Documents about the now dumped Design and Place SEPP have been scrubbed from the Department of Planning’s website – thankfully The Fifth Estate saved a copy of them.
As previously reported by The Fifth Estate, the Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy, or DP SEPP, was a planned policy package designed to improve the liveability and sustainability of new apartments and master planned communities. It also included improvements to the state’s BASIX building sustainability standards.
- SEE THIS EXPLAINER FOR MORE BACKGROUND ON THE DESIGN AND PLACE SEPP
The policy was designed following months of in-depth consultation from a range of key industry stakeholders, including developers, local government, architects, planners and business groups.
However, on 5 April, Planning Minister Anthony Roberts abruptly announced the policy was scrapped at a lunch event organised by developer lobby group Urban Taskforce Australia. The minister has refused to make the full transcript of this speech public.
A number of key industry groups that supported the policy, including peak bodies representing planners and architects, have criticised the minister for not consulting with them before making the decision to dump the policy.
Documents deleted from the public record
With white hot debate still raging in the planning and construction industry—and sections of the broader community—over the controversial decision to dump the SEPP, the Department of Planning and Environment has quietly hit the delete key on information about the proposal.
The URL for the public consultation website for the DP SEPP, which previously linked to key documents about the policy, now redirects to the ministerial press release announcing the policy won’t go ahead.
Key documents that were linked on the DP SEPP website, including the proposed Urban Design Guide and revised Apartment Design guide, have been deleted. Links to the documents now produce an error message when they’re clicked.
Also tossed in the bin are YouTube clips from stakeholders about the benefits of the policy. These included videos from Business NSW’s David Harding, Green Building Council of Australia’s Davina Rooney, Committee for Sydney’s Gabriel Metcalf and Dr Sebastian Pfautsch from Western Sydney University.
Additionally, multiple past ministerial releases have been erased from the department’s website. They include a 10 December 2021 media release, titled “People and places at the heart of planning in NSW”, which now redirects to the release about the policy being dumped.
The deleted media release read: “Beauty and quality would be brought to the forefront of planning under a proposed policy that puts heathier [sic] communities, housing choice, cooler and walkable suburbs and sustainable development at its heart.
“Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said the draft Design and Place SEPP, which is now on public exhibition, would deliver NSW’s first comprehensive design policy, and offers an important opportunity to reshape the look and feel of the places we live in.”
Even an independent consultancy report from Deloitte, which showed the economic benefits from the policy package would exceed costs by $979 million over 30 years, is gone.
The Fifth Estate understands, in this case, the minister’s clarity about the decision not to proceed with the policy was a factor in the department’s decision to remove the documents.
A spokesperson on behalf of Minister Anthony Roberts told The Fifth Estate: “The Department of Planning and Environment’s website is often updated to reflect current government policy.”
Here are the deleted documents
Given the contentious ongoing public debate about the minister’s decision to dump the policy, there is a clear and undeniable public interest in having information about the proposal on the public record.
Thankfully, The Fifth Estate kept copies of all the now-deleted policy documents, and is making them publicly available for anyone who wants to read them.
Although the DP SEPP landing page has been deleted from the department’s website, a copy of it is still available on the Internet Archive.
UPDATED 22 April 2022 to include a comment from the Minister’s office.