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Does your project qualify for accelerated assessment? NSW Government releases priority project criteria

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In a recent ministerial media release, the NSW Government has announced the first projects to undergo fast-tracked assessment as part of the NSW Government’s new Planning System Acceleration Program, with decisions on these projects to be made within the next 4 weeks.  The full list of these projects can be viewed here.


Minister for Planning, the Honourable Mr Rob Stokes has noted that the acceleration program is not a “greenlighting exercise” and that community consultation and merit-based assessment will be maintained.

An independent probity advisor has also been appointed to prioritise, in a transparent way, the projects identified for accelerated assessment. The criteria to identify and progress projects through the accelerated assessment process has been released for development applications and planning proposals that have already been lodged.  The criteria fall broadly within three criteria:

  • the project’s ability to create jobs during construction and once complete
  • the ability for construction to commence within six months of approval
  • the project’s delivery of a public benefit.

Job creation

The government has set a target of creating opportunities for more than 30,000 construction jobs by September 2020. The Department proposes to estimate job creation on a ‘construction jobs per dollar of investment’ basis. The Department will also consider whether a project will create significant employment post-construction.

Priority projects will be those that deliver on some or a number of the following objectives:

  • create a high number of job in strategic and key centres as identified in regional and district plans
  • create local jobs in areas with high unemployment or places impacted by the recent bushfires or drought
  • generate significant long term employment (in the next 10-20 years)
  • whether the development will attract other employment generating development
  • ability to allow new stages of existing projects that have an established workforce
  • retention of jobs in industries most affected by COVID-19 including tourism, hospitality and creative industries
  • provide job opportunities for Aboriginal people.

‘Shovel ready’ projects

In order to deliver the government’s job creation target, it is important that projects undergoing accelerated assessment are able to be commenced in a timely manner.  To this end, the assessment criteria includes contemplation of:

  • whether the development application can be determined quickly, or whether the subject site is constrained by matters including flooding, bushfire, contamination, or ecology concerns, that are unable to be resolved or suitability managed in a way that would permit quick determination of the development application.  Similarly, whether there are any complex issues with the relevant council, Department of Planning or other agencies that would prevent the application from being determined within three months
  • whether work under any approval can commence within the next six months. This is unlikely to be the case for consents that are to be granted with deferred commencement conditions
  • for planning proposals, whether approval will allow follow up development applications to be filed within 6 months
  • whether funding for the project has been secured.

Public benefit

In considering whether a project will deliver a public benefit, the following matters are included in as matters that will be assessed:

  • ability to deliver a moderate or high number of dwellings, particularly:
    • the proportion of build to rent, social, affordable or key worker accommodation provided
    • large greenfield development with integrated infrastructure
    • large scale delivery of diverse housing types with good building design
    • projects that support redevelopment of land claimed by Aboriginal Land Councils
    • projects that provide immediate housing in support of recovery efforts in bushfire impacted areas.
  • whether the project is linked to or creates state or regional infrastructure including:
    • transport
    • schools
    • health services facilities
    • services infrastructure.
  • whether the project will provide significant public spaces, green infrastructure, environmental benefits and quality design.  This may include:
    • regional parks and open space
    • flora, fauna, or riparian corridor protection and enhancement
    • dedication of land for open space or biodiversity offsets
    • restoration of open spaces and public domain in bushfire affected areas
  • if the project has strategic merit, giving effect to directions and priorities in Commonwealth, state, regional or district plans.

It remains to be seen whether Councils will be able to accommodate fast-tracked assessment of development applications with capacity and workflow obstacles created by COVID-19, and whether the Land and Environment Court will see an increase in development appeals as proponents exercise their deemed refusal appeal rights.

Our Planning and Environment team can provide you guidance on what these changes mean for your existing or future development applications, and can assist you in working through assessment deadlocks. Get in contact today.


Katharine Huxley

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