The NSW Government has announced a 107 page amendment to State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt & Complying Development Codes) 2008. A media release from the Minister for Planning titled "More red-tape cut for rural and regional NSW through Inland Code " proclaims that approvals for new homes, home renovations and farm buildings will be made easier and faster for property owners and farmers in regional NSW through these changes.
Let's look at these changes in detail. The code introduces three new categories of exempt development, these are farm buildings, stock holding yards and grain silos/grain bunkers. It should be noted that there is already a category of farm buildings as exempt development under the SEPP, so these categories of exempt development are not really new.
The criteria for each of these new categories is much more complicated that those existing in the SEPP for farm buildings, so it is likely that many sites will be excluded from exempt development eg. sites below a certain size or located near certain features such as waterways. There are also a range of new standards that need to be complied with for a proposal to proceed as exempt development, so more care will need to be taken. One change is that farm buildings up to 10m rather than 7m could be constructed on certain sites as exempt development, although this is subject to a number of exclusions.
The SEPP also provides for a new category of Complying Development titled the "Inland Code" and applies generally to local government areas west of the dividing range shown below.
The code provides a new set of Complying Development standards for the erection of new 1 and 2 storey dwelling houses, alterations/additions to dwelling houses and detached development.
The new code will commence on 1 January 2019 and is expected to operate alongside the Housing Code and the Rural Housing Code for a two year transitional period.
The government argues that these new standards provide for a simpler assessment of Complying Development in inland areas, nevertheless, 90 of the new 107 pages of the amendment contain these new standards, so whether they simplify the assessment process is certainly open to question. Particularly as designers will now need to navigate between the housing code, rural housing code and inland code for at least two years in these areas.
The DA process is often simpler and less time consuming in regional areas, which has likely been a factor behind why Complying Development Certificates issued by private certifiers have been less popular. Many remote areas of the state also do not have private certifiers working in their areas. Assessment of relatively simple developments against many pages of legislation to determine whether they can be complying development can often be costly and time-consuming, meaning that it can often be simpler just to lodge a DA with the local Council, where the standards may be more straightforward.
It is possible that these changes to the SEPP may facilitate some more Complying Development in regional areas of NSW, although they do build on the perception that the NSW planning system is becoming more and more complicated for the average person to understand year by year.