The Independent Planning Commission of NSW was established as a standalone agency under Part 2, Division 2.3 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 on 1 March 2018.
The Commission operates independently of other government departments, including the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and has an important role to play in building community confidence in the decision-making processes for major development and land-use planning state-wide.
The key functions of the Commission are to:
Members of the Commission are appointed by the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces based on their qualifications and considerable expertise in a diverse range of planning-related fields. One member is appointed as the Chairperson of the Commission. Members are individually appointed for terms of up to three years and cannot serve more than six years in total.
The Commission is not subject to direction or control of the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces or any government agency, except in relation to procedural matters as set out under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
The Office of the Independent Planning Commission (OIPC) provides professional and technical support to the Commission and its members. The OIPC is the main point of contact for the public and Government agencies. It coordinates and facilitates the Commission’s decision-making processes and aims to provide efficient, transparent and high-performing support services.
On 14 May 2020, the Minister published his Statement of Expectations (SoE) for the Commission. The document describes the Minister's expectations in relation to the purpose, functions and roles of the Commission, as well as key governance and performance objectives to improve the effectiveness of the Commission in determining contentious State significant development applications and providing independent expert advice, when required. This SoE applies for the period from 1 May 2020 to 30 June 2021, or until otherwise amended.
Both the Planning and Assessments Group within the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and the Commission undertake functions that implement the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. A new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Department and Commission has been signed to clarify how the two agencies will work together when required under the Act to interact, in order to exercise their responsibilities with an emphasis on quality, probity, timeliness and transparency. This MoU is subject to the responsibilities of the Department and the Commission under the Act and any other NSW legislation. The MoU is available here.
To provide high quality determinations and advice that meet the objects of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, build and maintain trust in the NSW planning system, and deliver on the following objectives:
The Commission’s values are reflected in the way its members and staff act and carry out their duties.
The State’s planning laws clearly identify which State significant development applications are to be determined by the Independent Planning Commission and which are delegated to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to determine.
The Independent Planning Commission is the consent authority for State significant development applications in circumstances where:
* There are 50 or more unique public objections to the SSD application; and/or
* The Applicant has made a reportable political donations disclosure; and/or
* The local Council has objected to the SSD application and has not rescinded that objection following exhibition.
In circumstances where a Council has rescinded its objection following exhibition of the application – and Council’s objection was the only reason for the Commission to be the consent authority – the SSD application would be delegated back to the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment (the Department) for determination.
The Commission will also continue to be the consent authority for modification applications in circumstances where the applicant has made a reportable political donations disclosure. All other modification applications will be delegated to the Department for determination.
The Commission will independently determine each application on its individual merits and in accordance with legislation and current government policy.
The Commission has the following detailed statutory functions:
The functions of the consent authority under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 for State significant or other specified development.
To advise the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces or the Planning Secretary on any matter on which the Minister or the Secretary requests advice from the Commission.
To hold a public hearing into any matter into which the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces requests the Commission to hold a public hearing.
Any function of a Sydney district or regional planning panel or a local planning panel in respect of a particular matter that the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces requests the Commission to exercise (to the exclusion of the panel), or if a Sydney district or regional planning panel has not been appointed for any part of the State, any function that would be conferred on such a panel if it had been appointed.
Any functions under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 that are delegated to the Commission, and any other function conferred or imposed on it under that or any other Act.
The Chairperson of the Commission appoints members to constitute the Commission for any particular matter.
When appointing Members to a Panel to determine a particular development application or provide advice on a planning matter, the Chairperson will ordinarily take the following matters into account:
Generally, the Chairperson will appoint:
The Chairperson of the Commission is authorised to nominate another member of the Commission to appoint members for any particular matter, and may do so if necessary for any reason.
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission was established on 3 November 2008 under section 23B of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to determine applications for major developments, to review and carry out public hearings into any planning related matter and to provide independent expert advice to Government on planning and development matters.
Members were appointed by the Minister for Planning and had expertise in the fields of planning, architecture, urban design, heritage, the environment, land economics, engineering, traffic and transport, tourism, law, government and public administration.
A Ministerial delegation applied which defined the types of application that were referred to the Commission by the Department of Planning and Environment for determination. These included applications where a reportable political donation had been made by a proponent, applications objected to by the relevant council, and applications where more than 25 objections had been received by the Department of Planning and Environment.
The Commission also carried out reviews of any aspect of a development and held public hearings if requested to do so by the Minister for Planning or Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment. Each review had its own terms of reference, which set out the Commission’s review task.
The Planning Assessment Commission was renamed the Independent Planning Commission on 1 March 2018
The Office of the Commissioners of Inquiry for Environment and Planning was created by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 to conduct independent public inquiries into disputes concerning environmental and heritage issues, planning problems and development projects.
A Commission of Inquiry reported its findings and recommendations to the Minister and to the public. The Minister was required to consider the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry before determining the outcome of a particular development application.
Four Commissioners including the Chairman were appointed by the Governor of NSW. The Commissioners had qualifications and experience including in the fields of law, planning and development control, building regulation, local government, engineering and environmental control.
Public hearings were also carried out by the Commission of Inquiry, and after 1988 local councils were also given the power to request inquiries into significant developments where they were the determining authority.
The Office of the Commissioners of Inquiry for Environment and Planning ceased to exist on 3 November 2008 when the Planning Assessment Commission was created.
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 requires the Commission to provide an annual report on its operations to the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces.