Social & Community Impact Assessments

Councils and State agencies in NSW are increasingly requiring Social Impact Assessments, Community Impact Assessments or Social Impact Comments for certain developments. The Planning Institute of Australia identifies a Social Impact Assessment as "the assessment of the social consequences of a proposed decision or action, namely the impacts on affected groups of people and on their way of life, life chances, health, culture and capacity to sustain these."

It is a method for predicting and assessing the consequences of a proposed action or initiative before a decision is made. The aims of impact assessment are better decision-making processes and better outcomes from decisions. Such assessments enable significant social impacts of a development to be identified and processes and procedures put in place to manage these impacts.

Councils have discretion to decide which matters are relevant to a development proposal. The Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 Sec 79C(1) specifies the matters Council should take into consideration when assessing Development Applications:

"The likely impacts of that development, including environmental impacts on both the natural and built environments and social and economic impacts in the locality." (Sec 79C(1)(b))

aSquare Planning is able to assist Councils and developers by preparing Social Impact Statements or commenting upon or reviewing Social Impact Statements prepared by others.

Social Impact Assessment Best Practice

The Planning Institute of Australia has set out the following position statement on Social Impact Assessments.

  1. Impact assessment is an important part of planning and decision making processes.
  2. Proposals for change which require an environmental or economic impact assessment also require a social impact assessment.
  3. Social impact assessment of policies or plans should be sufficiently robust to anticipate the impact of proposals made under the plan and minimise the need for further assessment.
  4. Without limiting the matters in regard to which a social impact assessment may be appropriately required, proposals for:
    • larger developments, including: major retail, sports or social infrastructure proposals,
    • a significant change of land use, including: new highways, loss of agricultural land
    • sale or rezoning of publicly owned land,
    • new planning policies and plans and amendments to them, and/or
    • controversial uses or increases in intensity (eg brothels or gun shops, or of gaming or liquor outlets), should be fully assessed for their social impacts in a SIA.
  5. Social impact assessment should be undertaken by appropriately trained and qualified personnel using rigorous social science methodologies and with a high degree of public involvement.
  6. A social impact assessment should be a public document.

We aim to prepare and review impact assessments in accordance with this best practice.

Liquor Licensing

Community Impact Statements (CIS)

The NSW Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing has recently introduced a requirement for Community Impact Statements (CIS) as a less onerous impact assessment for some less controversial liquor licence applications.

A CIS is prepared by a potential applicant for a liquor licence or a licence-related authorisation and is a summary of consultation between the applicant and the local community about any issues and concerns with a proposed application. In some cases this consultation can be undertaken at the same time as consultation is undertaken in relation to a Development Application.

There are two types of CIS: category A and category B. More stakeholders must be consulted when preparing a category B CIS.

The CIS process helps the potential applicant to determine if an adverse impact is likely. The process will inform the potential applicant of the views of the community including the local council, police and any relevant special interest groups before making any further commitment to their proposal. With this information, the potential applicant can make a well-informed decision whether to go ahead, modify or withdraw the proposal.

If deciding to go ahead with the proposal, potential applicants can identify ways in which their application can be modified to reduce negative impacts if necessary. Early consultation also allows the community to be informed of the proposal, helping to reduce adverse community reaction when submissions to the consent authority are invited after the application is lodged.

A CIS must be included when a liquor licence or licence-related authorisation application is made.

Preparation of Community Impact Statements

aSquare Planning can assist with the preparation of Community Impact Statements for lodgement with Development Applications or Licensing Applications.

Useful Links

Statistics: www.abs.gov.au

Liquor Licensing: www.olgr.nsw.gov.au

PIA policy: www.planning.org.au

Crime: www.aic.gov.au

Health and Welfare: www.aihw.gov.au