Due to recent changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, independent hearing and assessment panels (IHAPs), will become mandatory for councils in the Greater Sydney Region and for Wollongong Council from 1 March 2018.
What are IHAPs you ask? IHAPs are panels of independent experts that determine development applications on behalf of a council and provide advice on other planning matters.
The idea behind IHAPs is to reduce the risk of conflicts of interest and corruption.
By ensuring decisions are made by individuals independent of developers, decisions will be made on the basis technical merit and benefits for the area.
With the introduction of this panel of individual experts, local councils can focus on strategic leadership in the planning system.
Under the new provisions of the Act, councillors in Sydney and Wollongong will no longer be able to determine development applications. This function will be performed by either the IHAP, council staff, or the relevant regional panel.
Each IHAP will consist of:
- A Chair and two expert members (all must be qualified in planning, architecture, urban design, economics, traffic and transport, law, engineering, tourism or government and public administration).
- A community representative (to be chosen by council and does not have to be an expert in one of the above fields).
Councillors, property developers and real estate agents cannot be IHAP members.
The recruitment process to become an IHAP member is a state-wide, merit-based process. Long Legal’s Grant Long has recently been approved for appointment as an independent expert to an IHAP.