Airports planning to be better neighbours

24 August 2010 Topics: Property and planning law

Planning and development of airport sites will be subject to greater scrutiny and public consultation under proposed amendments to the Airports Act 1996 (Cth) read in Parliament for a second time last month (Airports Amendment Bill 2010 (Cth)) (Bill).

The Bill implements airport planning reforms contained in the National Aviation Policy White Paper – Flight Path to the Future, released in December 2009. The intention of the Bill is to increase scrutiny of aviation development to ensure that airport sites are primarily used for aviation business and to enhance the important role of airports as key transport hubs.

The Bill has been promoted as ensuring the better planning of airports, both federally leased or regional, to minimise the effects of aviation on nearby communities and better integrating airport development plans with land planning around airports.

The Bill proposes that airport master plans must include:

  • a ground transport and road network plan which must detail information on the road network and transport facilities at the airport and their ability to connect with road and public transport networks and their impact on surrounding areas;
  • greater detail on land use and aviation infrastructure including the airport’s proposed land use within the first five years of the master plan and proposed non aeronautical developments (including commercial, retail and office purposes) and other developments not related to airport services;
  • details of employment opportunities, anticipated traffic flows, impact assessments on local surrounding areas and the regional economy and community;
  • analysis on how the airport planning would align with local and state planning laws including justifications for any inconsistencies; and
  • airport environmental strategies, which are to be submitted together with airport master plans, to ensure a single public consultation and approval process.

Other proposed amendments to the Airports Act include:

  • prohibition of developments inconsistent with the operation of an airport site as an airport, such as long-term residential developments or community care facilities, except in certain circumstances;
  • mandatory public consultation on proposed developments before submission for ministerial approval, where the development is likely to have a significant impact on a local or regional community; and
  • reductions in red tape for alterations to runways and on-airport developments. These will require only Ministerial approval, and not a major development plan, if the Minister is satisfied the development will not increase operational capacity at the airport, change flight paths or increase noise.

The Bill is yet to receive royal assent, and has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport for report by 24 August 2010.

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