Table of Contents
1.1 Aims and objectives
1.3 Structure of the Report
2. Some fundamentals
2.1 Overview of the Planning system
2.2 Active living principles
2.3 A starting point
3. At the strategic planning level
3.2 State Government
3.3 Local Government
4. At the development assessment level
4.2 Local development
4.3 Major projects and state significant sites
5. Conclusions: priorities, barriers and solutions
6.1 List of abbreviations
6.2 List of interviews and Round Table participants
6.3 List of references
This report recommends seventeen actions that would strengthen the role of the Planning system in NSW, in providing supportive environments for active living.
Active living is already a consideration in the NSW Planning system – from actions in the State Plan to coverage in the Metropolitan and Regional Strategies, and as detailed design requirements for masterplanning and major development applications. State agencies such as the Departments of Planning and Health, the Ministry of Transport, the Roads and Traffic Authority and Landcom, coordinated by the Premier’s Council on Active Living, have introduced active living principles as objectives of the system, produced model urban design based guidelines, and recommended such matters as considerations for particular development applications.
Having said this, the Report concludes that more should be done to extend coverage, provide legal backing and formalise current good practice at the state and local levels.
The State Government could do the following:
• Issue a Policy Statement affirming the creation of supporting environments as an object of the NSW Planning system
• Make active living considerations explicit in their metropolitan, sub-regional and regional strategies
• Issue an active living-specific section 117 Direction to councils, as a requirement for LEP research and preparation
• Support the Department of Local Government’s Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework and Community Strategic Plans
• Encourage place-making, by continuing to integrate private and public land-use planning
• Coordinate existing guidelines and best practice as formal section 79C Guidelines (for local development applications and major projects under the EP and A Act)
• Clarify the application of the new-look development contributions scheme
At the local level, State requirements and Local Government action can:
• Coordinate public and private domain planning
• Include active living matters in the Standard Instrument (LEP Template): objectives and DA matters for consideration
• Prepare place-based DCPs for centres and redevelopment areas
• Consider detailed guidelines at the development assessment stage: major projects, state significant sites and local development
1.1 Aim of the Project
The built environment is one of a range of important variables which influence people’s physical activity levels. Research noted by the Premier’s Council on Active Living (PCAL) has shown that good associations have been demonstrated between physical environment characteristics and participation in physical activity. At the regional and sub-regional level factors such as medium to high residential densities, connectivity between home, work, shopping, recreation, and public transport and land use mix are supportive of physical activity. At the local level, the presence of pedestrian and bicycle facilities, pleasant street conditions, and perception of safe and enjoyable neighbourhoods, are important.
The aim of this PCAL consultancy was to prepare a list of recommendations on how we can better utilise existing mechanisms within the New South Wales Planning system to provide supportive environments for active living. It was expected that the recommendations would not require extra cost, time and/or resources, but would rather build further opportunities to consider health implications within the existing system.
Within the report it was expected that the consultancy provide comments on suggestions PCAL has provided to the Department of Local Government (DLG) in relation to potential active living indicators within DLG’s proposed long-term Strategic Integrated Planning Guidelines. The consultancy was also to consider active transport opportunities within the relevant sections of the report.
The methodology for this project consisted of a review of appropriate legislation and literature, interviews with key individuals and a formal round-table workshop.
(i) Review of legislation, instruments and policies
The review included the Environmental Planning and Assessment (EP&A) and Local Government (LG) Acts, Instruments and Guidelines under the EP&A Act and a range of Guidelines prepared under associated legislation.
In addition, the resources listed on the PCAL website and associated documents, including research undertaken by (and for) the New South Wales Department of Health.
A list of references is included at Appendix 6.3.
Detailed discussions were held with senior staff in a number of relevant State and local agencies. The interviews provided detailed background on current projects and practices, and on key issues. A full list of interviews is included at Appendix 6.2.
(c) Round table discussion
On August 20th 2008 an invited list of representatives from State, Local Government and the private sector met to discuss a draft list of recommendations – with a focus on the scope (oversights, inaccuracies), and a “reality check” on and prioritisation of specific recommendations. A full list of those in attendance is provided at Appendix 6.2
1.3 Structure of Report
The Report is presented in 6 sections – this introduction and an overview of fundamental elements of the New South Wales Planning system, followed by detailed actions by stage in the Planning process – at the strategic level (State and local) and the development assessment stage (major projects and local development). The Report concludes with a discussion of priorities, barriers and solutions (and detailed appendices).
