The NSW planning system has a critical role to play to keep the economy moving, to keep people in jobs and to create a robust and liveable State during COVID-19 and beyond. In February 2020 the NSW Government announced that ePlanning would become mandatory as of 1 July 2020 for certain Councils in NSW, including Sydney, the Illawarra and parts of the Hunter region. So what is the eplanning and has this mandate come at a good time?
As we move into an era of digital transformation, ePlanning is aimed at streamlining the NSW planning system. Effectively it is the NSW government’s initiative for transforming what has traditionally been a paper-based system into a digital experience online which is accessible 24 hours a day. Gone are the days of filling out and printing off hundreds of pages of application forms and documents for a development application, often requiring inconvenient face-to-face interactions with Council staff just to get an application lodged over-the-counter. Now applicants can save time by accessing these planning lodgement services online from anywhere at any time, through a user-friendly application lodgement and tracking process.
ePlanning provides access to real-time data, planning and spatial information multiple existing systems together and centralising it to one single platform. The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) has employed a more customer focused approach to planning in order to improve interactions by streamlining processes, making them faster and more transparent. Its primary purpose is to drive the digital transformation of the NSW planning system, focused on delivering and creating an end to end digital planning service for the State.
The ePlanning program has digitised many elements across the planning system, with the most notable being moving development applications online and implementing concurrence and referral tracking through the online dashboard system. This creates a one-stop shop for all registered users to manage their applications for all Councils through the one system. Applicants can lodge their development application online, have it reviewed by Council (who can request and receive additional information and documents) before making a determination accordingly. Similarly, State agencies can also access and review DA documentation and provide referral responses through the central dashboard system.
Moving develop applications online through the ePlanning system immediately provides a more open transparent process of accountability and for determination timeframes. Legislated timeframes have been built into the system as applications move through the relevant stages, which now allows all parties to track the progress of an application live online and receive notifications through the process as well. It is envisaged this system will not only provide more convenience and transparency for applicants, planners and other consultants, but also cut assessment timeframes which the development industry has been pushing for many years now.
Homeowners are enjoying the benefits from the rollout of ePlanning across NSW. We understand that some 44 Councils have already embraced technological changes to offer online DA lodgement and other services. As of 1 July 2020, ePlanning will be mandated for the following councils across the Sydney Metropolitan, the Illawarra and the Hunter region:
The mandate will require councils to accept the following via the NSW Planning Portal:
- Commence use of all relevant digital services, including the lodgement of DAs, Complying Development Certificates (CDCs), and post-consent certificates;
- Process 100 per cent of all planning applications (DAs, CDCs and post-consent certificates);
- Appointment of principle certifying authorities and issue certificates; and
- All new digital services with go-live dates to be determined in consultation with industry and councils.
From 31 December 2020 it will also be mandatory for these Councils to complete these applications on the portal.
For the other remaining rural and regional Councils across NSW (including Maitland and Port Stephens), ePlanning will become mandatory from 1 July 2021.
Our Experience To Date
Although only early days, MMJ’s Town Planning division is already starting to notice the transparency improvements and efficiencies which are gained by moving development applications through the ePlanning portal. Overall we see this as a positive step for the planning and development industry, particularly in the development application space to reduce DA timeframes and help manage project processes more effectively. The ePlanning active workflow dashboard that provides a central location for all our development applications (no matter which Council that application is lodged with) makes it easier and more efficient to provide our clients with feedback on an application process, identifying case details, action summaries, agency referrals, payment information, documents submitted, and most importantly application status.
“Our early experiences with the planning Portal have been quite positive. It certainly is far more efficient and faster to submit a development application online, as well as also proving to provide better process transparency as an application moves through its assessment and determination steps. It is great to see some councils already embracing the effectiveness of this online system, and we hope as of 1 July 2020 that the mandate program sees all other councils and agencies welcome ePlanning. We support the NSW Government’s initiative to cut DA assessment timeframes and moved towards a more effective and innovative planning system, and believe ePlanning can be a great driver for this change" says MMJ Director of Town Planning, Luke Rollinson
As of January 2019, some 8652 development applications have been submitted through the portal, with 6715 of those accepted by Council’s and under assessment. Since this time some 3232 applications have been determined by Council’s through ePlanning. We expect these numbers to dramatically increase in the future as the ePlanning mandate program plays out.
For a live update report on those councils using ePlanning digital services, click here - https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/eplanning-report