Media release: Development applications: assessment and determination stages
What the report is about
Local councils in New South Wales are responsible for assessing local and regional development applications.
Most development applications are assessed and determined by council staff under delegated authority. However, some development applications must be referred to independent local planning panels or Sydney and regional planning panels for determination.
Councils provide support to local planning panels. The Department of Planning and Environment provides support to Sydney and regional planning panels.
This audit assessed whether Byron Shire Council, Northern Beaches Council and The Hills Shire Council had effectively assessed and determined development applications in compliance with legislative and other requirements.
It also assessed whether The Hills Shire Council, Northern Beaches Council and the Department of Planning and Environment had provided effective support to relevant independent planning panels.
What we found
All councils had established clear roles, responsibilities and delegations for assessment and determination of development applications and had also established processes to ensure quality of assessment reports.
Northern Beaches Council and The Hills Shire Council have established comprehensive approaches to considering and managing risks related to development assessment.
Northern Beaches Council's approach to publishing its assessment reports promotes transparency.
Across a sample of development applications assessed and determined between 2020–22:
Northern Beaches Council and The Hills Shire Council had assessed and determined applications in compliance with legislative and other requirements. However, The Hills Shire Council could do more to transparently document any conflicts of interest within assessment reports.
Byron Shire Council had assessed most applications in compliance with legislative and other requirements. However, we found opportunities for the Council to:
ensure determinations were made in line with delegations
strengthen its approach to transparent management of conflicts of interest and quality review of assessments.
The Hills Shire Council and Northern Beaches Council had effectively supported their respective local planning panels.
The Department of Planning and Environment had processes that meet requirements for supporting regional planning panels but could do more to promote consistency in approach, share information across panels and measure the effectiveness of its support.
What we recommended
We made recommendations to Byron Shire Council, The Hills Shire Council and the Department of Planning and Environment to address the gaps identified and improve the transparency of processes.
$33.79b estimated construction value for local development applications in 2019–20
50,593 local development applications approved in New South Wales in 2019–20
96% of applications considered by council staff under delegated authority in 2019–20
1,760 development applications determined by Byron Shire Council between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2021
4,475 development applications determined by Northern Beaches Council between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2021
3,651 development applications determined by The Hills Shire Council between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2021
Please contact Ian Goodwin, Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or by email.