2. Some fundamentals
2.1 Overview of the Planning system
There is a distinct split in responsibilities for Planning in New South Wales (and elsewhere) between plan making/policy development and development assessment (dealing with particular development proposals). In addition, Planning operates at a number of scales – state, regional, sub-regional and local, with responsibility to State and local government accordingly.
This Report addresses the potential for the system (at both stages and at all scales) to provide supportive environments for active living.
While, at the plan making stage, the system is governed by statute, in particular the Environmental Planning and Assessment (EP&A) Act, “planning” principles and actions are contained in a growing number of “policy” mechanisms (such as the NSW State Plan, the State Infrastructure Strategy, State Transport Plan and the various regional strategies). There are also a suite of statutory and policy mechanisms at the Local Government level. In summary form, relevant New South Wales documents include:
NSW State Plan
State Infrastructure Strategy
State Transport Plan
Planning for Walking and Cycling
Metropolitan Parking Policy
NSW Bike Plan
Guidelines for Traffic Generating Development
Section 117 Directions
Community Strategic Plans
Council Management Plans
Asset Management Plans
State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPP)
Local Environmental Plans (LEP)
Development Control Plans (DCP)
s.94 Contributions Plans
Plans of Management (community land)
Quite a list! In addition, there is the development assessment process at both State and Local Government level, where submission requirements, assessment criteria and conditions of approval provide opportunities for promoting active living.
It should also be noted that the NSW Planning system:
• nestles within the broader framework of the State Plan at the State Government level
• cross-relates to transport planning via the Urban Transport Statement and the State Infrastructure Strategy
• at the local level, should nestle within a broad whole-of-council framework (as proposed by the DLG’s Community Strategic Plans)
• also at the local level, cross-relates to planning and action on community land (including streets, pathway and open space)
2.2 Active living principles
The promotion of active living is a State government priority, as evidenced by the priorities in the State Plan and the formation and activities of PCAL. Active living encompasses and extends beyond other State-level collaborative actions such as “active transport”.
The Planning principles or qualities that support active living have been derived from a variety of sources and can be presented in a number of ways. For instance:
• clean air
• density and mixed uses (convenience shopping) in centres (aligned with corridors)
• attractive and safe centres (with end-of-trip facilities)
• good connections between centres and neighbourhoods
• a network of readily accessible, safe and attractive open spaces (for all ages and ethnicities)
• efficient, attractive and safe pedestrian and cycleway system connections (to centres and key destinations)
• efficient and accessible public transport
• managed parking supply (appropriate to nature of centres and public transport links)
• coordination of government activities
In relation to the last point, it should be noted that “active living” includes the following existing State Government initiatives:
• “active transport” – those modes of movement that support more physical activity, such as walking, cycling and public transport.
• advice on “crime prevention through environmental design” (CPTED)
Active living, in relation to Planning, also covers the detailed urban design of centres and suburbs and the provision of open space and recreational facilities, often treated separately in administrative terms.
These principles can be restated, for instance, in relation to centres and living areas (suburbs and villages):
2.3 A starting point
A range of strategies, across levels, utilising existing (and currently proposed) mechanisms and authorised/ coordinated by overarching documents ( the State Plan and Community Strategic Plans) is the preferred approach. Where appropriate, with the legal force and the impromata of statutory instruments.
In relation to the NSW statutory Planning system, a starting point would be to acknowledge such principles as serious outcome targets in documents governing system operation, and also within the mechanics of statutory instruments and processes at all scales.
In a strategic planning sense, such principles should flow through the system via well-crafted and meaningful objectives, and should provide a spatial dimension, as most physical activity takes place at and between destinations.
