This is the second in our series of posts analysing and providing comment upon the suite of updates to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the Act) which commenced on 1 March 2018.

Part one is available on this blog.

In part two we consider the objects of the Act.

Background

As most readers will know, the objects of the Act were historically found in section 5. They are now located at section 1.3 of the Act. The suite of changes to the objects fall under what we classified as the ‘Mission’ changes in our first blog. That is, changes aimed at reinvigorating the strategic purpose of the Act and rebalancing the Act’s focus towards better strategic planning and decision making. The changes to the objects of the Act commenced on 1 March 2018.

Summary of changes

The amendments retain the previous objects of the Act and add new objects encouraging sustainability, good design, increased community participation and the sharing of environmental responsibility.

The first table below compares the objects of the Act pre and post 1 March 2018,[1] the second table illustrates objects that have been added or removed by way of the recent amendments.

Table 1 – Objects retained

Table 2: Objects added/deleted

 

Effect of changes

The amendments to the objects (as with other changes to the Act) aim to build community confidence in the planning regime, improve decision making, encourage better strategic planning and encourage better design. The replacement of objects relating to communication and utility services, land for public purposes, and community services and facilities with objects relating to design and amenity of the built environment, built and cultural heritage, and construction and maintenance of buildings.

Consent authorities will have regard to the amended objects of the Act throughout the planning process.

The amendments will also affect the interpretation of other provisions in the Act. For example, evaluation of development applications under s4.15 (formerly s79C) will now involve consideration of the new concepts of good design, and proper construction and maintenance of buildings under the public interest consideration. These concepts did not formerly exist under the previous versions of the Act and were not expressly required to be considered. The addition of these concepts into the objects of the Act means that consent authorities can now give them greater weight in evaluating development applications.

Check back in to our blog to see how the Court approaches interpretation of the new objects and concepts introduced by the new s4.13 as cases are decided.