25 March 2021

South Australian planning reforms now in full force

This article is written by Tom Crompton and Mark Beaufoy.

On 19 March 2021, South Australia completed its most significant planning reforms in more than 25 years, with the full commencement of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 (SA) (PDI Act) across the State and the repeal of the Development Act 1993 (SA).

In this alert, we have summarised the key changes for the new planning system in South Australia.

The full commencement of the PDI Act also brings South Australia’s Planning and Design Code (P&D Code) into full effect across the State.  The P&D Code contains a single source of planning policies that replace 72 Development Plans that formerly regulated planning policy in South Australia under the Development Act 1993.

The P&D Code has been introduced in three phases.  From 1 July 2019, the Code commenced in remote and out-of-council areas (Phase 1), before commencing in rural council areas on 31 July 2020 (Phase 2) and finally in Metropolitan Adelaide and some Councils with major regional towns on 19 March 2021 (Phase 3).

The PDI Act also completes a suite of important reforms to South Australia’s planning system, some of which have been progressively introduced since the PDI Act first commenced.  Some of the key changes now in full force across the State include –

  • SA Planning Portal and e-planning – a State-wide electronic planning database and online planning service, intended to facilitate the online delivery of services and information, including online access to the P&D Code, an online application lodgement, assessment notification and tracking service, a spatial mapping tool (SA Property and Planning Atlas) and other services designed to improve the community participation in the planning system;

  • Community Engagement Charter – which seeks to provide greater public involvement in planning policy decisions, by setting the consultation requirements for proposed amendments to the P&D Code and some other planning instruments;

  • New assessment categories - planning applications are now characterised and processed according to their complexity and risk factors, under the following new categories: “Exempt Development”, “Accepted Development”, “Code Assessed Development (comprising either “Deemed-to-Satisfy” or “Performance Assessed” Development) and “Impact Assessed Development” (which includes “Restricted Development”);

  • New assessment pathways – each new assessment category has a new assessment pathway with different procedural requirements affecting public notification and participation, decision-making process and the extent of third-party submission and appeal rights;

  • Relevant authorities – the range of entities who can be appointed to make planning decisions as a “relevant authority” has been expanded for different types of planning consent and Building Rules consent applications and includes the Minister for Planning, the State Planning Commission, councils, various kinds of assessment panels, assessment managers and accredited professionals;

  • Public notification requirements – notification requirements for many planning applications now include requirements to post notification signage on land and on the SA Planning Portal;

  • Referral requirements and time-frames – referral bodies are now stipulated by the P&D Code and have tighter response time-frames;

  • Deemed consents – some applications not determined in time will now deemed as approved, subject to standard conditions identified in a Practice Direction (provided a deemed consent notice is served in accordance with the PDI Act);

  • New land use definitions – a suite of new land use definitions have been introduced via the P&D Code, intended to address modern development trends and gaps identified in previous definitions;

  • Changes to third party notification and appeal rights – public notification requirements have changed and merits appeal and judicial review rights have been altered from the Development Act 1993 for some forms of development;

  • New Practice Directions – have been introduced, which identify procedural requirements and steps in connection with matters arising under the PDI Act. There are 15 Practice Directions published to date covering a range of matters including notification, standard conditions, site contamination assessments and other matters;

  • Infrastructure Delivery Schemes – a new legislative framework for the delivery and funding of infrastructure has been introduced, to assist with the co-ordination and delivery of infrastructure. This framework will supplement existing infrastructure delivery methods such as conditions of consent, bonding and infrastructure deeds.

We will watch with interest as South Australia implements its new planning system across Metropolitan Adelaide.  It will be important for developers and investors to understand the detail of the new planning system and how it may impact on planning assessment and approval processes for proposed projects and developments. Similarly, due diligence activities associated with proposed transactions for land in South Australia will need to ensure that issues arising under the new planning system are adequately investigated and understood.

If you have any queries about South Australia’s new planning system or its impacts on your project, development or transaction, please contact Mark Beaufoy.

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