Independent Planning Commission Overhaul Will See it Tackle ‘Controversial’ Projects


The state’s Independent Planning Commission will be overhauled in the wake of an extensive review by the NSW Productivity Commission.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes says the government has accepted all 12 recommendations of the review, which was ordered last December after a number of controversial development decisions including the rejection of The Star's proposed Ritz-Carlton tower in Pyrmont.

“The IPC will undergo a significant transformation with new performance benchmarks, streamlined processes, greater accountability, and new Commissioners, to ensure the system works better for everyone,” Stokes said.

The recommendations are aimed at addressing the timeliness and consistency of the commission's processes.

Among key changes is the establishment of the commission as a separate, independent agency whose chair is accountable to the planning minister, and required to deliver on the government’s agreed objectives and performance measures.

Other changes include a clarification of roles, with the IPC to act as a decision-maker on the state’s most controversial projects, rather than having the ability to re-assess the department’s technical work.

▲ The NSW Independent Planning Commission controversially rejected the Star casino’s plans for a 220-room hotel and luxury apartment tower in Pyrmont.

To eliminate bureaucratic “double handling”, public hearings will be single-staged rather than repeated; and in a bid to ensure only the most complex and contentious projects are referred to the IPC, the referral threshold for community objections will be raised from 25 to 50, all of which are now required to be unique.

Minister Stokes says that while the review has reaffirmed the value of the IPC as an independent decision-making body for “contentious state-significant developments”, it is also clear that changes need to be made to ensure greater certainty for people and the community.

Chief executive of property development industry lobby group Urban Taskforce Tom Forrest said the review is good news for planning in NSW, with many of the report’s recommendations reflecting those proposed in the group’s own submission.

“[We] welcome the government’s focus on planning reform and congratulate the minister and the productivity commission for this start in that process.”

Forrest called on the minister to ensure that new appointments made as part of the overhaul reflect a balance of high level planning skills and direct planning experience.

The reforms will be spearheaded by acting IPC chair Peter Duncan, who brings extensive agency leadership and reform experience, including as a current IPC commissioner and former director general of the NSW department of services technology and administration.

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