What is on exhibition?

Council is exhibiting the Draft Woollahra Voluntary Planning Agreement Policy 2019 for 28 days. There is no statutory timeframe for exhibiting a draft VPA policy, but a period of 28 days is consistent with the exhibition of other policy documents prepared by the Council.

The draft policy establishes a framework for Council to negotiate planning agreements with developers. A planning agreement is a voluntary agreement between Council and a developer, where the developer agrees to make contributions towards a public purpose as part of a development application or planning proposal. Contributions can be monetary, works-in-kind, the dedication of land, or any other material public benefit (or any combination of these).


What are the benefits of VPAs?

Vountary planning agreements, or VPAs, provide a number of benefits in the delivery of public amenities and services for the community. 

1. VPAs provide a way for the local community to share in the financial benefit obtained by a developer due to a change in planning controls or a consent to a development application. This financial benefit is commonly referred to as planning gain or windfall gain. 

2. VPAs enable Council to deliver targeted public benefits over and above measures to address the impact of development on the public domain. VPAs provide an effective means by which Council can supplement other forms of developer contributions. The statutory capping of developer contributions under s.7.11 (s.94) and developer levies under s.7.12 (s.94A) effectively limits monetary contributions from development consents. This directly impacts on the timely delivery of public amenities and services. VPAs are not subject to statutory capping, although under the Draft VPA Policy, contributions derived from the land value capture approach may be influenced by a number of matters including the location and context of a site and a proposed development, and the economic viability of a proposed development. 

3. VPAs have the potential to deliver public amenities and services in a timely manner. 

4. VPAs allow for a flexible means for achieving good development outcomes and targeted public benefits. 

5. VPAs allow opportunities for more innovative and efficient provision of public benefits than might be realised under other means. 

6. VPAs are advertised in draft form and therefore provide opportunities for the local community to participate in the quality and delivery of public benefits. 

7. VPAs allow developers to have an input to the type, quality, timing and location of public benefits. Developers, however, do not have sole rights in deciding these matters. A VPA is a negotiated arrangement which involves all parties.

Why has Council prepared a draft VPA policy?

Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPAs) are a way by which Council can provide public benefits to the community in a timely manner and within a legal framework. VPAs can operate in a complementary way with the Council’s development contribution and levy plans to provide options for funding the coordinated delivery of public infrastructure, liveability and growth.

The Draft VPA Policy establishes important guidelines relating to Council’s use, preparation and implementation of planning agreements such as: 

  • Principles which will be observed by Council when planning agreements are being considered, negotiated and used.
  • The relationship of planning agreements to the planning framework within which the Council operates including the Eastern City District Plan, the Community Strategic Plan, the Delivery Program and Operational Plan and Council’s contribution plans. 
  • The role of planning agreements in delivering projects and actions within Council’s integrated planning framework.
  • Matters of probity in negotiating a planning agreement.
  • Establishing roles for negotiating a planning agreement. 
  • Enabling the use of specialists engaged by the Council to participate in the negotiation process, testing the acceptability of an offer by a developer to enter into a planning agreement. 
  • Using planning agreements to allow the community to benefit from a share of the unearned increment in land value obtained by developers from changes to planning controls which facilitate intensified development.

What is value capture?

An important element of the Draft VPA Policy is the facility to negotiate a VPA using the concept of value capture. A description of value capture is provided in the following extracts from a published article by Council’s lawyer Dr Lindsay Taylor: 

[V]alue capture in relation to urban land development involves a planning authority, such as a local council in New South Wales, capturing for the community benefit some of the land value increase accruing to a parcel of land from planning activities of the authority which increase the development potential of the land and hence its value. 

[T]he fundamental purpose of value capture is …to capture increased land value for the community on the basis of a legitimate claim by the planning authority to a share of what is commonly referred to as the ‘unearned increment‘ of land value uplift. 

Lindsay Taylor, Value capture through voluntary planning agreements, In focus, 18/5/2016 


What are some misconceptions about VPAs and a VPA policy?

Common misconceptions about VPAs and VPA policies are: 

1. The introduction of a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) policy will set a precedent for VPAs 

A VPA policy will not commit Council to enter into VPAs, nor will it bind Council in its decision making regarding agreements. VPAs are voluntary arrangements and Council cannot require a developer to enter into a VPA. 

The presence of a policy will not provide a catalyst for more VPAs. It will, however, provide a consistent and transparent set of guidelines for both Council and developers.

2. VPAs will undermine Council’s planning controls

VPAs will not devalue or compromise Council’s planning controls nor will they establish a practice that can suggest that Council is abandoning development standards and other development controls. This is because:

  • The primary consideration is to establish the merit of the requested changes to planning controls, in the case of planning proposals, or whether a non-compliance with the statutory development standards and other planning controls is justified, in the case of a DA.
  • Consideration of the terms of a VPA, including the type of public benefit to be delivered, is carried out in a separate process and by different staff members to those who undertake the merit assessment of changes to planning controls.
  • The perception that Council is compromising its planning controls by considering and entering into a VPA can be addressed in part by the transparent and public process in which decisions on VPAs, planning proposals and development applications are made.

3. VPAs allow developers to buy additional development potential and development consents

This is a common misconception often put forward in arguments opposing the use of VPAs. The argument gains emphasis often due to a range of matters including lack of consistency in processes and poor transparency in decision making. A contrary argument can be assisted by the existence of a VPA policy which:

  • has passed through a public exhibition stage which allows lodgement and consideration of submissions
  • has been considered and approved in a transparent and public process
  • identifies the probity rules to be followed in separating the responsibilities for negotiating VPAs and assessing the merits of planning proposals and development applications
  • identifies the decision making steps involved in the consideration of a VPA which are undertaken in a public meeting  
  • relates the use of VPAs to the Council’s corporate strategic planning framework and development contributions system  
  • sets out criteria for assessing the acceptability of the benefit of public amenities and services that are to be provided by the developer
  • sets out the criteria for assessing the acceptability of a VPA in general
  • sets out the strategic infrastructure needs that will be funded by contributions, particularly in the case of contributions arising from value capture.

Do other councils have VPA policies?

A number of Sydney councils in established urban areas have successfully introduced VPA policies or guidelines. These include:

  • City of Canterbury Bankstown
  • City of Ryde
  • City of Sydney
  • Georges River Council
  • North Sydney Council
  • Randwick Council
  • Warringah Council
  • Waverley Council
  • Willoughby City Council

How can I have my say?

If you're reading this FAQ you've already taken the first step to having your say.

To share your views on any open engagement project, please take a couple of minutes to register on Your Say Woollahra. It's free and easy to get started. After you register, a confirmation email will be sent to you. Please confirm your registration, then return to Your Say Woollahra to start sharing your views. You only have to register once to take part in any open project. 

If you've already registered, just log in to make a submission to the public exhibition.

What will you do with my comments?

Your input will help inform Council decision making and shape the future of Woollahra. Council will record all community feedback and report it to decision makers. 

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