The importance of Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) has become evident over the last decade, with increased development, population shifts, changing weather patterns and extreme weather events. LEPs provide shape and guidance for overseeing the way land is used in the State and for determining decisions made with regard to the estimated $20b worth of local development in the State’s annual budget. LEPs set down zoning and development controls and afford communities a way to look at and discuss future planning and environmental directions.
In August 2011, the establishment of a Local Planning Panel (LPP) was announced by NSW Planning and Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard. This panel has been set up to facilitate consultation with local communities and to provide feedback to the government on the usefulness of the LEP template. Communities needing guidance with this instrument are best advised to consult their solicitor.
On 31st March 2006, a standard instrument for preparing LEPs was released by the NSW government. This tool is known as the LEP template. It gives communities a way to formulate and set down ideas. Its language helps communities articulate concerns and vision through the use of definitions, maps, stipulation of consenting authority, a repeal clause, and information about State environmental planning policies.
The Amendment Order
On 25th February 2011, the Standard Instrument Amendment Order 2011 was published. The amendment is based on feedback from communities during the drafting of the LEP process and from the exhibition of an options paper, circulated in 2010.
The central concern behind the amendment is to streamline the instrument for efficient and effective use. It clarifies the intention of zones through new and amended directions, objectives, mandatory land uses and the renaming of the RU4 zone. It also updates the template to conform with changes in the Heritage Act and State and Environmental Planning Protection Policies (SEPPs). The amendment also addresses issues with definitions through the introduction of new terms and refinement of existing terms.
Continued debate and the LPP established
A Local Planning Panel (LPP) has been established to review and make suggestions for a new template for the standard LEP. There is serious community disharmony surrounding the conversation and use of the Standard Instrument, with a push to have the voice of developers as well as regulators reflected in the zoning decisions. In response to this, an independent chair has now been introduced to the LPP.