This guide sets out how members of the public can influence changes to planning policy in local areas through the process of periodic review of Council Development Plans. As well as going through the formal process of submissions and hearings, the guide explains why you should get involved and offers some advice on how to make the most of your submission.
Throughout this guide, various legal terms are used. The “Act” means the Development Act 1993, and the “Regulations” means the Development Regulations. Other terms are defined in general rather than strict legal language.
What are Development Plans?
The key legal documents in the South Australian planning system are the Development Act 1993 and the Development Regulations.
The key policy document is the Planning Strategy which sets out the Government’s vision for planning in metropolitan Adelaide and country South Australia.
Under the Development Act, each local Council is responsible for controlling development in its area. Each Council is obliged to maintain a Development Plan which is aimed at facilitating “proper, orderly and efficient planning and development”. Each Development Plan must be consistent in its aims and objectives with the Government’s overall Planning Strategy.
Some specific aims of Development Plans are to:
- enhance the proper conservation, use, development and management of land and buildings;
- facilitate sustainable development and the protection of the environment; and
- advance the social and economic interests and goals of the community.
From a practical point of view, one of the main purposes of a Development Plan is to set out the things that a Council must take into account when considering development proposals in its Council area. This is done through provisions such as zoning, which aim, for example, to keep heavy industry away from residential areas. Development Plans also contain broad principles and specific objectives that cover all aspects of planning in that area.
Why are Development Plans reviewed?
As society changes, so do its interests, priorities and expectations. For example growing environmental awareness in the community has led to calls for our planning system to better protect the environment. In addition, there is a growing expectation that planning documents should be accessible to the general community in terms of their structure and language. Currently, many Plans are very complex and not written in plain English.
A comprehensive review of all Development Plans has attempted to address these issues. In fact, the Development Act has recognised the need for up-dating by requiring all local Councils to review their Development Plans every five years. Ring your local Council to determine when the next review will take place.
Why should you be involved?
The Development Plan may be more important in shaping the character of your local area than you realise. Policies about shops, factories, offices and public open space are all set out in the Plans, together with detailed maps as to where these activities should be located. As well, the important issues of water management, traffic, pedestrian safety, car parking and bicycle routes are things that all residents should be concerned about.
Opportunities to have a direct say in the future of your area may not arise very often, so it is important to have your say during the Development Plan Review. It will be much harder to complain about the impacts on your quality of life or local environment once changes have been made.
How are Development Plans reviewed?
The Development Act provides very little guidance as to the process to be followed in reviewing a Development Plan. The Act does set out some minimum requirements of public advertisement and hearings, but leaves the bulk of the process up to each individual Council to determine. Some Councils take the process very seriously and provide many opportunities (such as public meetings or workshops) for their residents to have a say. Other Councils see this process as less important and do the minimum amount of work required to meet their legal obligations. Ring your Council planning department and ask them how they propose involving local residents in the next Development Plan Review.
Essentially the process which is followed is 1) production of a statement of intent 2) consultation with advisory committee 3) development plan amendment proposal and all the must be included 4) three process to follow (A, B or C) in accordance with agreement met with the minister but each includes public consultation.
What is reviewed?
As far as the content of the Review goes, the Act simply provides that the issues of “appropriateness” and “consistency with the Planning Strategy” be addressed. Because the Planning Strategy is very broad in the issues it covers, you should be able to insist that your Council takes an equally broad view of its responsibilities. For example, issues such as encouraging bicycle use or protecting biological diversity are covered in the Planning Strategy but are poorly dealt with by many local Councils in their Development Plans. The review could be your opportunity to make sure these issues are put on the Council’s agenda.
When a council intends to amend a development plan, certain matters must be included in a statement of intent. These include matters such as: scope, planning strategy policies, minister’s policies, council policies, policy library, investigations, agency consultation, public consultation, process, planning procedures, document production, and a timetable.
How can you be involved?
Under the Development Act, the Council must publicly advertise the fact that it is conducting a review of its Development Plan and give the public at least two months (typically 8 weeks but under process C (s25(9))it is as little as 4 weeks) to make a written submission. If you make a submission, the Council must give you the opportunity to explain your submission to a meeting of the Council or a sub-committee of Council. You can use someone else to represent you if you like. If no submission has been received, it will indicate no interest is to be heard and a meeting need not be held so make sure you get your submission in writing in the prescribed time otherwise you will lose your opportunity to be heard. There is no special format for a submission. Submissions need not be lengthy, but they should be written clearly, preferably in point form so that issues don’t “get lost” amongst lengthy, rambling text. You could use local examples of how planning could be improved to help get your point across.
What happens to my submission?
At the conclusion of its recommendations, the council is required to prepare a report for the Minister (Urban Development and Planning), which summarises all the investigations the Council has undertaken, including the public submissions. This report should identify the issues each person made and the Council’s response to those issues.
If the final outcome is a recommendation that the Development Plan be amended, then another process will be started, which also includes opportunities for the public to make submissions.
What if my submission is rejected?
There is no right of appeal against the rejection of points made in your submission.
If you feel that the issues you raised are important enough, you could consider expressing your views directly to the Minister, who ultimately has the final say on whether a proposed amendment to the Development Plan can proceed.
Other avenues such as letters to the newspaper or public meetings are always available to press your point of view.
For more information
A copy of the Development Plan for your area can be obtained from your local council or inspected at the Conservation Centre, Level 1 157 Franklin Street Adelaide (ph:8223 5155). It is also available from Planning SA .Planning SA is located at 136 North Tce Adelaide ( ph: 8303 0600 ) or www.planning.sa.gov.au
Service SA ( ph : 13 23 24 ) is the place to buy the Development Act 1993 and Development Regulations as well as other relevant Acts such as the Environment Protection Act 1993 and the Local Government Act 1999
The Environmental Defenders Office (SA) inc, (EDO) is a non-profit community legal centre offering free advice to individuals and groups on all matters of environmental law. The EDO operates an advisory on Thursday evenings between 6-8PM at: 408 King William St Adelaide SA 5000 Fax +61 (08) 8410 3855. Appointments are necessary and must be made by ringing 8410 3833 or freecall 1800 337 566. It is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Important legal details have been omitted to provide a brief overview of this law. Contact the EDO or your solicitor for more detailed legal advice about your specific problem. This guide was funded by a grant from the Law Foundation of South Australia.