Place residence

Focus on affordability, not design: SEPP proposed design and location scrapped by new planning minister

On 5 April 2022, the New South Wales Government announced that it had abandoned plans to introduce its proposed State Environmental Planning Policy for Design and Place (DP SEPP). The decision comes after “extensive consultations with industry and stakeholder groups”.

The proposed changes under the proposed SEPP DP have been detailed and have put regulatory pressure on developers to respond to changing societal attitudes towards our built environment. However, the proposal was criticized that the changes did not reflect current housing needs in New South Wales. Therefore, the abandonment of the SEPP DP signals a change in direction for the NSW planning system. The renewed focus is on affordability of homes, not design quality.

“We want to make building affordable, quality homes easier, not harder. As I’ve said before, I’m focusing on changes that help us pave the way for more homes in livable communities.[1]

To achieve this goal, the new Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts, has expressed his intention to update the BASIX standards “to help people build more comfortable homes, save money on their electricity bills and contribute to our net zero goal”.[2]

While this decision will come as a surprise to some, it is important to note that this is not the only major decision the Minister of Planning has made in recent weeks.

On March 14, 2022, the Minister of Planning revoked the “Minister’s Planning Principles” forged by his predecessor. Again, the message increased the supply of new homes and the affordability of homes. Housing affordability has become the NSW Government’s clear objective for the planning system.

With the shutdown of the DP SEPP and the revocation of the planning principles, there is much uncertainty regarding the plan to consolidate the state’s environmental planning policies (SEPPS). It appears that the plan was put on hold because the consolidated 14 SEPPS were intended to reside under an umbrella of the respective planning principles.

These changes represent a departure from a principles-based approach to planning, although it may offer respite from the perceived housing crisis.