Publication and inspection of planning documents – recent amendments to the Planning and Environment Act 1987
On 24 March 2021, the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Act) was amended in relation to the publication and inspection of a range of documents/information.
Key changes to the Act
The Act now requires a range of documents/information to be made available in accordance with the new ‘public availability requirements’ (see new s 197A of the Act). These changes have essentially made permanent some of the temporary measures introduced last year to deal with COVID-19.
With these changes, certain documents/information can now be accessed:
- In person – during business hours at the office of a council – without an appointment and free of charge (new s 197B); or
- Online and on request – on the internet site maintained by a council and separately available in person on request during business hours at the office of a council at a time that is agreed, free of charge (new ss 197C, 197D and 197E).
This applies to both documents that are required to be available for public inspection (e.g. planning permit applications) and public registers (e.g. planning permits).
So, councils have a choice as to how to make planning documents/information available.
While the Act now permits the publication of documents/information online, personal information about an individual cannot be published without the individual’s consent. The only information that may be published without consent is property addresses. The publication of property addresses is necessary to understand the permit application, planning scheme amendment or the agreement being considered.
This restriction on disclosing personal information applies to the following documents and registers made available online (see new ss 197F and 197G):
- copy of a submission referred to in s 21(2)
- copy of a planning permit application and information referred to in s 51
- copy of an objection referred to in s 57(5)
- copy of a permit referred to in s 70
- copy of a proposed permit referred to in s 96C(8A)
- copy of permit issued under s 97F referred to in s 97G(6)
- copy of agreement referred to in s 179(2)
- register of permit applications and decisions/determinations relating to permits referred to in s 49
- register of applications referred under ss 55 and 57C referred to in s 56A.
In light of these changes, we recommend councils review their information handling practices to ensure they comply with the new requirements under the Act.
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