Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2012

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Bill 2012 was introduced to Parliament on the 24 October 2012.

If passed in its present form, the Bill will have a considerable adverse collateral implications for heritage items and conservation areas. The legislation effectively prevents Local Government from strictly enforcing the majority of heritage controls on development applications by codifying Development Control Plans (DCPs) as non-statutory with the standing of guidelines. This is of considerable concern as most planning rules for heritage protection are contained in DCPs.

For example, heritage protection in the Woollahra Municipal Council is enabled by the Paddington Heritage Conservation Area DCP 2008 and the Woollahra Heritage Conservation Area DCP. In regional NSW, the Bathurst Regional (Interim) Development Control Plan 2011 addresses urban design and heritage conservation. Indeed the Planning Assessment Commission’s determinations for Catherine Hill Bay have been predicated on the Department of Planning’s preparation of an acceptable DCP for the site “to give greater power to the local council (Departmental Media Releases dated 21 March & 19 July 2012).”

Approximately 97% of all heritage items are listed and assessed singularly under the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. Today, the Heritage Act 1977 protects only 3% of NSW’s heritage. It is therefore incumbent on the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure to provide sufficient statutory protection for NSW’s heritage.

The proper and accepted process to manage major legislative changes demands transitional provisions. The timing of these amendments is therefore premature, as the Bill will leave extensive areas of NSW heritage with minimal statutory protection pending the creation of land use plans under the forthcoming NSW Planning Reforms.

The Bill is scheduled to return to the Legislative Council for debate in November. The National Trust has written to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure seeking a meeting with a view to ameliorating these impacts.