources of other Departments.

Four new committees as part of the GSC

The Sydney Planning Panel will subsume the Sydney East and West Joint Regional Planning Panels. This Panel will be given some of the tasks mentioned above, including:

  • review local environmental plans and conduct gateway reviews; and
  • determine JRPP development applications (for example, with a capital investment value of more than $20 million, or a value of greater than $5 million for Council development applications).

This Panel will not replace the Central Sydney Planning Committee for the City of Sydney, which will remain unaffected.

The Finance and Governance Committee will measure performance, administer grants programs and develop new ones.

The Infrastructure Delivery Committee is charged with co-ordinating growth infrastructure (and will involve the three agency heads from the Department of Planning, NSW Treasury and Transport for NSW). Its object is to encourage behavioural change by pursuing better co-ordination of delivery and integration of infrastructure with development.

The Strategic Planning Committee has a district planning function.

What effect will the Greater Sydney Commission have?

What is interesting about the GSC is that it will have a significant determination function and will operate as an overlay to the Joint Regional Planning Panels that determine regionally significant development applications in Sydney.

In some ways the GSC also mirrors the Victorian approach of the Metropolitan Planning Authority, which also has planning, co-ordination, review and approval roles, although its focus is more on strategic sites and precincts, rather than the city as a whole.

While there have been previous attempts to provide an overarching planning and co-ordination agency, this latest attempt appears to have taken on board the lessons learnt from previous experiments. Its success will still depend to a large extent on councils, State agencies and the State Government working collaboratively.

The GSC is to be established later in 2015 , and its enabling legislation will be tabled in Parliament shortly.