This is the next in our series of posts commenting on the recent updates to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the Act). Parts one and two are available on this blog.

In this post, we consider the introduction of Local Strategic Planning Statements (LSPS) and the implications they will have for the future assessment of development applications.

The changes

In line with one of the aims underpinning the amendments to the Act to ‘encourage better strategic planning’, each council will be required to prepare an LSPS that sets out the 20-year vision for land use in their local government area. The LSPS must include:

  • the basis for strategic planning in the area, having regard to economic, social and environmental matters;
  • planning priorities for the area;
  • actions required for achieving the planning priorities; and
  • the basis for council to monitor and implement those actions.

Councils will need to review their LSPS at least every 7 years.

Advice from the Department suggests that each LSPS will contain a vision statement which should identify notable special characteristics and values that are to be preserved and managed. The LSPS must align with regional and district level plans and any plans prepared by the council under local government legislation. The LSPS will differ from community strategic plans (mandated under the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW)) which have a longer term aspirational focus on the community and other socio-economic elements.

Likewise the aim is that the LSPS will shape how the development controls contained in Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) will be interpreted and evolve over time. Whilst it does not appear that the LSPS is intended to replace councils’ development control plans (DCP), it will be interesting to see how the two interact in the future and how inconsistencies between the LSPS and DCP are managed.

Unlike DCPs, LSPSs are not expressly included as matters for consideration in the evaluation of a development application in s4.15 of the Act or in the Environment and Planning Regulations 2000 (NSW). [1] The Act is silent on what weight should be afforded to LSPSs in the assessment of development applications by the consent authority. Arguably, an LSPS could be considered as a ‘detailed policy’ which could be considered in the public interest limb of s4.15 of the Act, and the principles from Stockland Development Pty Ltd v Manly Council applied.[2] Whether the Court agrees with this characterisation remains to be seen.

Commencement

Councils in Greater Sydney will be required to have adopted an LSPS by mid-2019. Regional Councils are not required to adopt an LSPS until mid-2020. LSPS will be published on the NSW Planning Portal once they have been adopted.