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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Proposed changes to ACT’s strict planning rules

A simpler ACT planning system is on the cards, with a release of papers highlighting a number of potential changes being considered by the ACT Government to encourage higher quality development.

One of the papers states while the ACT planning system “is not broken”, there are “structural and operational challenges”. One such challenge is the ACT’s strict, rules-based system that does not readily allow for an outcomes-based process that would promote that high-quality development.

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman told ABC Radio this morning this rules-based approach can render the system “inflexible”.

Feedback on the ACT’s planning system suggests a lack of community confidence and concerns about the maintenance of Canberra’s character.

Proposed changes to development controls – which stipulate what kind of development can go where and how it should look – include changing existing rules and criteria into performance outcomes and measures.

“Expressing controls in terms of outcomes provides a stronger message in terms of the type and quality of development the planning system is seeking to facilitate and gives the planning authority greater scope to consider more innovative proposals,” the papers state.

The papers also propose introducing objectives for specific precincts that would explain the defining features of the area and what should be reflected in new development.

“Existing precinct codes fail to explain why different precincts or local areas require different development controls,” the papers state.

“More detailed precinct codes can ensure the development is in keeping with the values and aspirations of the community.”

Other proposed changes to the ACT planning system would see an overhaul of how developments are assessed and determined, including greater flexibility for considering “non-conforming” developments such as proposals that fall outside the allowable land use or code.

This would, according to the papers, allow planning officials to consider “innovative proposals” that meet strategic planning outcomes.

The Government will also look at clearer pathways to assessment for development applications.

“A simpler process should be less resource intensive to manage and enable the planning and land authority to focus its efforts on strategic and significant applications.”

The proposals have been developed after consultation with the community and industry groups and the Government has said further consultation on the ACT’s planning system will take place next year.

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts