The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the last month is challenging everything we take for granted, including the legislative systems designed to secure the safety and amenity of the general community.
On Friday 20 March, the Queensland Government announced that urgent amendments to the Planning Act 2016 and the Economic Development Act 2012 have come into effect enabling businesses to respond more appropriately to the COVID-19 event. Specifically, the provisions:
- allow certain uses to operate and restock 24 hours per day, seven days a week, during an event such as the COVID-19 public health emergency or other future disasters;
- provide the opportunity for any person to seek relief from development application conditions or other operating constraints through a simple application to the state; and
- introduce flexibility for the Minister to suspend or extend any of the statutory timeframes across the planning framework.
These legislative changes will enable businesses to respond to the unprecedented community demand for essential goods and services by removing planning constraints which might otherwise limit the operation and delivery of such services, such as the hours of operation, the types and quantities of goods produced or the number of staff permitted on-site. Declared uses to which these provisions apply include Shops, Warehouse and Transport Depot. To allow such businesses to innovate or change how they operate in unprecedented times, they will be able to apply for a temporary use licence to change or vary existing development approval conditions or other operating constraints which may prevent them from operating during the declared applicable event.
Other amendments allow for the extension or suspension of planning framework periods under the Act to allow for development applications to be decided in a timely manner where authorities are working with reduced or remote staffing arrangements.
These provisions are now a permanent part of the Queensland planning framework, so as to provide flexibility to respond not only to public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 event but also natural disasters such as floods, bushfires or cyclones. The effect of the powers is temporary and applies only for the duration of the declared event.
Should these changes be applicable to your business, please contact Urban Strategies Brisbane office to assist you with your liaison with the Queensland State Government.