A State significant development application is referred in full to the Independent Planning Commission only after it has been publicly exhibited and assessed by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
The Department provides the Commission a whole-of-government assessment report, which is published on the Department’s website and the Commission’s website. The Department’s report is not binding on the Commission’s decision.
If the Department receives more than 25 public objections to an application, the Commission will usually convene a public meeting before making its decision. People who may be affected by the proposed development will have the opportunity to address the Commission firsthand to express their concerns.
The Commission may also hold a public meeting for an application where there are fewer than 25 public objections, if the Commission considers there are circumstances that warrant one.
The Commission may meet with the applicant, the Department (or other government agencies), the relevant local Council and other interested people before making its decision, if the Commission considers that it is necessary to do so.
The Commission is currently reviewing its guidelines for public meetings.
A public meeting does not affect appeal rights.
The Minister for Planning may ask the Commission to carry out a public hearing in relation to a development application or any other planning matter at any time.
The Commission will give advanced notice of the date, time and location of the public hearing and invite interested people to register to speak at the public hearing.
Following a public hearing, the Commission will prepare and then publish on its website a report containing recommendations to the Minister.
If the Commission holds a public hearing, appeal rights may be affected in respect of the development application or planning matter subject to the public hearing.
The Commission will carry out a separate two stage public hearing for some State significant development applications (see below).
The Commission is currently reviewing its guidelines for public hearings.
The Commission is developing the option of conducting a multi-stage public hearing for some State significant development applications, where the Minister has directed a public hearing. This is in an effort to engage the community and the Commission at an earlier stage in the assessment.
The multi-stage public hearing may provide for a simpler, more inclusive, more transparent assessment of State significant development applications, encouraging and promoting greater community input throughout the process. It will also create a balanced and orderly architecture for decision-making, ensuring the Commission hands down its determinations in a timely manner.
The new process will make a very clear distinction between the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Planning and Environment and those of the Independent Planning Commission. Importantly, it allows the Commission to engage with the community much earlier in the assessment process of State significant development applications.
At the conclusion of a multi-stage public hearing for State significant development, the Commission will deliberate and make a final decision to approve or refuse the development application. Once the Commission’s decision has been made, merit appeal rights for both applicants and objectors are not available.
A multi-stage public hearing will only apply to certain State significant development applications after 1 March 2018.