Changes to Pre-DA Community Consultation requirements for COVID-19
The Pre-DA Community Consultation Guidelines outline a range of consultation processes a proponent is required to undertake for significant developments.
Given the current declared public health emergency our advice is to refrain from hosting physical "face-to-face engagement sessions".
The intention behind this requirement is to reach as much of the community potentially affected by a proposed development. This could still be achieved without the need for "face-to-face engagement sessions", and the planning and land authority would be open to consider other creative ways of engaging with the community in an indirect or virtual manner.
Letterbox drops, newspaper advertising and online information for the public is a reasonable starting point under the current circumstances.
An example that will be accepted as a reasonable substitute for "face-to-face engagement sessions" could involve targeted letter box drops with an invitation to view an online presentation or even a “live feed” from a certain date/time, with the ability to provide online comments or pose questions. This can be achieved fairly easily using current publicly available social media platforms.
Pre-DA Community Consultation Guidelines
In November 2017, the ACT Government introduced guidelines to encourage developers to have meaningful engagement with the community prior to submitting a development application (DA). The guidelines were developed in partnership with community and industry.
During 2019, the ACT Government undertook a review of the Pre-DA Community Consultation Guidelines.
In September 2020, the ACT Government implemented the recommendations of the review, including changes to the Planning and Development Regulation 2008 and updates to the Pre-DA Community Consultation Guidelines.
Transition between the 2017 and 2020 guidelines
The Pre-DA Community Consultation Guidelines 2020 and changes to the Planning and Development Regulation 2008 will commence on 1 January 2021. This will allow developers time to appropriately implement the requirements of the updated guidelines and regulation during their consultation prior to lodging a DA.
Developers who lodge a DA on or after 1 January 2021 will be required to comply with the Pre-DA Community Consultation Guidelines 2020.
Factsheets on how the community can have their say on developments lodged prior to and after 1 January 2021 are also available:
- For DAs lodged prior to 1 January 2021: Pre-DA Consultation factsheet 2017
- For DAs lodged on or after 1 January 2021: Pre-DA Consultation factsheet 2020
For all DAs lodged on or after 1 January 2021, a new approved form is required to be submitted with the DA.
What is Pre DA Community Consultation?
Pre DA community consultation is an opportunity for developers of significant developments to involve the community in the early design stages of a development.
The ACT Government understands that early and effective community engagement can significantly benefit the planning and development outcome of a project and allows for genuine feedback to be incorporated into the design of a proposal prior to lodging a DA.
The Pre DA Community Consultation Guidelines provide both the community and developers with greater certainty as to what the community and Government considers and expects as good engagement practice. The updated Pre-DA Community Consultation Guidelines 2020 include a charter of participation, which sets out the characteristics of successful engagement.
The guidelines set out the minimum engagement requirements for developers where the proposal is for:
- a building for residential use with 3 or more storeys and 15 or more dwellings
- a building with a gross floor area of more than 5,000m²
- if the development proposal is for more than 1 building—the buildings have a total gross floor area of more than 7,000m²
- a building or structure more than 25m above finished ground level
- a variation of a lease to remove its concessional status
- the development of an estate (an estate development plan) (for DAs lodged on or after 1 January 2021)
- a proposal required to be reviewed by the National Capital Design Review Panel (for DAs lodged on or after 1 January 2021).
Development in some areas of the Territory is not required to undergo pre-DA consultation. These areas are limited to industrial areas and greenfield areas with no existing communities.
Snapshot of the guidelines
The planning and land authority requires, at a minimum, the developer undertake the following:
- Consult over at least a two-week period.
- Ensure the community is informed about the consultation process and consulted on the proposal.
- Target a diverse demographic (age, gender, race, religion, physical abilities).
- Conduct face-to-face engagement sessions that are accessible by a diverse cross-section of the community.
- Make available to the community conceptual drawings, including a site plan, indicative floor plans, elevations, shadow diagrams (if required), perspectives, landscape plans and the proposed materials and finishes.
- Make all relevant documentation available for public viewing online.
Where pre-DA community consultation is required, the developer must submit a consultation report as part of the DA documentation that, at a minimum:
- Provides details of the nature and extent of consultation activities, including how consultation was undertaken, who was consulted, how long material was available for and when face-to-face engagement occurred.
- Provides a summary of how the community responded to the proposals and highlights their main comments.
- Provides a response to the main community comments and highlights how these have been addressed or why they were not addressed.
- Demonstrates how consultation met the minimum requirements of the guidelines.
Benefits of effective pre-DA community engagement
Effective community engagement at the initial stage of a proposal can help identify potential issues before they arise, build community trust and support for the project, encourage innovation and will help the final assessment process knowing that potential issues have been identified and addressed. All this said, effective community engagement can bring about greater community/developer unity, greater time efficiencies and cost savings in the long run.