3. At the Strategic Planning level
As indicated above, there have been major changes in recent times from the original strategic planning framework in the EP&A Act. The current combination of policy documents and statutory instruments is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. The EP&A Act and beyond
3.2 State Government
(a) The State Plan, Strategies and s.117 directions
The State Plan, as the overarching document, speaks of active living in a range of priorities:
• R4: Increased participation and integration in community activities
• S3: Improved health through reduced obesity, smoking, illicit drug use and risk drinking
• S6: Increasing share of peak hour journeys on a safe and reliable public transport system
• F2: Increased employment and community participation for people with disabilities
• F4 Embedding prevention and early intervention into Government services
• E3 Clean air and progress on greenhouse gas reductions
• E7 Improved efficiency of the road network
• E8 More people using parks, sporting and recreational facilities
While the Planning system has a fundamental objective of “promoting the social welfare of the community” (s.5 object of the EP&A Act), a starting point would be to highlight this and to acknowledge the significance of public domain planning in the creation of supportive environments.
The potential exists to utilise the Metropolitan Strategy, Regional Strategies, sub-regional strategies and s.117 directions (at the regional level), and the standard (LEP) instrument and detailed development control plans (DCP) at the local level to provide supportive environments
For instance, the ten draft sub-regional strategies contain a suite of active living actions, spread throughout the key directions (in response to the State Plan objectives). While this is a positive outcome these actions should be made more explicit: the research for this project was specifically looking for them!
In addition, the Sub-regional Strategies should promote (and direct) councils to undertake urban design based DCPs (for centres and nominated key redevelopment areas) incorporating active living principles.
One means of achieving this could be an insert which summaries how the various actions throughout the sub-regional strategy come together to promote active living.
While the Regional and Sub-regional Strategies provide State Government guidance and a framework for Councils, the proposed action of giving them legal effect by way of an s.117 direction is supported.
In the new-look Planning system such Ministerial Directions play a major role in directing councils on the content of their local controls. At present, a long-standing direction (No. 3.4) has required councils to consider the integration of land use and transport in developing their LEPs. A sub-set of this requirement is consideration of “active transport” (about which there has been considerable recent action, with PCAL as the driver)
In addition, a draft SEPP (No.66) has also required councils to consider land-use and transport integration. The key difference between this and the 117 direction is that the draft SEPP also specifies matters for consideration at the development assessment stage. The Metro-strategy proposes that the draft be revoked and replaced by a new-look suite of controls to cover this issue.
While the s.117 direction is most relevant to active living, consideration by councils, at the LEP stage, should be more encompassing than this – to deal with other active living principles. In addition, the development assessment criteria in the draft SEPP should not be lost (see section 3.3(b) below).
Another draft State policy document that will encourage active living, by discouraging car usage, is the Metropolitan Parking Policy – matching car parking requirements for development proposal to relative location (ie to major public transport facilities). This policy would provide ammunition for Council’s (and the Minister) in regulating supply.
That the State Government proceed to finalise the Metropolitan Parking Strategy (as proposed in the Metropolitan Strategy)
The final matter relevant to State action at the strategic planning level is utilising existing funding mechanisms as an incentive for councils to address active living – not only in relation to “planning reform” but, more specifically, for the two major funds that cover open space provision and access.
(b) Integration of public domain planning and land-use planning
Most physical activity takes place in the public domain – in parks and reserves, along streets, cycle-ways and footpaths. Planning practice has long suffered from a split in responsibilities for public and private space (in turn, reflected in the “guild mentality” associated with Government operations). For instance:
• between land use planning and transport planning (at all levels of Government). This is the spirit of PCAL’s active transport initiative.
• between public domain planning and regulation of private land use. Two separate Acts of Parliament – Local Government Act and EP&A Act, respectively
Planning should be concerned with place-making and clear connections between private and public spaces if we are to attract people out of doors. This requires an attitudinal shift and support from the State Government
This list pre-empts the discussion to follow, as the Report turns to the role of Local Government at the strategic planning level and to the development assessment process.
3.3 Local Government
(a) The proposed Integrated Planning and Reporting System
Concerns such as those described above – lack of coordination, the need for a whole of government approach – has prompted the New South Wales Department of Local Government (DLG) to propose a new integrated planning and reporting system. The proposed framework and the key elements are shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Integrated Planning and Reporting at the local government level. Source: DLG
Such a framework has the potential to affect the planning system in a number of ways:
• to link through to the State Plan and the Regional Strategies and the Metro-strategy’s sub-regional strategies
• to provide community generated strategic directions
It is also possible, in this spirit of integration, to tie works programs (and asset management generally) to planning strategies, structure plans and LEP/DCP/public domain plans. The integration of sub-regional strategies with the State Infrastructure Strategy at the State-level could be a model for this.
