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The new Planning Act et al: What you really need to know


On 3 July 2017 Queenslanders will welcome in a new Planning Act and simultaneously experience changes to regulations, State Planning Policy, DA Rules and Guidelines, SDAP and other supporting legislation and policy. While this might seem very disruptive, in all honesty it’s a game of spot the difference; the overall view is quite similar but just enough has changed to trip you up. The town planners at Wolter Consulting Group have prepared the following list to highlight what you really need to know:

  • It’s time to change your lingo – Out are old terms like: exempt, self-assessable, acknowledgement notice, preliminary approval varying the planning scheme. To keep up with the change you should be using language like: accepted development (replacing exempt and self-assessable), confirmation notice (replacing acknowledgment notice), change applications (to change an approval), variation requests (to varying the planning scheme), categorising instruments (for example the City Plan) and assessment benchmarks (what your applications will be assessed against).
  • As applicant, you have some new-found powers – You can now stop the clock for up to 130 cumulative days and are able opt-out of an information request (with some exceptions such as for variation requests). There’s even a new option to apply for an exemption certificate when there is an error in the scheme, or something has changed which otherwise causes development to be assessable.
  • They’ve upped the pace – There’s shorter assessment timeframes for everyone; Councils, referral agencies and the applicant. There are no more automatic extensions of time for Councils or referral agencies. Additionally, any time taken by the assessment manager to issue an information request (up to 10 business days) is deducted from their decision-making timeframe. Beware, the applicant now has only 3 months to respond to an information request.
  • Beware the hidden traps - Your approval will not last as long. The old roll-on provisions for currency periods have fallen away, although MCU approvals will now have a 6-year currency period to compensate. Your application will also no longer lapse if you don’t respond to an information request in time. Be careful here because your DA timeframes will continue to tick; don’t forget to start your public notification in time, even if you don’t lodge an information response. Should you decide to opt-out of an information request, don’t expect to be able to choose to opt back in, you’ll need permission. There has also been a reduction in the ability to claim compensation for injurious affection as a result of natural hazards.
  • The biggest change is change itself – Change applications, or what we used to call modifications to approvals, have morphed into something new. You can still change an approval the old way, or apply to give it a complete overhaul, substantially different to your approval; but you might need to publicly notify these substantially different change proposals. We are yet to hear how Council’s will handle these proposals.
  • There are some plusses – Code assessment finds itself again! It’s back to being a bounded assessment with a presumption in favour of approval and maintains its deemed approval status if you do not receive your decision in the set timeframe.
  • What’s new – A timeframe of 20 business days has been given to Council to decide requests for negotiated decision notices. Additionally, the option for third party assessment has been widened beyond private building certifiers but only if Council’s opt-in.
  • What’s hit the dust – There’s no more compliance assessment. Anything that previously required compliance assessment under a planning scheme will transition to code assessment.
  • A new unknown – Impact assessable applications may now also be assessed against ‘any other relevant matter’, for example if the planning scheme has been taken over by events. While this may sound similar to the current conflict/sufficient grounds test, this is now the case regardless of whether there is a conflict; even a compliant proposal could be assessed against the unknown.

For more information about the new planning framework for Queensland, please do not hesitate to contact one of the expert town planners at Wolter Consulting Group. We can help you with your queries, including what this means for your existing approvals and applications already in progress.