The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces has introduced the State Environmental Planning Policy Amendment (COVID-19 Response) 2020 (SEPP) in a bid to tackle the unprecedented demand of retail stocks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SEPP effectively overrides the restocking and loading activities for ‘retail supply chain premises’ outside of the approved hours which form part of the development consent. The SEPP amends the State Environment Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 by the inclusion of a new form of exempt development, specifically ‘The use of retail supply chain premises at any time for the purpose of supplying goods directly or indirectly to retail premises is development specified for this code’.
The SEPP outlines that permitted exempt development may be carried out “at any time” subject to the following standards:
- there being a development consent for use as a retail supply chain premise;
- compliance with all conditions of consent for the use of those premises other than those conditions that restrict hours of operation, or the frequency or movement of vehicles; and
- taking steps to reduce noise when operating outside of the relevant conditions.
The amendments are currently set to be automatically repealed on 1 October 2020.
COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020
The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 has passed the Legislative Assembly. The Environmental and Planning Act to 1979 No 203 Schedule 2.8 permits the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to make an order that authorises development to be carried out without the need for approval under the Act or consent from any person. The Minister must be reasonably satisfied that the making of the order is necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of members of the public.
Schedule 2.8 also provides that a requirement to make a document available at a physical location such as an office is satisfied if the document is made available on the NSW planning portal or any other website approved by the Planning Secretary.
The Amendment Bill also removes the need for persons to attend council meetings, under the Local Government Act 1993. The meetings may be held remotely by audio visual link or in any other manner approved by the Minister for Local Government. Members of the public are to be given access to the meeting by webcast or in any other manner approved by the Minister
The above provisions apply for a minimum period of 6 months and may apply for a total of 12 months if the regulations prescribe a longer period.
Instructions to councils and other planning authorities on the COVID-19 pandemic
The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces has instructed Councils across the State to support communities through this period by adopting a flexible and pragmatic approach to enforcement and compliance action during the period while any Orders under the Public Health Act 2010 to deal with public health risk of COVID-19 apply. This includes taking appropriate and necessary measures to respond to the issues arising in these exceptional circumstances, including relaxing restrictions on the use of footpaths for food premises to facilitate effective social distancing of patrons.
Land and Environment Court Policy in response to COVID-19
A new Court policy has been released in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which commenced on 23 March 2020. The ‘COVID-19 Pandemic Arrangements Policy‘ applies to hearings, conciliation conferences (in both the s 34 and s 34AA), hearings of tree matters, mediations and the delivery of judgments.
Key points are:
- In-person appearances before the Court will be significantly reduced.
- Parties are to approach the Court at least seven days prior, to advise whether the site inspection is necessary or appropriate and if the location can accommodate social distancing requirements. The Court will then advise the parties whether the site inspection should proceed.
- Alternative arrangements may need to be made for regional matters, where travel to the location is no longer feasible. This may include standing the matter over to a later date.
- The parties are also to limit the number of participants at site inspections (such as objectors at s34 conferences), and the Court’s Site Inspections Policy (which states that a maximum of six persons objecting to a development proposal should provide oral evidence on site) is temporarily suspended.
- For courtroom hearings, the Court may direct parties, practitioners and witnesses to observe social distancing (i.e. to sit at least 1.5m apart). Access to the courtroom (for non-essential participants) or the bar table (for practitioners) may also be restricted.
- Parties are also directed to ensure that evidence be reduced to writing wherever possible, so as to reduce or eliminate the need for cross-examination in person.
- Judgments will now be handed down by telephone and copies of the reasons distributed to the parties
For further information or assistance in understanding these pieces of legislation please contact Lauren Saunders in Urban Strategies Sydney office.