NSW’s Controversial Design and Place SEPP Scrapped


Plans to adopt New South Wales’ much-maligned Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy have been scrapped.

The state’s planning minister Anthony Roberts said that after consultation within the industry, the NSW government would not introduce the SEPP, which was aimed at simplifying sustainability and good design.

Roberts has drawn a line under predecessor Rob Stokes’ plans, after tearing up planning principles last month and foreshadowing the demise of the Design and Place SEPP.

Roberts said he was squarely focused on simplifying the system and making more housing more affordable for NSW residents.

The BASIX standards would be updated alongside “other initiatives” to develop liveable and resilient communities, Roberts said.

The NSW government will update the BASIX standards alongside a range of other initiatives to help deliver more quality and affordable homes in communities across the state.  

“We want to make it easier to build quality, affordable homes, not harder. As I’ve said before, my focus is on changes that help us pave the way for more homes in liveable communities,” Roberts said.

“We need to optimise land for homes while building communities that are sustainable and resilient.

“There are a number of policies already in place to build resilient communities that are designed to withstand the impact of climate change.”

Roberts said natural hazards would be central to decision-making on land use through the Flood-Prone Land policy and the natural hazards toolkit for councils.

Urban Taskforce chief executive Tom Forrest, a vocal opponent of the “utopian” SEPP, welcomed the news, labelling it a “sensible compromise”.

“The decision not to proceed with the draft SEPP is a clear sign that the new minister is serious about cutting red tape and driving efficiency through the NSW planning process.  

“Today’s decision is in line with the recommendations of the NSW Productivity Commission White Paper which called for faster approval times and reductions in planning red tape.

“Urban Taskforce welcomes the decision to excise the BASIX environmental component from the draft Design and Place SEPP and to proceed with these important sustainability improvements, as planned, later in the year.”

The minister announced that the Apartment Design Guidelines and SEPP 65 will remain in place as they currently stand.

NSW Property Council of Australia executive director Luke Achterstraat said the SEPP was “undercooked” and welcomed the “sensible improvements” to the BASIX system.

“The Australian property industry leads the world in driving sustainable building design and operation and this is a key focus now and into the future.”

But it was not welcome news for industry groups that had hailed the Design and Place SEPP as a responsible move towards designing a more sustainable future. 

The Australian Institute of Architects’ NSW Chapter condemned the move, labelling the backflip as high-risk for the environment and communities.

“The planning policy and guidelines were a positive move towards a more sustainable, affordable and resilient future for the built environment,” a NSW Chapter spokeswoman said. 

“To downgrade these sensible policies now is a slap in the face for our communities, especially those recovering from extreme weather,” she said.

“We know the science tells us these events will become more common and more severe. To scale back these practical requirements for sustainability and liveability is unfathomable.

“In removing these guidelines, the government has chosen not to support sustainable, resilient places and good design.”

Green Building Council of Australia chief executive Davina Rooney welcomed news that the BASIX frameworks would be strengthened.

“We welcome that the government will proceed with upgrades to BASIX to match 7 Star NatHERS,” Rooney said.

“Minister Roberts announced that the NSW's Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy would be discontinued but ‘other initiatives’ would be progressed within sustainability. We recommend that the ‘other initiatives’ include the work on net zero, embodied carbon and a best practice guide to liveable and resilient communities.

“The IPCC report on climate change mitigation couldn't be clearer, the window of opportunity to reduce our climate footprint is closing.

“It's absolutely critical that the work is progressed at this time, so we can mitigate and prepare for the impacts of climate change, which many of us are already experiencing.”


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