Operational Guidelines


1. Willoughby City Council Local Planning Panel (Panel) is a local planning panel established for the City of Willoughby Council (Council) under Part 2, Division 2.5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (Act). The Panel is responsible for determining certain development applications and modifications and providing advice on planning proposals (collectively referred to as applications in this guide).

2. Local Planning Panels (also referred to as Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs)) are mandatory for all councils in Sydney and Wollongong. They have been created to ensure that the process of assessment and determination of applications with a high corruption risk, sensitivity or strategic importance is transparent and accountable.

A local planning panel is not subject to the direction or control of the Council, except on matters relating to panel procedures and the time within which the panel is to deal with a matter, provided they are not inconsistent with the Directions of the Minister under section 9.1 of the Act.

3. These guidelines are issued by the Panel and should be read in conjunction with the Act, particularly the provisions of Schedule 4B, the Section 9.1 Direction from the Minister for Planning dated 23 February 2018 entitled “Local Planning Panels Direction – Operational Procedures” (s 9.1 Direction) and the Code of Conduct for Local Planning Panel Members (the Code) approved by the Minister for Planning under Clause 28 of the Act.

4. These procedures shall remain in force in their present form unless amended and may be periodically reviewed.

Panel composition

5. A Panel is typically comprised of four (4) members:

  • Chair
  • Two (2) expert members
  • A community representative.

A quorum is considered to be three (3) members including a Chair.


6. The Chair is responsible for the management of the Panel’s function and operations, including managing conflicts of interest.

7. The Chair is to ensure the Panel fully discharges its responsibilities under the Act, the code of conduct, and these Guidelines.

8.The Chair is responsible for the good and orderly conduct of the Panel. The chair may do all things necessary to fulfil this responsibility. 

9.The Chair and Alternate Chairs shall rotate presiding over meetings (unless the Chair or Alternate Chairs are unavailable for any reason). 

Independent expert members

10. Independent expert members can be interchanged as appropriate by the Chair for reasons including:

  • A member has a conflict of interest,
  • A member is unable to attend on the day, and/or
  • To periodically rotate the members

Community representatives

11. Community representatives are appointed on the basis that their skills and attributes could be equally applied to any part of the Local Government Area. Consequently, the choice of community representative for a meeting will consider factors such as agenda items, availability and rotation.

Before the public meeting

12. Agendas and business papers for Panel meetings will be made publicly available on Council’s website at least 5 days prior to the meeting.

13. Any interested persons wishing to address the Panel or listen in must register with the Panel Secretariat by the preceding Friday at 12 noon.

14. Unless the Chair permits, any such person must have already lodged a written submission on the subject development application or planning proposal OR may, prior to 12 noon on preceding Friday 12 before the meeting, provide a written summary (no longer than one A4 page) outlining the matters they wish to address the Panel about.

15. Speakers are requested to declare membership of organisations or other interests relevant to consideration of the item that they wish to speak to.

16. The Panel, and Council staff on behalf of the Panel, may invite applicants, consultants, Government authorities and other groups or individuals to provide a presentation to the Panel on a matter that is on the Panel agenda. Time limits for such presentations may be set by the Panel Chair.

17. Additional documents, reports and amended plans (additional documents) will not be received or considered by the Panel prior to the meeting, but subsequent to the exhibition process, if reasonable time has not been allowed for Council staff to review and assess the additional documents before the Panel meeting.

18. Additional documents will not be received or considered by the Panel at the meeting.

19. At no point is a member of the public, be they an applicant, objector, supporter or resident, to contact any member of the Panel outside the Public Meeting process. Any attempt to contact a Panel member will be reported to the Chief Executive Officer in writing as this is contrary to the requirements for the operation of local planning panels.

Site inspections

20. Site inspections may take place individually, as a Panel or electronically and are subject to change based on any special requirements that are relevant from time-to-time, such as those relating to COVID 19.

