South Australia’s Expert Panel on Planning Reform has proposed a necessarily complex set of interrelated ideas for reform that require a detailed understanding of what is and what could be. URPS is energised by the reform agenda given our shared values of making “improvements to every aspect of what we do”.
Following the release of the “Ideas for Reform” report, URPS ran a series of workshops for Elected Members and council officers on behalf of the Local Government Association helping to explain the ideas and provide a forum for feedback. We also assisted with a public meeting and a series of focus group workshops run by Adelaide City Council.
Many Elected Members who attended these forums believe that it is essential that they be involved in decisions regarding development applications through continued representation on Development Assessment Panels.
At present, the proportion of applications being determined by Council DAPs varies widely. For example, in 2010 the City of Unley’s DAP determined 14.3% of all applications compared with the City of Norwood, Payneham and St Peters’ DAP which considered 7.3%. What is less clear is how the development outcomes differ given the differences in DAP involvement between Councils.
We consider that the desire of some Elected Members to continue their involvement in determining development applications highlights underlying dissatisfaction with the policies in the Development Plan, or dissatisfaction with the way the policies are being interpreted by planners, or both.
In this context, we find the ideas of the Expert Panel relating to new ways of policy creation and delivery to be the most compelling, including:
- A single framework for “State Directions” – creating an ever clearer ‘line-of sight’ between core State Government objectives and Development Plans.
- Regionalised Strategic Plans and Development Plans leading to economies of scale in policy formulation, while also retaining some ability to tailor planning guidelines to unique local circumstances.
- Changes to higher-order planning documents such as regional strategic plans that are accompanied by consequential changes to Development Plans, reducing the lag time in ongoing policy reform.
Regardless of your views on the ideas proposed, the amount of work that has gone into this reform project is a great credit to the Expert Panel and the supporting planners at DPTI. We look forward to the Expert Panel’s final report and the system reforms that follow.