Voluntary Planning Agreements
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A voluntary planning agreement is an agreement entered into between a planning authority (such as the Department of Planning and Environment or local Councils) and a developer. The agreements are created pursuant to the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, whereby the developer agrees to provide or fund public amenities, public services or affordable housing as part of the planning and development process.
Typically, these agreements are entered into at the time of rezoning. The voluntary planning agreement scheme can be controversial: some view the scheme as a means to buy planning approvals from the relevant planning authority. However, some consider that the agreements can procure community benefits better than Section 94 Contributions or flat levy contributions.
Most of the time, the provision of public amenities and public services is done by way of a monetary contribution by the developer to the Minister for Planning & Environment or relevant Council based on the net developable area of the proposed development.
Other times, a contribution may be made by way of dedication of land for the public benefit including “green space” or other recreational or public area or by way of constructing new infrastructure (roads and transport). By funding early infrastructure, this creates the capacity for new development which is considered beneficial to local councils that do not have the funds or infrastructure to support new development in the first place.
A proposed voluntary planning agreement must be made available for public inspection and comment for at least 28 days prior to the developer and Minister for Planning and Environment (or local Council) entering into the agreement.
Furthermore, most agreements require security in the form of an unconditional bank guarantee in respect of the developer’s obligations under an agreement and are required to be registered over the title to the land to which the agreements relate.
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