EPA's role in the planning system
The South Australian planning system relies on advice and support from multiple government agencies in order to create an integrated system where key issues are considered. The Development Act 1993 provides for the referral of the Planning Strategy, development plan amendments, certain development applications, and aspects of the assessment of major developments to various government departments and agencies, including the EPA. As a result, the EPA is regularly involved in providing advice or direction to the relevant authorities in this context.
The EPA has responsibilities under the Environment Protection Act 1993 to ensure that measures are taken to protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment. The EPA must have regard to, and seek to further, the objects of the Environment Protection Act 1993, and have regard to the general environmental duty and relevant environment protection policies.
The EPA’s overarching goal for its interaction with the planning system is to promote the principles of ecologically sustainable development (as defined in the Environment Protection Act 1993). The EPA will do this by ensuring that its views on the matters within the scope of the Environment Protection Act 1993 are heard, understood and taken into account at each stage of the planning system, to the degree appropriate to the risk of environmental harm.
The Planning Strategy specifies state government policy for private and public development within South Australia. It consists of several volumes that apply to different regions of South Australia and contains policies and strategies addressing environmental, social and economic issues. The Planning Strategy is a guiding framework for policy within area-specific council development plans.
The EPA works with the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure to develop appropriate environmental policy or strategies for inclusion in the Planning Strategy. Both agencies support implementation of the Planning Strategy’s policies and targets through Structure Plans and development plan amendments.
Development Plans are statutory documents that provide guidance on what can and cannot be done on land in the area to which the development plan applies. Development plans contain zones, maps and policies against which development applications are assessed by the relevant planning authority - either a local council or the Development Assessment Commission. Development plan amendments are initiated by a local council or the minister responsible for planning.
When commenting on a development plan amendment the EPA aims to ensure that appropriate zoning is provided in locations where an assessment, based on sound environmental considerations, has been undertaken, and that adequate environmental provision (through objectives and principles of development control) are contained within the development plan to enable a balanced assessment of development applications.
At the statement of intent stage the EPA will focus on the investigations that are proposed to be undertaken to inform the development plan amendment. The EPA may advise that the investigations proposed in the statement of intent be amended or that additional ones be included.
At the development plan amendment stage the EPA may provide advice on whether the investigations have been satisfactorily carried out, if the findings support the rezoning, and whether further assessment can be managed through the policy proposed in the development plan amendment. The EPA may recommend issue or site-specific planning policy for matters that are not addressed in the policy of the South Australian Planning Policy Library.
Development in South Australia is defined in the Development Act 1993 and required approval in the form of a development authorisation obtained from either a local council or the Development Assessment Commssion following an application and assessment process.
In accordance with section 37 of the Development Act 1993 and regulation 24 of the Development Regulations 2008, planning authorities are required to refer certain types of development applications to other agencies, known as 'prescribed bodies', for advice or direction. The EPA is a prescribed body.
Schedule 8 of the Development Regulations 2008 outlines the circumstances under which referral of a development application is required, the time allocated for the response, and the nature of the response – whether advice or direction – to be provided.
Clause 7 of Schedule 5 of the Development Regulations 2008 contains a specific list of information that must be included in development applications that are required to be referred to the EPA. The information includes a site plan, a plan or description of the surrounding area, and a detailed description of the activities to be undertaken at the site, including how noise, air emissions, waste, stormwater, and sewage would be managed.
The checklist includes information required for all development applications (Table 1), and lists common details that may be required depending on the nature of the activity or site (Table 2).
Information listed in Table 1 should be made available when commencing informal pre-lodgement discussions with the EPA. Submitting all relevant information at the time of the referral will streamline the EPA’s response to the relevant authority.
The EPA will review the potential human health and environmental impacts of any referred proposal. It may be necessary for the EPA to seek further information on certain aspects of the proposal so that it can be carefully and fully assessed with a complete understanding of the proposal.
In its response to the referral the EPA may advise or direct that certain conditions be attached to any approval. If necessary, the EPA will direct, where it has that power, that an application be refused. There are also circumstances in which the EPA may advise that the application should be refused.
Major development or project
Under the Development Act 1993 the Minister for Planning may declare a development proposal to be a major development or project. Such a declaration may occur when the proposal is considered to be of major environmental, social, or economic importance and it is believed that it is appropriate or necessary for proper assessment.
A major development or project is assessed through a process that operates under the Development Act 1993 and is overseen by the state government rather than a local council.
Where a major development or project includes one or more activities of major environmental significance as prescribed in Schedule 1 of the Environment Protection Act 1993, assessment documents must be referred to the EPA for comment. Where such an activity is not proposed, assessment documents may still be referred to the EPA for comment.
The EPA may advise on the measures proposed to mitigate potential environmental impacts and will work with the proponent and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) to ensure that proper environmental investigations are undertaken. The EPA does not have the power to direct refusal or approval on matters relating to major developments, but does provide advice to assist the decision-making process.
The EPA may continue to be involved with a major development following its approval should there be conditions that require preparation of certain documents, such as a stormwater management plan or site contamination investigation, in consultation with the EPA.
South Australian Planning Policy Library
The South Australian Planning Policy Library contains a standard library of ‘best practice’ objectives and principles of development control from which councils can select policy for inclusion in a development plan through a development plan amendment process.
The EPA supports the use of planning policy from the South Australian Planning Policy Library in the preparation of development plan amendments.