Introduction

On Monday 15 April 2013, the Newman government released the draft State Planning Policy (Draft SPP). The Draft SPP is the latest initiative in the government’s ongoing reform of the Queensland planning and development system.

The government has indicated that the Draft SPP is intended to simplify the process of determining the relevant state interests to be considered by local governments, saying:

“By expressing state interests in a complete and comprehensive manner it will be easier for local governments to reflect and balance state interests ‘up front’ in local planning instruments, paving the way for the approval of the right development in the right location without undue process and delays.”

Replacement of existing SPPS

Once adopted, the Draft SPP will replace all 12 existing SPPs with a single policy, which will need to be taken into account by local governments when preparing or amending planning instruments, during the development assessment process and in designating land for community infrastructure.

The Draft SPP will also need to be considered by the State in preparing or amending regional plans.

Draft SPP principles

The Draft SPP identifies overarching principles (accompanied by implementation strategies) which are intended to underpin all state interests articulated in the Draft SPP. These principles are to:

  1. support the efficient approval of appropriate development;
  2. facilitate effective delivery of sustainable planning outcomes;
  3. protect and enhance Queensland’s natural and built environments and places;
  4. maximise transparency and accountability of planning instruments and decisions;
  5. enable positive responses to change, challenges and opportunities; and
  6. consider infrastructure needs required to support development.

Application of the Draft SPP

The Draft SPP will apply to the following:-

  1. the making or amending of a local planning instrument;
  2. the assessment, by local governments, of specific development applications identified in Part C of the SPP;
  3. the designation by a Minister of land for community infrastructure;
  4. the making or amending of regional plans; and
  5. the assessment of development applications by the chief executive responsible for administering the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA).

State interests

Part C of the SPP provides 18 state interests which are set out under five categories: 

  1. Housing and liveable communities
    1. Amenity and community wellbeing; and
    2. Land development and housing supply;
  2. Economic growth
    1. Agriculture;
    2. Development and construction;
    3. Mining and extractive industry; and
    4. Tourism industry;
  3. Environment and heritage
    1. Biodiversity;
    2. Coastal environment;
    3. Cultural heritage; and
    4. Healthy waters;
  4. Hazards and safety
    1. Air, noise and other emissions;
    2. Hazardous materials and developments; and
    3. Natural hazards;
  5. Transport and infrastructure
    1. State infrastructure and services;
    2. State transport infrastructure and networks;
    3. Strategic airports and aviation facilities;
    4. Strategic ports; and
    5. Water supply catchments and infrastructure.

The Draft SPP does not make any major changes to the state interests set out in the current SPPs. However, there is a reduction in the number of categories of state interests from 10 to 5, which is intended to group and align similar interests into overriding principles to create best practice planning principles.

Some changes in the Draft SPP include:-

  • Koala conservation is no longer under a separate state interest as in SPP 2/10 South East Queensland Koala Conservation, but falls within the Biodiversity heading under the Environment and Heritage category;
  • The provision of policy relating to wind farm applications, which were not included in SPP 5/10 Air, Noise and Hazardous Materials, and now falls under the heading of Air, Noise and Other Emissions within the Hazards and Safety state interest category; and
  • Changes to the language and terminology used in the Draft SPP to clarify and refine the state interests.

The Draft SPP contains a guidance section and provides hyperlinks to relevant guidance material.

The guidance material will include new guidelines specifically implemented to support the Draft SPP. These “SPP Guidelines” will include information such as the purpose for the state interest, the application of the Draft SPP and guidance on how to reflect the state interest in local planning instruments. Some of the guidelines are currently available, in draft form, as hyperlinks to the Draft SPP, while others are yet to be drafted. The guidance material also includes relevant materials which are already in existence.

The guidance materials and resources are intended to be updated and amended from time to time.

Conflict between state interests

Where a conflict arises between state interests in applying the Draft SPP, the following three objectives are to be followed:

  1. consider the state interests in their entirety;
  2. support innovative and locally appropriate solutions; and
  3. empower and support local governments to make the best planning decisions for their communities.

In addition to the above, the Draft SPP provides that there may be sufficient grounds to depart from a state interest if there is an overriding need in the public interest. The Draft SPP provides some guidance in determining whether there is an overriding need in the public interest. The Draft SPP states that there may be an overriding need in the public interest if:

  1. the overall social, economic or environmental benefits of the development or decision outweigh:
    1. any overall detrimental effect upon the social, economic or environmental values of the land and adjacent areas, and
    2. the development or decision advances the purpose of SPA and the principles outlined in Table 1 of the SPP, and
  2. the development cannot reasonably be located elsewhere so as to avoid conflict.

However, the Draft SPP also confirms that the following do not establish an overriding need in the public interest:

  1. development with relatively few location-based requirements, or
  2. interests in or options over land, or
  3. availability or ownership of land, or
  4. the personal circumstances of an applicant, owner or interested third party.

The overriding need in the public interest test is very similar to that set out in SPP 4/11 Protecting Wetlands, however the Draft SPP provides that the personal circumstances of an applicant, owner or interested third party will not establish an overriding need in the public interest.

When the Newman Government’s single State Assessment and Referral Agency regime comes into force (expected in the first half of 2013) relevant development applications will be referred to the chief executive responsible for administering SPA. The chief executive responsible for administering SPA will need to assess these applications against the State Development Assessment Provisions (SDAP).

SDAP is currently being prepared by the Department of State Development Infrastructure and Planning and it is anticipated to be in effect in the second half of 2013.

The Draft SPP notes that the SDAP, which will be prescribed in the Sustainable Planning Regulations 2009, will continue to apply to development applications even when the Draft SPP is identified as being appropriately reflected in a regional plan or planning scheme.

Submissions

Submissions in relation to the Draft SPP are open to the public and must be received by 5.00 pm on 12 June 2013.

The Minister will consider all properly-made submissions on the Draft SPP in preparing the final SPP.

If you wish to make a properly-made submission, it must:

  1. be made to the Minister;
  2. include the name and residential or business address of the submitter;
  3. be made in writing, unless the submission is made electronically; and
  4. must be signed by each person who has made the submission.

Adoption of Draft SPP

Following public consultation, it is expected that the Draft SPP will be adopted in final form in the second half of 2013.

Once adopted in final form, the Draft SPP will have effect as a statutory instrument and accordingly, where there are any inconsistencies between the Draft SPP and a local planning instrument, the Draft SPP will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency pursuant to s. 43 of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.

It is intended that an integrated mapping system will be produced to visually represent the state's interests which will be available when the Draft SPP is adopted.

Conclusion

The Draft SPP is a logically organised document, setting out the various state interests, further information in relation to those interests and guidance in support of the implementation of the state interest.

The Draft SPP provides a simplified and amalgamated one stop policy for consideration by local governments in drafting or amending planning instruments.