BPN has significant concerns about the Planning Reform Action Plan announced by the Planning Minister on 15 December 2021. As part of the reforms, the Government has stated that it will introduce a Planning Delivery Unit (PDU) which will intervene at the request of a developer, council or government agency and will “when needed” make a decision in place of an approval body. This appears to be in direct response to developer demands that the Government intervene when Councils delay decisions to enable proper assessment and community consultation or reject decisions outright. The amendments will see private proponents take control and responsibility for rezoning requests that were previously put forward by local councils. The new process will allow councils to receive and determine proponent initiated LEP amendments with no or minimal department involvement in assessment.

The reforms also propose new appeal rights for developers who are unhappy with the outcome of the planning proposal, that is, if it is rejected. This will be an appeal based on the merits of the proposal, however no similar right of appeal will be allowed for councils, other public authorities or opponents of the rezoning. The appeal right would be triggered if the decision was made outside the required timeframe on the basis it is a ‘deemed refusal’. Councils have raised concerns about the costs of potential litigation in the LEC, and whilst BPN appreciates this we believe that the LEC is better equipped to deal with appeals than the Independent Planning Commission. We would like to see merits appeal rights extended to local councils and opponents of the proposal.

BPN believe that the proposed changes have significant implications for local communities and is likely to further erode their ability to contribute to the planning decisions that shape their local environments.  Giving developers control over local environment plans flies in the face of good strategic planning and in BPN’s view will lead to much poorer environmental, social and indeed economic outcomes.  The LEP is the platform on which communities are built and control over these integral planning instruments should be very much in the hands of these communities and the people that represent them.

There is also a section in the Discussion Paper relating to assessment fees that may be of interest.


Three types of assessment fees are being considered under the proposal. These are:

Option 1: Fixed assessment fees 

• Assessment fees are fixed by the rezoning authority, based on the category of rezoning application and divided into sub-categories based on the complexity of the rezoning application.

• Sub-categories are based on the extent of change to zoning and/or development standards by location and site area, along with other matters that complicate the assessment process (such as whether a proposal includes a VPA). For example, a standard rezoning application that proposes a zone change and a significant increase in height of building and floor space ratio could attract a higher fee than a standard rezoning application that only seeks an additional permitted use or a minor increase to the height of building and floor space ratio. 

• No fees would be charged for any other associated costs such as consultant fees for peer reviews.

• If a rezoning application is withdrawn after lodgement, the proponent could be entitled to a set percentage refund of fees, depending on the stage the rezoning application reaches.

• This option provides certainty for proponents and lessens the administrative burden for rezoning authorities. However, it may not always result in actual costs being recovered.

Option 2: Variable assessment fees 

• Assessment fees are based on the estimated costs a rezoning authority would incur on a case-by-case basis, depending on the category of rezoning application, staff time in scoping meetings and a forward estimate of staff hours required to assess the rezoning application. 

• Associated costs would be charged to the proponent based on actual costs incurred.

• If a rezoning application is withdrawn post-lodgement, the proponent could be entitled to a refund of fees not yet expended by the rezoning authority.

• This option will achieve actual cost recovery but will be time-consuming to administer and uncertain for proponents.

Option 3: Fixed and variable assessment fees 

• Assessment fees have a fixed and variable component. The fixed fee would be charged upfront, based on the category of rezoning application (similar to option 1). In addition, a variable fee is charged once the rezoning application is finalised, based on actual staff hours that exceed the costs covered by the fixed fee.

• To reduce the risk of non-payment of the variable fee component, proponents of complex rezoning applications could be required to provide a bank guarantee at lodgement.

• Associated costs will be charged to the proponent based on the actual costs incurred.

• This option will achieve actual cost recovery and be less time-consuming to administer and more certain for proponents than option 2 (although less so than option 1).

BPN supports Option 3.

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