Amendments to Planning Legislation

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has endorsed a set of principles to guide changes to planning systems during the COVID-19 pandemics.

The agreement was reached earlier this week between ALGA, the Australian Government Minister for Cities, Alan Tudge and the State and Territory Planning Ministers, of urgent reforms to planning laws to ensure there is no increase in timeframes for planning decisions.

They agreed the planning systems and development approvals pipeline need to continue ‘as usual’ to function during this critical time to help support job growth and economic recovery.

The agreement sets out a series of principals, noting that every state, territory and local planning system is different, and changes will need to consider the relevant legislative requirements and local context.

The following principles should be considered in making any changes:

  • Decision making in the public interest is a paramount theme in all planning systems and this must continue as a guiding consideration.
  • Transparency for stakeholders about changes to systems and particular decisions.
  • Decisions made within jurisdictions are consistent, where possible.
  • Consideration of the level of public interest in a particular planning change or development proposal.
  • Balancing administrative and legal review rights with the need to address the pandemic emergency and to assist community and economic recovery.
  • All reasonable effort is made to maintain the usual pace of planning approvals recognising, as far as practical, community consultation will continue through new forms of communication recognising social distancing requirements.

In recent weeks the government has already changed planning rules to allow construction sites to operate on weekends and public holidays to help the sector cope with the impact of physical distancing requirements.

New South Wales has seen four additional orders made as at 3 April 2020, permitting:

  • Extended operation of existing retail and home businesses outside the hours of their development consents.
  • Various changes of use and temporary construction for the purpose of health service facilities.
  • The use of existing structures or the construction of temporary structures for the purpose of temporary workers’ accommodation at two key power stations.
  • Wider use of food trucks and commercial kitchens for the purpose of preparing and serving takeaway meals.

While Queensland’s planning legislation has been amended to:

  • Allow the Minister to decide when an essential business or use, for example supermarkets, should be able to operate and restock 24 hours per day, seven days a week, during an event such as the COVID-19 public health emergency, or other future disasters.
  • Provide the opportunity for any person to seek relief from existing development application conditions or other operating constraints through a simple application to the state for a temporary use licence made to the state.
  • Introduce flexibility for the Minister to suspend or extend any of the statutory timeframes across the planning framework.

Place Design Group is dedicated to providing you with changes to declarations and policies as they are released.

For more information, or to understand if this affects you, please contact our Planning experts Angus Green and Ian Cady.


Angus Green

Director | Planning Principal