The Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015 (Bill) was passed by NSW Parliament on 12 November 2015 and is currently awaiting assent. The Bill establishes the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) which will be a NSW Government agency charged with leading metropolitan planning for the Greater Sydney Region (GSR). The GSC will have an important role in both strategic planning and development assessment in NSW.
The formation of the GSC is part of a larger political and policy picture to reform local government in NSW and to promote metropolitan planning in Sydney 1. The population of Sydney is expected to grow by 1.6 million by 2031 with more than half of this growth expected in Western Sydney alone. The Bill has been introduced to ensure that the approach to infrastructure and land use planning creates a future Sydney that is productive, sustainable and liveable 2.
In this article we provide an overview of the Bill and what the Bill means for planning in the Sydney Region.
What will the GSC do?
The GSC will have a number of functions, including providing advice and recommendations to the Minister for Planning on planning and development and to assist local Councils and any other government agency on the implementation of plans in the GSR. The GSC will have a number of important plan making and development assessment functions. The GSC:
- will be a consent authority as defined under theEnvironmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (EP&A Act); and
- can make a local environmental plan (LEP) for a local government area within the GSR and the Minister is now excluded from doing so.
Regional and district plans
The Bill introduces a new Part 3B into the EP&A Act which makes provision for the preparation of regional and district plans by the GSC (or, for areas outside the GSR, the Secretary or other person or body prescribed by the Regulations).
Regional plans will set out the basis for strategic planning in a region and will contain vision statements, objectives and strategies and actions to achieve those objectives. District plans will set planning priorities that are consistent with the regional plan and actions to achieve those priorities.
When preparing planning proposals, planning authorities must give effect to the district plan (or the regional plan where there is no district plan). Also, once a district plan is made, local Councils must review their LEPs and prepare planning proposals to give effect to the district plan.
Who will be members of the GSC?
The GSC will comprise:
- 4 persons appointed by the Minister (Greater Sydney Commissioners), one of whom will be the Chief Commissioner. Each of the remaining Greater Sydney Commissioners will be assigned sole responsibility for either environmental, social or economic matters;
- a person to represent each district of the GSR (District Commissioners). Before being appointed, the Minister must seek the advice of each local Council within that district; and
- ex-officio members being the secretaries of the Department of Planning and Environment, the Department of Transport and the Treasury.
Sydney Planning Panel and Committees
The Bill also makes provision for the establishment of Sydney Planning Panels (SPP). Once constituted, a SPP will replace the relevant joint regional planning panel.
Along with the SPP, the GSC will comprise the Infrastructure Delivery Committee, the Finance and Governance Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee.
The Committees will play an important role in delivering the objectives and performing the functions of the GSC. For example, the Infrastructure Delivery Committee will coordinate infrastructure and land use decisions. It will provide an annual infrastructure priority list to government from Infrastructure Delivery Plans to be prepared by the GSC. The Strategic Planning Committee will lead the process of preparing the district plans for each of Sydney's six districts and reviewing the metropolitan plan.
What does this mean for Sydney?
The success of the GSC will largely depend on its ability to coordinate with other Government agencies and local Councils. Learning from past experience of former planning bodies, the GSC has been designed to integrate planning decisions vertically between Government agencies and local Councils and horizontally between Government departments and agencies with a responsibility for planning in Sydney.
Although the GSC has been welcomed by developer groups such as the Urban Development Institute of Australia 3, there has been some resistance from community groups and local Councils. For example, whilst Local Government NSW welcomes the GSC, it believes that the Bill must articulate a workable partnership between State and local Government and incorporate the views of local Councils instead of a top-down approach when preparing regional/district plans 4.
1 NSW Parliamentary Research Service E-Brief "The Greater Sydney Commission" by Gareth Griffith [https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/publications.nsf/key/TheGreaterSydneyCommission/$File/Greater+Sydney+Commission.pdf]
2 New South Wales, Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015, Legislative Assembly, 22 October 2015 (Rob Stokes, Pittwater – Minister for Planning).
3 Kirsty Needham, 'Greater Sydney Commission: Budget to tackle housing crisis with London-style planning authority' Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney), 21 June 2015 [http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-budget-to-establish-greater-sydney-commission-20150620-ght5mb.html]
4 Local Government NSW, 'Greater Sydney Commission' [http://www.lgnsw.org.au/key-initiatives/greater-sydney-commission]
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