Dealing with development approvals

Most people reading this page will be dealing with some kind of development application that they support or don’t support. Hopefully this page will help you.


First of all, don’t send your objection to a councillor thinking they will be able to listen and get the application rejected at a council meeting. That’s because councillors no longer have a decision-making role on development approvals (which in my view undermines local democracy).

If you have an objection, send it to council staff. Council will then normally contact you about it.

If the development is contentious, then the Council staff will refer their report and recommendation on the DA to the “Local Planning Panel” (previously called an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel [IHAP]) for Canada Bay. If the development is not seen as contentious, Council staff will determine the outcome. However, the following matters require referral to the Canada Bay Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel:-

  • DAs relating to development previously determined by the Panel
  • DAs where the owner or applicant is the Council or a Councillor, a member of a Councillor’s family, a member of Council staff who is involved in exercising Council’s functions under the Act, or a State or Federal Member of Parliament, a relative within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1993 of any such person/s. DAs for minor works such as internal alterations and additions to retail/office premises, advertising signage etc are excluded from this requirement.
  • DAs that receive 10 or more objections from 10 or more different households.
  • DAs seeking to depart by more than 10% from the development standards contained within the relevant Local Environmental Plan, but not where the Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment has given concurrence to the contravention of the development standards or where the concurrence has been assumed.
  • DAs associated with sensitive developments such as designated developments, residential flat buildings assessed under State Environmental Planning Policy No. 65 – Design Quality of Residential Apartment Development, demolition of heritage items, licensed places of public entertainment (eg., clubs, hotels etc), sex services premises or restricted premises, and DAs accompanied by a Voluntary Planning Agreement under Section 93F of the Act.
  • Modifications of existing development consents under Section 96 and Reviews of Determinations under Section 82A of the Act that meet the abovementioned criteria. Note: Any Section 82A Review of a Determination arising from an application previously determined by the Panel shall be determined by different members of the Panel to those who made the original decision.
  • All Planning Proposals are required to be referred to the Panel for advice.
  • Council can elect to refer any other planning or development matter that is required to be determined by the Council to the Panel for advice.

More information on government policy for planning panels.

You can also call Council’s Strategic Planning team on 9911 6555.

Dealing with the panel

Unlike the DAs previously determined by councillors in open meetings, the IHAP’s meetings are mostly closed to the public, although they must publish the reasons for their decisions.

However, can still have the opportunity to address the IHAP at its meeting, for which you will need to register in advance.

How the NSW government has changed the rules

The NSW Government’s new legislation excludes councillors from making decisions on DAs. The excuse is to stop corruption. The “solution” is to remove the democratic influence of councils, with the NSW government grabbing control and planning laws made even more developer-friendly than before.

Up until now, DAs which were controversial were passed from council staff to the councillors. The decisions were made in an open council meeting, where people for or against a development had the chance to speak. But now, because of new NSW state government law, our councillors will no longer have any role in these decisions. Instead, they will be made by planning panels called IHAPs (Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels) – all across Sydney and Wollongong.

In most cases, the outcome would be the same. But in some cases it would be different, because elected councillors are concerned not just about following planning rules, but representing the community’s best interest. For that, they are accountable to the community, and can be later voted out of office if enough people disagree with them.

This is the latest example of the NSW state government taking power away from democratically elected local councils, and imposing their own rules. Not only that, but the extra bureaucracy adds more costs to councils for all its expenses. Then on top of that: if somebody appeals to the Land and Environment Court against any of their decisions, the council (who had no say in the decision) has to foot the legal bill.

Who asked for this backward step? The real estate industry. The Planning Panels / IHAPs are called independent, but the state government effectively controls them.

If you are concerned about this, learn about what the state government has done and continues to do about planning laws. Yes, I know it’s complicated. That’s why they have gotten away with this – up until now.

I hope this helps explain the current situation.


Councillor Charles Jago
Canada Bay Council

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