While the DLG emphasises that the content of Community Strategy Plans is to be generated by local communities, the Guidelines to accompany the legislation could promote (or at least suggest that consideration be given to) active living objectives and strategies, and suggest a place-focus in the proposed community engagement strategies.
One key issue that is not addressed in the proposed system is the regulatory regime for public land in the Local Government Act. As indicated in section 3.2(b) (and Recommendation 8), the lack of coordination of private and public domain planning is a problem. Local structure planning, to underpin LEP preparation, would assist in such coordination – the proposed s.117 direction could encourage such groundwork.
Councils should also be encouraged to utilise/leverage local government land assets where their positive use may enable the application of active living principles (such as through block connections or open space provision) rather than re-classification and disposal. Further, a criterion in determining whether to proceed with re-classification of public land should be the potential for achieving active living/urban design principles.
(b) The Standard Instrument (LEP) Template
Local Environmental Plans have always been the principle mechanism for land use regulation in New South Wales, with their combination of zoning, development standards and specific matters for consideration. The introduction of a requirement for all New South Wales councils to prepare a standard instrument provides a unique opportunity for the inclusion of active living principles. The form, structure and basic content of the standard instrument is dictated by the State Government.
The significance of the LEP in the local planning system is its legal weight (as a statutory “environmental planning instrument”). Inclusion of active living measures in the Standard Instrument will have the following effects:
• require councils to include active living measures in their LEPs
• act as legal authority for the preparation of DCPs that address active living – as place-based “masterplans” and/or general “active living criteria” based guidelines.
In detail, the provision of supportive environments for active living should be incorporated as a general objective of the LEP, specific zonal objectives and as matters for consideration for specified DAs. DA consideration is the place for such matters currently included to serve this purpose in draft SEPP 66 (Integrating Land-use and Transport). This list should be extended to cover active living matters beyond “active transport”.
Similar provisions should also be incorporated in planning for the Growth Centres covered by SEPP (Growth Centres).
Finally, current DOP advice on the zoning of roads should be extended to cover the potential of this approach to promote the integration of public domain planning/works with private land use/development, particularly in centres.
Coverage in the LEP Template does not negate the need for a specific s.117 Direction (Recommendation 5). The direction would advise Councils on relevant circumstances and approaches during LEP preparation, including map-based/spatial components and detailed structure planning. This will differ council by council. Standard provision in the LEP Template are the legal requirements in moving to the DA stage.
(c) Using detailed DCPs at the local level
In the NSW Planning system (from its introduction in 1980) statutory LEPs have been accompanied by detailed Development Control Plans. These have taken a number of forms – by land use type (e.g. residential, car parking) and by place (e.g. master planning of new estates, covering urban centres). With the legal authorisation of its “parent” LEP, such DCPs can introduce detailed standards/requirements and/or lay out urban design frameworks. The latter is most promising, particularly if they cover the public domain (or are linked with separate public domain plans), for detailing the fine-grained connection and networks that would support active living.
In administrative terms, DCPs are Council initiated and approved, in accordance with legal requirements. Despite this, advice can and should be given by the State Government to Councils on how such plans can be used to provide supportive environments.
This is not new ground, and a range of existing resource material and DCP models are discussed in section 4.2 below (as DA considerations).
4. At the development assessment level
4.1 General comments
There is also considerable potential for creating supportive environments at the development application stage. This is the stage at which:
• provisions in many of the plans discussed above are implemented
• location-specific environmental impacts are assessed, including social impacts
• development contributions are levied
• the direct interface between private developments and public domain works are addressed (by consent conditions)
• cumulative impacts can be considered and monitored
In New South Wales a clear distinction is drawn between “Major Projects”, those state significant development where the Minister for Planning receives and determines proposals (including rezonings), and local development (which is a local council responsibility):
(i) Of particular significance are applications for “major projects” and state significant sites (under Part 3A of the EP&A Act and the Major Projects SEPP). The extent, nature, location and scale of such projects – including large-scale subdivisions and major employment generating land uses – justifies DA requirements for significant infrastructure, including off-site works and connections. In other circumstances, failure at concept plan stage to satisfy active living principles may result in the rejection of strategic development proposals.
