On Monday 3 July 2017, the Queensland Government rolled out a new suite of legislation to manage development in Queensland. The new Planning Act 2016 (the ‘PA’) is notably smaller and more compact than its predecessor, being less than half its size, but there will be several changes implemented that affect how development is considered and assessed throughout the State, including:
- The removal of automatic extensions by the Assessment Manger and Referral Agencies during project review;
- Reduced timeframes for Information Requests;
- New Decision Rules (Bounded Assessment); and
- The removal of rolling currency provisions.
Removal of automatic extensions
The biggest and most welcomed change within the industry is the change in the assessment framework to remove extensions to the development assessment process, without consent of the applicant.
Previously, the assessing authority (i.e. Local Council) had the power to extend certain phases for an additional 10-20 business days without the approval/consent of the applicant.
Under the PA, the assessing authority can only extend a part of the assessment by agreement with the applicant. The changes also establish timeframes for the consideration of request for a Negotiated Decision Notice during the applicant’s appeal period. This is a great step forward for planning in Queensland that seeks to increase accountability and to establish a focus on open communication before and during the assessment process.
Other changes in the planning framework affect the timing of works by the applicant. Provisions have been introduced to reduce the applicants’ response timeframe in respect to addressing information requests; being from 6 months to 3 months. The purpose of this change is to essentially reduce the overall statutory timeframe to provide a shorter, more streamlined assessment process. Similar to the above, this response time can be extended upon agreement with the assessing authority.
New decision rules
The new PA also introduces new decision rules whereby Code Assessable applications are now subject to bounded assessment. This essentially means the assessment by the assessing authority must only consider the proposed development in respect to the provisions made available under the relevant codes; and must approve the development to the extent it complies with these benchmarks. If required, the assessor can manage any inconsistencies through the imposition of conditions. The purpose of binding this assessment is to provide greater certainty to the development industry around subjective considerations under code assessment, more appropriately balanced community expectations, and assist in stimulating the economy.
Rolling currency provisions
Unfortunately, the new PA does not continue to provide any rolling currency provisions for an initiating approval (i.e. extension of an approval through subsequent applications). However, all extensions to the currency period are afforded under the new permissible change applications, now referred to as ‘Change Applications’. Additionally, it is noted that the new PA allows for an increased currency period, with a ‘Material Change of Use’ now afforded 6 years and ‘Reconfiguring a Lot’ approvals offered 4 years, compared to 4 and 2 years respectively under the previous legislation.
The purpose of this new legislation is to provide a framework that is more transparent, accountable, and applicant-focused.
At this stage, the new system appears to deliver a series of mechanisms to drive this change, which is promising, but we are yet to see how this will influence change at the local level and actually offer a more streamlined assessment process.