Building trust in local planning decisions

Building trust in local planning decisions

Local government is never a dull place to work but the next few years are going to be even more challenging than usual for NSW based planners and stakeholder engagement professionals.

Planning changes require community participation

Major changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979(EP&A) and the Crown Lands Management Act have recently taken effect and Councils need to be across a range of new planning requirements.  Local government has also been passed the primary role of planning for and managing the risks associated with climate change in for their communities.

Enhancing community participation in planning and an elevated strategic role for local councils are key themes of the new EP&A Act. While a refocus on local plan making and

participatory processes is to be applauded, it will undoubtedly further stretch council resources.  In addition to the regular planning cycle of Operations Plans, Delivery Programs and the Community Strategic Plan, councils are now required to prepare:

  • Local Strategic Planning Statements (by July 2020)
  • Community Participation Plans (by Dec 2019)
  • Climate Change Adaption Plans
  • Plans of management for Crown reserves (by July 2021)

There will be challenges…

Community and stakeholder engagement underpin all of these plans and there is a real risk, if not managed smartly, that communities will become overwhelmed and fatigued with the process and council’s resources quickly depleted.

In preparing Community Participation Plans, councils will have to take into consideration, community participation principles, which according to the Department of Planning and Environment will set the standard for how the community should be engaged and included in the process. This, however it is up to each individual Council to determine how these are applied.

….and opportunities

A focus on effective community engagement can assist in facilitating greater acceptance and enhance the likelihood of building support for actions taken in the future during the implementation stages including for development approvals. The changes though are to ensure decision makers are accountable for their decisions and more importantly, stakeholders will be given reasons why a decision was made. This is to improve public confidence in the planning system at a local government level.

Most NSW Councils have updated their Community Strategic Plans in the last 18 months, making this a great time for councils to map out and streamline community engagement needs for both their IP&R planning processes, the EP&A Act,  crown lands changes and climate change planning processes.

Need help? Call Mara

Mara Consulting is a multidisciplinary team of community engagement specialists, strategic and environmental planners, landscape and urban design professionals.

Our team are local government specialists.  We can help streamline your council’s community engagement processes to meet your current and future planning requirements in the most effective and efficient manner to the benefit of your organisation and the community.

For information, contact Mara's team on 02 4965 4317 or email