Will a single state planning policy change anything in Queensland?

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Queensland’s newly drafted state planning policy is unashamedly about economic growth in the Sunshine State. In its current draft form, it presents more like a reminder as to how planning can help achieve a more prosperous state, rather than the more typical planning policy documents the industry has perhaps been used to seeing. It will be administratively convenient to have a single ‘mega’ SPP (as opposed to the twelve state planning policies presently in effect). However, as with all government policy, the devil will be in the detail. There is a great body of information that sits behind the draft SPP and simplicity is far from assured. The SPP is open for public consultation and submissions can be made up until 12 June 2013.

At the core of the policy are 18 state interests that local councils must take into account when preparing or amending their local planning schemes and, in some cases, assessing certain types of development applications.

These state interests must also be considered by a state government minister before designating land for community infrastructure and when regional plans are prepared or amended.

The 18 state interests in the new single SPP are broadly the same as those in the existing twelve SPPs.  However, they are now grouped into just five logical categories:

1. Housing and liveable communities

  1. Amenity and community wellbeing; and
  2. Land development and housing supply;

2. Economic growth

  1. Agriculture;
  2. Development and construction;
  3. Mining and extractive industry; and
  4. Tourism industry;

3. Environment and heritage

  1. Biodiversity;
  2. Coastal environment;
  3. Cultural heritage; and
  4. Healthy waters;

4. Hazards and safety

  1. Air, noise and other emissions;
  2. Hazardous materials and developments; and
  3. Natural hazards;

5. Transport and infrastructure

  1. State infrastructure and services;
  2. State transport infrastructure and networks;
  3. Strategic airports and aviation facilities;
  4. Strategic ports; and
  5. Water supply catchments and infrastructure.

Although the draft SPP does a good job at self-containing the state interests, their true scope can only be realised once all of the associated guidance material (and in some cases, other relevant legislation) is considered.

Take for example, the first state interest, 'amenity and community wellbeing', (under the theme 'housing and liveable communities').  Five sources of guidance are listed in relation to this state interest, including a SPP guideline - 'housing and liveable communities'.  That guideline is available in draft - and includes best practice planning provisions which (in among other things) recommend the inclusion of a certain zone, and zone code (which is contained within the guideline itself).  Further guidelines and practice notes in support of the State interest are then identified within the SPP guideline.

Competing state interests

Part A of the policy also includes a section which deals with  competing state interests.  Where there is a conflict between state interests in applying the SPP, three objectives are to be followed:

  • consider state interests in their entirety,
  • support innovative and locally appropriate solutions, and
  • empower and support local governments to make the best planning decisions for their communities).

The draft SPP also acknowledges there may be grounds to depart from a state interest where there is an overriding need in the public interest. For instance, if the overall benefits of the development (or decision) outweigh any detrimental effect on the land and adjacent areas, and the development advances the principles of SPA and cannot reasonably be located elsewhere so as to avoid conflict.

However, the Draft SPP is also upfront about circumstances that do not establish an overriding need in the public interest, such as:

  • a development with relatively few location-based requirements, or
  • interests in or options over land, or
  • the personal circumstances of an applicant, owner or interested third party.

It will be interesting to see how the industry responds to these components of the draft SPP during the consultation phase, especially given their somewhat narrow, or very specific ambit together with the varied 'alternative sites' element which features here.

Submissions close on 12 June 2013.  The official website for the draft SPP is here.




The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.


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