Shelter NSW’s response to the ‘Design and Place SEPP’

(Explanation of Intended Effect)

Last year, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and the Government Architect announced a major policy overhaul that will consolidate existing planning instruments, as well as update and expand multiple design guides, in a positive step towards a simpler, more holistic planning system to shape development into ‘great places’.

The proposed Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (DP SEPP) introduces a system that moves away from prescriptive measures and encourages innovation and flexibility by establishing five principles for design and place.

Currently, the Explanation of Intended Effect for the Design and Place SEPP is on exhibition with the draft SEPP to follow later in the year.

What is the Design and Place SEPP?

The Design and Place SEPP is a bold policy initiative that aspires to improve the design quality of our homes, neighbourhoods, and public spaces across New South Wales. The SEPP intends to look beyond buildings and applies the concept of precinct-scale planning to all new developments. This is a big step forward in place-based design in NSW.

The proposed SEPP will introduce a principle-based system and establishes five guiding principles that aim to deliver healthy and prosperous places that support the wellbeing of people, communities, and Country.

Our initial thoughts:

We recognise the need for and welcome the Design and Place SEPP but there are risks. The move to a ‘principle-based system’ marks a significant change in how the planning system regulates new development. Principles define what matters and the five spelled out in the EIE resonate with Shelter’s own values. However, they are also abstractions; what really matters in determining outcomes is how individuals, organisations, and governments stick to their principles.
The Design and Place SEPP therefore, needs toarticulate the need for a principle-based system and definewhat a principle-based system means in practical terms. One interpretation of a principle-based system is that it could mean ditching minimum standards by giving developers more flexibility in what they propose. Without a clear explanation, organisations such as our own—rightly or wrongly—may perceive the SEPP as a “watering down” of protections in response to lobbying by the development industry

What’s next?

Shelter NSW will be reviewing the Explanation of Intended Effects from the perspective of households on ordinary incomes who struggle to afford good quality housing that suits their needs. In a housing system where over 95% of dwellings are provided by the private market, our primary concern is that new development of poor quality will ultimately filter down to these ordinary income households. That is why we see the Design and Place SEPP as so important: it can, if used correctly, protect these households when they cannot afford an alternative.
To inform our positions in our submission, we have consulted design experts and architects as well as drawn on our own knowledge of the planning system. It follows our previous submission to an earlier round of consultation on the Design and Place SEPP’s structure in 2020. The deadline for formal submissions to the Design and Place SEPP EIE has been extended to 28 April.

Members – tell us what you think!
If you would like to share your perspective on the Design and Place SEPP and raise your concerns, reply to us via email or start a conversation in the private members Facebook forum