Jackson Environment and Planning’s tips on planning approvals

Securing environmental approvals for recycling facilities has never been harder. Mark Jackson, Director, Jackson Environment and Planning, shares his tips on working with regulators.

With recent fires ravaging material recycling facilities, planning approvals agencies have a right to be nervous.

Excessive stockpiling and poor environmental management at some recycling sites can lead to such incidents, with facilities shut down swiftly by regulatory authorities.

In NSW, in response to the excessive stockpiling of waste at some recycling facilities, poor environmental management, illegal dumping and a major fire incident at a recycling facility for construction and demolition waste, law reforms were introduced. Changes to the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014 have had major impacts on the planning, approvals, licensing and operations of waste and recycling facilities.

Seeking planning approval and an EPA licence to operate is a complex and time-consuming exercise. NSW’s environmental planning and environmental protection laws have evolved over time in response to these community concerns. In NSW, the state government has committed to implementing aggressive recycling targets, to be achieved by 2021, and has identified further recycling infrastructure investment to meet these. It is estimated that a further three million tonnes per annum needs to be diverted from landfill each year. The community expects that recycling facilities are designed, operated and managed according to international best practice, to protect and enhance the local environment. This makes the assessment and approvals process more rigorous nationwide.

Depending on the types of waste materials received, location of the facility, proximity to residential areas, distance to sensitive environmental areas or areas that experience flooding, the project may be assessed and determined by local council, a joint regional planning panel or the minister for planning in NSW. To minimise approval delays, it is crucial to understand development constraints, easements, covenants and compatibility of the proposed development with the current land use zoning under Local Environmental Plans. Proximity to residential dwellings and sensitive areas need to be carefully considered.

A pre-lodgement meeting with the local council is an excellent starting point to understand the planning and assessment requirements for a recycling project. Meetings with the Environment Protection Authority and other agencies (including the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Roads and Maritime Services, NSW Office of Water) can also help to outline the key development constraints. Involving the community early to inform project planning is vital, as without their support, the chance of gaining approval is low. Following these good practice measures, our team is here to help.

Read the full story on page 56 of Issue 14.