(ii) Local development proposals are usually not of the same scale as major projects, but still provide the potential to pick-up site specific requirements (as conditions of development consent), such as on-site, destination-based facilities, and to attract development contributions for funding local infrastructure. In addition, the following points should not be underestimated:
• the potential for proposals on specific sites (by good fortune or negotiation) to pick up missing pieces in local structure plans (such as through-site connections or local open space)
• the cumulative effect of “minor” proposals in contributing to supportive environments
To further complicate matters, a new approvals regime has recently been introduced for “infrastructure” by SEPP (Infrastructure) 2007 – overruling local planning provisions on categorisation and permissibility. This is also significant as it covers key elements of the public domain.
4.2 Local development
At the local level, it is in relation to individual development applications that the provisions of LEPs and DCPs are applied as statutory matters for consideration (under s.79C of the EP&A Act). In addition, this section requires Councils to consider the “social impact of development in the locality” (of which active living is a subset)
In relation to achieving supportive environments, the LEP provides the authority and legally binding matters to consider, and DCPs provide the detailed guidance. As discussed above, DCPs can be spatial – concerned with places such as centres and redevelopment areas.
Such place-based DCPs do not cover all DAs, but the significance of the cumulative effect of development proposals and/or implications of key local proposals outside of centres and residential areas should not be underestimated.
As a result, and also to cover circumstances where councils do not introduce active-living specific (or place-based) DCPs, a guideline should be produced, under s.79C to require consideration of the wealth of existing advice on active transport/active living (as matters relating to “social impact”).
As well as the Guidelines cited in the recommendation, a range of other innovative examples currently exist. For instance, the New South Wales Landcom guidelines and design matrix address public and private domains. Model Landcom developments, such as Renwick estate in south-west Sydney are based on “healthy planning” principles.
Such guidelines would cover all councils and would feed the “active living” and/or place-specific DCPs recommended above.
4.3 Major projects and state significant sites
The application and assessment process for Major Projects is covered in Part 3A of the EP&A Act. As a result s.79C matters are not specifically required as considerations. Submission (and assessment) requirements are listed as Director General Requirements (DGR) on an application by application basis. A requirement to provide a Health Impact Assessment and/or for consideration to be given to the documents contained on the PCAL web-based report has been included for a number of major projects.
As a follow-up, the Guideline recommended above (for local development) should be applied as a DGR for appropriate major projects and also for appropriate proposals covered by SEPP (Infrastructure) that are not Major Projects, and also for Crown DAs. In particular, in relation to SEPP (infrastructure), the Active Living Guidelines should be a consideration in the site compatibility certification process.
In addition, those activities still covered by Part 5 of the EP&A Act should be subject to the guidelines (where relevant) as an element in the preparation of Reviews of Environmental Factors (or possibly an Environmental Impact Statement)
Such a Safe and Healthy Community Guideline would be a companion document to the RTA’s Guidelines for Traffic Generating Development (which are being reviewed to incorporate active transport considerations), and also to the proposed revision of the “Planning Guidelines for Walking and Cycling”.
A further matter on development assessment relates to circumstances where a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) should be submitted with a DA. There is considerable work currently underway on this issue and the time is right to build such requirements into the DA process. The EP&A Regulation (at schedule 1) currently requires local DAs to be accompanied by a Statement of Environmental Effects (SEE). With input from DOH and CHETRA, circumstances where a HIA should be included in the SEE could be listed (and perhaps prescribed).
The final aspect of development assessment, and not the least significant, is the role of development contributions, through the DA process (by conditions of consent), in paying for public works. As stressed in section 3.3 (above) such contributions should be viewed as one of a range of financial sources to be considered in the DLG’s proposed Integrated Planning and Reporting system.
The development contributions regime is about to change and it is appropriate to clarify the nature of civic improvements that can be subject to a levy.
6. Conclusion: priorities, barriers and solutions
While each of the seventeen recommendations in this Report is considered relevant, they can be prioritised, on the basis of significance, coverage (of council areas) and impact on resources required. Opinions were canvassed on this from the participants at the Round Table.
