What are voluntary planning agreements?
Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPAs) are legal agreements between developers and planning authorities, such as councils or the Department of Planning and Environment.
VPAs are permitted under Section 7.4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 (EPA Act). The EPA Act sets out clear guidelines that both the planning authority and developer have to follow when entering into a VPA.
When are VPAs entered into?
Under the legislation, VPAs can be entered into as part of a development application or as part of a request to amend an environmental planning instrument such as a Local Environmental Plan.
To start the process the developer must first make a voluntary letter of offer of public benefit to the planning authority for consideration.
What public benefits are provided through VPAs?
Generally, public benefits provided through a development are to be used towards a public purpose. A public benefit can include, but are not limited to the following:
- Public amenities and public services
- Affordable housing
- Transport or other infrastructure relating to land
- Funding of recurrent expenditure relating to the provision of public amenities or public services, affordable housing or transport or other infrastructure
- The monitoring of planning impacts of development
- The conservation or enhancement of the natural environment.
How are VPAs considered?
When determining whether to accept a VPA, the planning authority is required to consider a number of factors including the nature and value of the public benefit being offered in comparison to the nature and value of the development being proposed. An acceptability test is applied to all VPAs to ensure they will result in significant public benefit.
Waverley has its own VPA Policy and Procedures, which outlines what public benefit Council can consider from a developer through the VPA process. Council may also engage property valuers and quantity surveyors to independently assess the value of the public benefits on offer.
The terms of the final VPA accepted by Council have been rigorously negotiated in accordance with the EPA Act, Environment Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (EPA Reg) and relevant guidelines published by the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) and Council’s own VPA Policy.
Does the community have the opportunity to have their say on VPAs?
Yes. VPAs cannot progress unless they have been placed on public exhibition for a minimum period of 28 days. While on exhibition all members of the public can have their say on the particular VPA before it is determined by the planning authority.
Visit our Have Your Say website to see any draft VPAs currently on exhibition.
Does an offer to enter into a VPA mean that the associated development will automatically be approved?
Approval of a VPA does not mean that the planning authority also approves the associated development being put forward by the developer. A development application (DA) and its associated VPA (as you can't have a VPA without a DA) are dealt with by separate teams within Council to ensure the will follow separate processes including separate public exhibition periods. There have been instances where a VPA has been negotiated but the DA subsequently refused as its planning impact, such as loss of amenity, were unacceptable.
Most major developments that have a VPA attached to their application require the approval by a Planning Panel convened by the NSW State Government, being the Eastern Sydney Planning Panel.
If the VPA is approved and is entered into with a developer, the developer must commit to providing the public benefits that are specified in their particular VPA.
Where can I view VPAs that are with Waverley Council?
Our Voluntary Planning Agreements Register lists VPAs that are being prepared, finalised and refused by Waverley Council.