Since 2018, Councillors in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong are no longer involved in planning decision making. Planning decisions are made by the Council planning staff if the application is compliant with the local development standards, is less that $5 million in costs, and is not deemed a contentious developments (less than 10 objections). If the development does not meet these criteria (or some others less common criteria listed here), it is passed to the Local Planning Panel for a decision. The main objective of these changes was to reduce opportunities for corruption in planning decision making.
A Local Planning Panel consists of a Chair, two independent Expert members and one Community Representative member. The Chair is appointed by the Minister for Planning. The two expert panel members are appointed by the Council from a pool approved by the Minister. The fourth panel member is a community representative chosen by Council, but cannot be a Councillor.
If an application is deemed to need to go to the Local Planning Panel, Council staff will draw up a report on the application and include their recommendation as to whether the application should be approved or not, and, if to approve, what conditions, if any, should be included as part of the approval. The report will include the name of all people making a submission, supporters and objectors, and will include a summary of the objections and a view as to how well any conditions being proposed will act to mitigate these concerns.
No one is allowed to discuss the DA or lobby for or against it with members of the Local Planning Panel other than at the meeting. Those making submissions will be contacted by the staff of the Local Planning Panel prior to the hearding and asked whethere they would like to speak to their objectiion, to a maximum of 3 minutes per person. Having heard the applicant, supporters and objectors, the Local Planning Panel can reach any decision it believes is appropriate, including conditions for approval, and does not have to follow recommendations of Council staff.
If the Local Planning Panel approves the application, objectors can take an appeal to the Land & Environment Court but (and it’s a big but) objectors can only appeal the process in coming to the decision, not the merits or otherwise of the decision itself ie. objectors have to satisfy the court that the decision-making process was somehow compromised with the effect that the determination is invalid, not that they simply came to (in the objectors opinion) the wrong conclusion.
For details on the Woollahra Local Planning Panel, members, agendas, decisions etc, click here. The WLPP Agendas, Audio Recordings and Minute section (click here) is useful to look at to understand:
DA's with a value above $30 million are referred to the Sydney Eastern City Planning panel for determination. Some types of development can be deemed to have State significance due to the size, economic value or potential impacts that a development may have. The Independent Planning Commission is the consent authority for State Significant Development applications:
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