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Developers to gain more say under proposed planning policy

Environment groups are calling on the NSW Government to include best practise mandatory standards for tree canopy cover, climate action, parkland and urban heat mitigation in a new planning policy due to take effect for all urban areas by the end of 2021. 

Planning Minister Rob Stokes proposed Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (DP SEPP) seeks to reward developers with ‘’merit assessment’’ by giving them greater discretion about environmental standards.  It applies to all urban areas and is touted as one of the most significant planning reforms in recent years. 

The Nature Conservation Council and the Total Environment Centre Environment are calling on the government to rule out letting developers trade off environmental amenity and sustainability standards, warning developer profits will dominate to the detriment of current and future residents and the environment.  

“This policy has the potential to completely reshape our suburbs and towns,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

Total Environment Centre Director Jeff Angel said:  "The SEPP opens the door wide to an unlivable Sydney. Wonderful sounding principles are mere considerations.’’ 

Mr Gambian said: “It is absolutely essential we get this right, because communities will be living with the consequences for decades.   

“While we broadly support the principles outlined in the policy, we utterly oppose the government’s proposal to make many critical environmental issues discretionary. 

“That is a huge risk because it won’t set not negotiable minimum environmental standards. 

“The policy appears to offer developers the chance to choose their own adventure through the planning system. 

Mr Angel said: “Developers will be able to chart their own course to more profit and less action on climate, keeping trees, tackling urban heat and growing our green spaces.  There must be certainty about environmental protections.    

“The merit assessment being championed by the Minister should be a reward for doing better than the best standards, not an excuse to deregulate for all developers, good, bad or ugly."  


[1] SEPP No 65 – Design Quality of Residential Apartment Development and SEPP (Building Sustainability Index: BASIX) 2004. 

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