Understanding the COVID-19 planning arrangements

Recently the Planning Act 2016 (‘the Act’) was amended to allow the Minister to declare applicable events that may affect state interests. These are permanent changes to the Act and can include a variety of scenarios (e.g. natural disasters, health emergencies etc.).

On March 19, the COVID-19 emergency was declared an applicable event over the whole of Queensland for the period 20 March to 20 June 2020.

Once an applicable event is declared the Minister has the opportunity to issue temporary use licences, declare uses and classes of uses which can operated 24/7 and extend/suspend periods under the Act

Temporary use licences

The introduction of temporary uses licences (TUL) allows for quick modifications to the way a premises can be used and can temporarily change:

  • conditions of approval for material change of use development permits
  • the requirements about the use of designated premises
  • the existing use (e.g. by increasing the intensity or scale of the existing use, adding a new use or replacing the existing use).

So far, over 20 TULs have been issued and many of these licences relate to increased hours of operation or construction, which is helpful for staggered workforces that need greater spatial distancing. Other TUL’s apply to a range of scenarios, from hotels being used to temporarily accommodate displace residents or breweries changing operation to produce ethanol for sanitiser.

Some of the refused TUL applications to date relate to requests to extend hours of construction which are not associated with a material change of use. This can be problematic since not all development needs to be undertaken with material change of use approval.

TULs can be issued relatively quickly (within a fortnight) and can apply to multiple premises, which can be useful if you require TULs over a collection of assets.

Declaring uses and classes of uses

The declaration of a use or classes of uses is an instant method for removing provisions of the Act, requirements of designations or conditions of development approvals which restrict hours of operation. This essentially allows particular uses (declared uses) to operate 24/7.

So far two uses have been declared in response to the COVID-19 emergency:

  • shops (i.e. grocery stores, supermarkets etc.)
  • warehouses and transport depots, where necessary for the supply of shops.

Unlike TULs, there is no need for an application, once a use is declared, it will be able to operate 24/7.


Extending and suspending periods under the Act

During an applicable event it is possible to extend and suspend periods under the Act. There is no limit to which periods this could apply to and could include things like:

  • the timeframes associated with making or amending planning schemes
  • the timeframes associated with deciding development applications
  • the minimum period for notifying development applications

Extension or suspension notices area published on DSDTI’s website and so far no notices have been published in response to the COVID-19 emergency.

For more information click here

This has been prepared by Ethos Urban, and you can contact Morgan Randle via MRandle@ethosurban.com if you’d like to know more.