What are the differences between a DCP and a LEP?

A DCP, or Development Control Plan, provides detailed planning and design guidelines to uphold the planning controls in the LEP (Local Environment Plan).

On the other hand, an LEP is a legal document prepared by the Council and approved by the State Government to regulate land use and development. The LEP guides planning decisions for local governments.

Why have DCPs become so important?

The approach taken by the Land and Environment Court of NSW in their decisions of appeals has progressively increased the role and importance of DCPs, even though DCPs are not statutorily recognised.

Two major factors have contributed to giving DCPs receiving greater weight and importance than initially planned:

  1. DCPs have become an over complex document which controls almost every aspect of development in a stringent manner; and
  2. This has meant that Court decisions have held that DCPs should be a key factor in decision making. Courts have also held that DCPs which have been applied more consistently should be given greater weight.

This strict approach has led to increased concerns particularly in the building industry. This is due to Councils feeling obligated to treat DCPs as inflexible which must be consistently applied when considering development applications.

What are the recent changes to the role of DCPs?

Due to the issues raised above, the NSW Government has introduced amendments which were aimed at reducing the role of DCPs as it was found that many of these controls were not consistent with those in the Council’s LEP. The inconsistencies increasingly contributed to delay and red tape in the planning system.

The recent amendments have returned the DCPs status to what was initially intended, being a ‘flexible guideline’ that would complement the development controls provided by the legally binding LEP. Therefore, the amendments have reinforced the fact the DCP is not a legally binding document and should only be used as a mere guideline.

The Amendments also provide that during the decision making process, the Council is required to:

  • Use a flexible approach in applying DCP standards
  • Not to enforce more burdensome standards than that contained in the control standards of the DCP
  • Give less significance to the DCP controls than development controls contained in the LEPs and State policies.

If you need assistance in better understanding the changes and usage of Development Control Plans, please contact the team of Lawyers at The Quinn Group on (02) 9223 9166 or submit an online enquiry.