Local strategic planning statements – a missing piece in the planning puzzle!

by | Nov 1, 2018

Earlier this year the amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 introduced a new layer into the strategic planning hierarchy in NSW. Councils are now required under the Act to prepare a ‘local strategic planning statement’ or LSPS for their local area.

Now, regional local councils still have some time to comply with this new obligation – with the deadline being 1 July 2020. Whilst that might seem a while off, there are steps that we suggest you should now be taking to get ready for the change.

What is a Local Strategic Planning Statement?

A ‘local strategic planning statement’ will in effect bridge the gap between higher level strategic planning documents such as Regional Plans, a local council’s Community Strategic Plan and local planning controls which are set out in LEPs and DCPs.

Importantly, the statement will need to integrate with council’s Community Strategic Plan or CSP – this is the plan that is prepared on the election of a new council and sets the long term vision and priorities for the community across the local government area. The CSP has a broader focus than the LSPS, but will typically include land use planning issues. Critically, the LSPS will provide a means to implement land use planning actions identified under the CSP and other council strategic planning documents.

In our view, this link is a welcomed reform to the planning system. It essentially creates a tie between the planning legislation and the local government legislation. To use a jigsaw analogy, it will provide a missing piece in the puzzle of the local government planning system.

What must be in a Local Strategic Planning Statement?

With a 20 year horizon, the statement will set out the long term vision for land use in the local area. This is longer than the 10 year horizon of a council’s CSP. The statement must identify the special values and character of the local area to be preserved and how change will be managed into the future.

The strategic context of a council’s LEP, the zones and development controls will also be explained. The statement will not replace LEPs or DCPs but will inform changes to be made to these planning documents over time.

There should also be a link back to the strategic priorities at a regional and/or district level. The process for creating and implementing the statement is meant to be re-iterative. Basically creating a feedback loop back into the higher level strategic planning documents.

Of course, the statement must also comply with legal requirements under section 3.9 of the Act.

What will a Local Strategic Planning Statement look like?

Importantly, the statement should be a clear and easy to understand document. That is, something that an ordinary ratepayer or resident can pick up, read and understand. This means:

  • taking out the planning jargon
  • simplifying the technical language
  • making good use of images and plans to tell the story and desired vision for your local area.

The statement must also be action based. This means identifying the actions your council will need to take to implement the planning priorities identified in the CSP. For example, it might set out how your council’s LEP or DCP will be changed to reflect a community’s desired character for a local area. Or it might identify the need for a precinct plan to be developed for a locality or master planning to be undertaken for a village.

There must also be a means to monitor and report on those actions so that progress can be tracked over time. This reporting could be linked into the IPR framework.

Department of Planning & Environment Guidelines

The Department of Planning & Environment has released Guidelines to help local councils create and implement the local strategic planning statement for their area.

The Guidelines highlight the critical role that the statement will play in the future of the planning system. Noting the statement will be “the primary source to express the desired future of the LGA as a whole and for specific areas”.

There is no prescribed process for creating the statement, nor is there is a prescribed structure. Although, the Guidelines contain a suggested process to follow. This includes four key steps of scoping, testing, finalising and implementing. The Guidelines also include a suggested structure and map which can be used as a starting point.

What should regional local councils now be doing?

As noted above, the deadline for regional councils to prepare their statements is still some time away. That said, we recommend that councils start the process now. In particular, the  ‘scoping’ phase as recommended by the Guidelines. This includes:

  • Collating the existing strategic plans which apply to your area and starting to tease out issues to be addressed in the statement.
  • Identifying themes from your existing strategic framework and gaining an understanding of the areas which will be a key focus for change or are projected to change in the statement.
  • Where you identify gaps in your existing information, considering whether your council should be teaming up with a neighbouring council to undertake background research to inform the content of your statement.
  • Thinking about how and when you will involve and consult your community about the content of your statement – bearing in mind the annual cycle for IPR framework and that Council elections are due to take place again in 2020.
  • Considering whether your statement will apply across your whole area or whether specific placed based statements will be created to reflect local issues.
  • Considering whether your CSP will need to updated to reflect new or emerging land use planning priorities – this may happen, for example, where your CSP does not reflect the priorities in the Regional Plan applying to your area

Wrapping up

In summary, we believe that the new requirement for local strategic planning statements is a welcomed reform to the planning system. We would encourage regionally based councils to start thinking early about how this statement will look and feel. This is a great opportunity to clearly outline the strategic land use issues for your local area and should not be left to the last minute.

Steve Thompson Director Planning and Strategy

Steve Thompson

Director - Planning and Strategy

T   0419 700 401

E   steve@localeconsulting.com.au

Disclaimer: This publication is provided in good faith and is for general information purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice or other professonial advice, and must not be relied upon. You should seek legal or other professional advice in relation to matters arising out of the publication having regard to your circumstances and needs. No warranty or representation regarding the reliability, quality or accuracy of any information in this publication is given by Locale Consulting or the authors of the publication.

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