Planning overhaul shapes up

NSW is expected to undergo the biggest overhaul of its planning system in more than 30 years, with the release of a planning white paper that promises to make the state more competitive.

NSW is expected to undergo the biggest overhaul of its planning system in more than 30 years, with the release of a planning white paper that promises to make the state more competitive.

This paper follows the feedback already received on a green paper released last July and which outlined several policy options. The white paper was released by Premier Barry O'Farrell and Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Brad Hazzard on April 16, outlining a proposal for major improvements to the state's planning system. The changes are expected to transform the system and accelerate the decision-making process for development applications, which should be good news for property investors and developers frustrated with red tape and other administrative obstacles that have been a feature for many years.

This augurs well for property development in NSW, with the potential for substantial cost savings, more efficient processes and a promise to "take the politics out of the planning system" once the white paper becomes a reality.

Hazzard said what developers have known for some time - that changes to the planning system and development assessment process are long overdue.

Under the new process, the government is aiming that within five years, 80 per cent of applications will go through the faster code assessment process, which they have estimated as having the potential to save the community and business about $174 million a year.

The new process could turn the planning system on its head by ensuring communities create strong long-term plans for suburbs and regions, and spend less time on debilitating site-specific development wars.

The measures outlined in the white paper all have a focus on "upfront strategic planning", designed to guarantee support for economic growth in the region by ensuring better planning

of infrastructure.

The proposals are also aimed at helping communities have a bigger hand in shaping their regions, as well as making it easier to deliver growth, jobs and houses to support a growing population.

The Property Council of Australia has welcomed the measures, emphasising that there was a need to resolve the confusion that surrounds the current planning system.

The paper is on exhibition until June 28 and additional regional and metropolitan discussion sessions have been scheduled throughout NSW from May 2 so that members of the community, planning practitioners and the building industry can have a say.

The proposal has yet to be signed off, but these changes have the potential to generate much-needed activity in NSW in the medium term, a situation considered desirable in the relatively stagnant property market at present.

Winston Sammut is the managing director of Maxim Asset Management.