The Queensland government has delivered on its promise to simplify planning with the adoption of the new State Planning Policy 2013 (SPP), replacing 14 previous state planning policies with a single policy.

The SPP, which commenced on 2 December 2013, provides greater clarity to local governments and the development and construction industry on the State’s interests in planning and development. It is a significant milestone in the Queensland Government’s reform agenda to provide a simpler and better planning system.

Single state planning policy

The SPP replaces a multitude of separate state policies with a single, consolidated statement of state interests to guide planning and development decision-making under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA).  Under the SPP, 16 state interests are identified under 5 broad themes of:

  • Liveable communities and housing
  • Economic growth
  • Environment and heritage
  • Hazards and safety
  • Infrastructure.

For local government

The SPP applies to local government when they make a new planning scheme or amend an existing planning scheme and when they assess certain development applications.

In relation to plan making or amendment, the SPP provides greater clarity to local governments on state interests and the outcomes that the Queensland government expects to be delivered through the planning system.

The SPP does not prescribe how local governments should satisfy state interests and provides local governments with flexibility and discretion to determine how best to give effect to the state interests having regard to regional and local circumstances.

Similarly, the SPP does not seek to establish a hierarchy between the state interests and potential conflicts between competing state interests are expected to be resolved through the plan making process.

For the development and construction industry

Once state interests have been integrated into local government plans, the SPP will not apply to development assessment.  However, in the interim, the SPP specifies a range of state interests that must be addressed in development assessment for relevant development.

Over time, the development and construction industry will benefit from reduced layers of regulation and greater certainty as state interests are integrated into local plans.  Industry will also benefit from only having to refer to a single set of consolidated state interests when dealing with development applications until such time as state interests are integrated into local plans.

For state government

The SPP will be used by the Queensland Government when making a new regional plan or amending an existing regional plan and when designating land for community infrastructure.

The state interests will also be used by the Queensland government to review local government plans to ensure these support development, protect the natural environment and allow communities to grow and prosper.

SPP principles

The SPP does not prioritise one state interest over another.  However, the SPP sets out five principles to guide the consideration and integration of state interests, being:

  • Outcome focused: focusing on the delivery of outcomes
  • Integrated: reinforcing the role of local planning schemes as the integrated comprehensive statement of land use policy and development intentions for a local area
  • Efficient: support the efficient determination of appropriate development
  • Positive: enable positive responses to change, challenges and opportunities
  • Accountable: promote confidence in the planning system through plans and decisions which are transparent and accountable.

Interim development assessment requirements

Until the SPP has been appropriately integrated into local plans, interim development assessment requirements will apply to prescribed developments of a particular type or development in a particular location.

SPP interactive mapping

To support the implementation of the SPP, interactive mapping has been released by the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning and is available from its website. 

State development assessment provisions (SDAP)

In conjunction with the commencement of the SPP, the Queensland government has released an amended version of the SDAP.  These are matters of interest to the State for development assessment where the chief executive under the SPA is responsible for assessing or deciding development applications.

SDAP version 1.1 commenced on 2 December 2013.

Amendments to Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009

Amendments to the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009 also commenced on 2 December 2013.  These amendments include:

  • New statutory guideline on making or amending planning schemes or planning scheme policies
  • New statutory guideline for making temporary local planning instruments
  • New statutory guideline for priority infrastructure plans
  • Operational changes to support the implementation of the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA)
  • Consequential changes to support reforms to various development assessment regimes including vegetation management, interfering with water, state transport infrastructure, strategic airports and aviation facilities and certain tidal works

Summary

The new SPP seeks to provide greater clarity by identifying the State’s interests in plan making and development assessment in a single clear, consolidated and comprehensive document.

This reform initiative has immediate effect through the replacement of 14 former state planning policies with the SPP.  The full benefits of the SPP will however take time to be realised as local plans will need be prepared or amended to integrate state interests before the SPP ceases to apply to development assessment.  Until then, applicants will need to have regard to the interim development assessment requirements for relevant development applications.