21. Council staff may accompany the Panel on site inspections as appropriate.

22. Site inspections are solely to be used to identify and clarify issues regarding a proposal. The Panel will not receive or invite formal presentations or submissions at site meetings. Panel members are not permitted to enter private property when undertaking site inspections individually. All presentations and submissions are to occur only by registered speakers at the public Panel meeting.

The public meeting

23. A public meeting of the Panel will generally be held monthly on the last Tuesday of each month, commencing at 2.00pm. Meetings may be held at Council offices or online. Audio recordings of the meeting will be made and placed on Council’s website at the time of determinations being published within seven (7) days of the meeting.

24. In consultation with the Chair, Council may call extraordinary meetings or cancel a Panel meeting.

25. Panel members are to manage and disclose pecuniary and non-pecuniary conflicts of interest in accordance with the Panel Code of Conduct. Copies of the Panels pecuniary and non-pecuniary conflicts of interest and declaration of interests for the specific meeting are available for public inspection.

26. The order of business followed by the panel is:

  1. Acknowledgement of Country
  2. Disclosures of interest
  3. Reports (with a presentation of each Development Application immediately prior to its consideration)

27. Council’s assessing officer will introduce each matter. Speakers at the public meeting shall be heard in the following order:

  1. Registered persons who wish to make submissions or representations;
  2. The applicant or the applicants’ representative.

28. The Chair or any Panel Member may seek to clarify any matter with the speaker or Council Officer.

29. There is no further opportunity for debate with the Panel members or the applicant and/or their representatives. The speakers are not allowed to enter into unsolicited comment or argument with the Panel.

30. Unless the Chair permits, no person who addresses the Panel may speak for more than three (3) minutes in respect to any one matter. Those persons addressing the Panel should ensure that their comments relate specifically to the development application or planning proposal the subject of the Panel meeting. Any comments should not repeat comments previously made by other speakers but note that those comments are supported. Any negative references to specific individuals should be avoided as the Panel forum provides no legal protection from defamation action.

31. Where there are a large number of submitters with a common interest, the Panel may hear a representative of those persons with a view to discharging its responsibilities in a timely manner.

32. A person whether a member of the Panel or a member of the public, shall not speak while another person is speaking or otherwise interrupt that person while speaking.

Deliberation and voting

33. Determinations and any relevant decision of the Panel will be by a majority of votes of Panel Members present at a meeting and entitled to vote. If votes are tied, the Chair will have the casting vote. Voting (including the names and vote of each Panel member when the vote is not unanimous) will be documented for the public record.

34. Should the Panel resolve to request additional information or seek amendment to the application, the Panel may defer the application, providing written notification to the applicant with the reasons for deferral; a copy of which will be made publicly available on Council’s website as soon as practicable.

35. The Chair will decide if the revised matter can be determined electronically, with the report and recommendations made available on Council's website. In all other cases, those who made submissions will be invited to a subsequent Panel meeting upon receipt of amended/additional plans and documentation from the applicant.

36. If a matter is deferred, the Panel will require a specific date when any new information will be provided and a specific date when the matter will be resubmitted to the Panel for determination. The Panel is most unlikely to consider a second deferral of a matter.

37. Should the Panel resolve to approve an application, the Panel shall nominate relevant consent conditions. The conditions may be based on the assessment officer’s recommended conditions but the Panel may also add, delete or change conditions as considered necessary as part of their decision.

38. If the Panel resolves to approve an application against the officer’s recommendation, the application may need to be deferred for Council officers to prepare draft conditions of consent. Following consideration of draft conditions by the Panel, the application may subsequently be determined by electronic means.

39. The Panel will provide a Statement of Reasons for all decisions.

Electronic meetings

40. Panel determinations may be made electronically where there are fewer than 10 unique submissions related to an application. 

After the Panel meeting

41. All members of the Panel present at meetings must sign the Determination and Statement of Reasons which will be made publicly available on Council’s website as soon as practicable.

42. Where a member or members are in dissent, they must still sign, as the reasons will set out their dissenting views.