Wednesday, 01 September 2021 12:36

Ensuring Design and Place delivers for Western Sydney

The NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment is currently consulting on the development of a new state environmental planning policy – the Design and Place SEPP.

The Design and Place SEPP promises to significantly alter the NSW planning landscape by preferencing a principles-based approach to development design. The principles-based approach seeks to foster innovation in new buildings and precincts by restricting the number of dictated criteria that developers are required to meet, and instead requiring developments to demonstrate their alignment with designated design principles.

WSROC and many of its members have been actively involved in consultations on Design and Place SEPP. This policy is significant for Western Sydney councils because the region’s rapid growth ensures the SEPP will have the greatest impact here. Further, the SEPP promises significant change in knowledge and resourcing of council planning teams and panels.

A number of key issues on which WSROC and councils are advocating are outlined below.

  • Concerns regarding the principles-based approach

WSROC supports the intent to encourage innovation in new development but are gravely concerned that the use of design guidance, without robust, enforceable minimum performance standards will result in overall loss of quality and an increase in development-inequity across Greater Sydney. In developments where there is an increased focus on development affordability and feasibility, such as housing for lower-socioeconomic groups, poorer development outcomes are likely.

In addition, a lack of enforceable standards can cause uncertainty for both applicants and consent authorities resulting in delays and costs for both parties.

  • The lack of detail on waste planning

Waste is a mandatory service that must be integrated into developments, akin to water and electricity. Unfortunately, waste is not appropriately addressed in the planning system at present with no minimum standards or requirements for waste infrastructure and services.

These shortcomings results in long-term costs for councils who deliver waste services, inconvenience to communities, and prevents us achieving state Net Zero targets and circular economy principles. There is significant opportunity for these shortcomings to be addressed in the Design and Place SEPP, however we have not yet seen evidence to support this.

  • Building resilience into the planning system

WSROC has been strongly advocating for an increased, focus on tangible resilience measures in this planning policy. Examples of such measures include:

  • Ensuring new development performance is assessed against the likely climate scenarios in which they will be operating (2030, 2050 and 2070).
  • Ensuring measures to mitigate the urban heat island effect (such as light-coloured roofs) are included
  • That dwellings should be designed to offer a certain level of protection in non-energy scenarios to households unable to afford or access mechanical heating and cooling.


  • Cost benefit analysis should include holistic impacts

The NSW Government has outlined that a cost-benefit analysis of the SEPP will be undertaken to better understand the impacts of the SEPP on development feasibility and ensure these are limited. WSROC is concerned by this focus as it will not capture the SEPP’s less tangible impacts, or the broader economic benefits of improved standards (e.g. avoided costs to health system, cost to government, infrastructure failure, cost to community). WSROC stresses that any cost-benefit analysis must include holistic impacts of Design and Place SEPP including but not limited to avoided health costs, energy costs to households (based on revised BASIX standards), and broader impacts on government infrastructure and services. It must also take into account future climate modelling.

Last modified on Thursday, 02 September 2021 10:26