The simple answer is that in the short term, the Council amalgamations will have very little impact.

The preparation of Council planning controls is a long and complicated process involving public exhibition of the plans and concurrence from the State government. The key planning document in any Council is the Local Environmental Plan (LEP). As a state-wide initiative announced in 2006, all Council were required to prepare a new LEP which was established with a standard template format. This initiative is only now nearing completion, with most Councils in New South Wales having fairly new LEPs.

Each new Council (amalgamated) will continue to operate with the existing LEP documents. This will mean that there will be numerous documents in many cases. For example, the new Northern Beaches Council will retain, Manly, Warringah and Pittwater Local Environmental Plans all under its banner. These LEP documents provide key information such as zoning, heights, heritage, floor space ratio, lot size, environmental constraints and permissible uses.

Similarly, the second level of planning controls, known as Development Control Plans (DCPs), have also recently been updated and renewed to complement the new Local Environmental Plans. Development Control Plans which have been established for each previous local government area will be retained with controls for setbacks, solar access, parking, heritage, landscaping and other more detailed planning issues all remaining the same as prior to amalgamation.

As a part of the amalgamation process, the State government has not required that Council’s provide new documents or update what is current. As time takes its course and there is a need for new planning documents, Council’s may decide to merge the documents and upgrade. However, there is no time frame to do this or particular incentive or need from a Council point of view. The planning and building sections of the new amalgamated Council’s will continue to primarily operate as separate units with regard to assessment and report writing, with planning controls unchanged.

The key impact that the amalgamated Councils will have will be from a senior management level and a political point of view, with any applications going to Council, now before an administrator or a different set of councillors. However on the whole, if your application was appropriate before amalgamation, it will remain appropriate after amalgamation as the planning controls are unchanged and there is no need or incentive for Council’s to alter them as things currently stand.

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