NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts told a group at a lunch held by the Urban Taskforce Australia earlier this week that he will not go ahead with the draft Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) created by former Minister Rob Stokes.

The revised plan included making all future commercial developments net zero, as well as a minimum amount of tree cover and hazard risk profiles for bushfires and floods to also be mandated in a bid to cut emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels. But opposition from property developers has led to the SEPP being scrapped entirely.

Roberts says he has listened to voices of the industry that believe the reforms were unworkable and inadequate.

“You told me (the property industry) that the draft SEPP was too complicated, that it placed too heavy a regulatory burden on building new homes,” he says.

“There were too many principles and considerations which made your job of building homes for people harder. I’ve heard you, the government’s heard you.”

Nine planning principles floated by Stokes have been revoked by Roberts, with only one element being retained: a requirement of new homes and renovations over $50,000 to meet BASIX standards for energy, water and thermal performance. Roberts believes existing policies will help the state combat the effects of climate change.

An Australian Institute of Architects NSW Chapter spokesperson says the decision is a significant backward step.

“To downgrade these sensible policies now is a slap in the face for our communities, especially those recovering from extreme weather,” a statement reads in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The draft SEPP proposed by Stokes and NSW State Architect Abbie Galvin was created after a two year planning process. An initial outlay of $2.3 billion was required to implement the policy, but was to result in $3.3 billion in benefits.

Green Building Council of Australia CEO Davina Rooney says certain elements of the draft SEPP must be introduced.

“It is absolutely critical that elements on embodied carbon and net zero are retained. These are critical issues of our time.”

The decision to scrap the SEPP has been met with opposition, with a number of supporters of the reforms angered by the decision to announce the changes at a lunch attended by developers. Many have taken to protesting outside Roberts’ office in Lane Cove.

Image: NSW gov't