Firstly, underpinning many of the actions suggested, is Recommendation 8 encouraging a change of attitude and approach to public domain planning and works, and also detailing how this should follow through to “place making” activities at the local (and State) levels. In the spirit of integration this would require coordination between State agencies and Council departments, as proposed by the DLG’s Integrated Planning and Reporting system (the subject of Recommendations 9 and 10). Encouraging a spatial dimension (or “structure plan”) to underpin LEP preparation (by s.117 Direction) would provide a local accessibility network, linking trip generators and destinations, that would provide a framework for private/public domain planning, identification of strategic DA sites and connections. This would assist in overcoming a significant barrier – the disciplinary divide.
Secondly, strengthening the legal onus on Councils by making the active living requirements more explicit in the sub-regional strategies (Recommendation 2), a specific s.117 Direction on LEP preparation and content (Recommendation 5) and amending the LEP Standard Instrument (Recommendation 11) are priorities.
Finally, building upon and centralising the wealth of existing advice, the preparation of a formal guideline document at the DA stage (Recommendation 13 and 14) completes coverage of active living matters throughout the planning process.
List of abbreviations
CPTED Crime Prevention through Environmental Design
DA Development Application
DCP Development Control Plan
DLG NSW Department of Local Government
DOP NSW Department of Planning
EP&A Act Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
LEP Local Environmental Plan
LGAct Local Government Act
PCAL Premier’s Council on Active Living
List of Interviews
25.6.08 Matt Faber Traffic Management Branch, RTA
1.7.08 Peter Hamilton Principal Policy Advisor, DOP
16.7.08 Peter McCue Manager PCAL
24.7.08 Gemma Wilson DLG
30.7.08 Juliet Grant NSW Ministry of Transport
14.8.08 John Brunton Director, Environmental Services, Sutherland Shire Council
14.8.08 Greg New Principal Newplan (telephone)
10.9.08 Michael Woodland DOP (telephone)
Tina Xanthos Police (telephone)
Karen Paterson DLG
List of Round Table participants (20.8.08)
John Brunton Director - Environmental Services, Sutherland Shire Council
Liz Develin Director, Centre for Health Advancement, NSW Health
Matt Faber Traffic Management Branch, RTA
Patrick Harris UNSW Research Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation (CHETRE)
Network and Corridor Planning Manager, RTA
Senior Transport Planner, MoT
Peter Hamilton Principal Policy Adviser, DoP
Louise McKenzie Senior Landscape Design Officer, Fairfield City Council
Chloe Mason Divisional Manager Environmental Services, Waverley Council
Peter McCue Manager, Premier’s Council for Active Living (PCAL)
Greg New Principal, Newplan
Andrew Whitehead NSW Health
Danny Wiggins Consultant
List of references
Australian Local Government Association et.al (May 2008)
Healthy spaces and places: towards a national
Planning guide. (Draft for discussion purposes from
Crime prevention and the assessment of development
Applications: guidelines under section 79C of the EP&A Act
1979. Sydney, DOP
DIPNR (December 2004). Planning Guidelines for Walking and Cycling. Sydney DIPNR
DIPNR and Transport NSW
Integrating Land Use and Transport Sydney, DIPNR
The Right Place for Business and Services, Sydney. DIPNR
DIPNR. Integrating Land Use and Transport: Draft SEPP 66. Sydney DIPNR
Asset Management Planning for NSW Local Government
City of cities: a plan for Sydney’s future (Metropolitan Strategy)
Parramatta City Centre Plan: Civic Improvement Plan.
DOP (December 2007)
West Central Subregion: draft regional strategy.
Street Design Guidelines, Sydney, Landcom
National Heart Foundation of Australia, Victorian Division (June 2004)
Healthy by Design: a planner’s guide to environments
for active living. HFA (VIC)
NSW Government (November 2006)
State Plan: a new direction for NSW. Sydney, Premier’s Department
NSW Legislation. Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
NSW Legislation. Local Government Act 1993
NSW Legislation. Standard Instrument (Local Environmental Plans) Order 2006
NSW Legislation. State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Projects) 2005
NSW Legislation. State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007
Willana Associates (June 2008)
NSW Health and Urban Planning Project: Final Report Sydney