Woolworths wants more than planning law reform proposals

Posted by Kate Carey on 25th September 2012

Woolworths have submitted a proposal to challenge new planning laws in NSW due to concern that there is not enough ‘retail floor space’ and government cooperation for development in small communities.

The concern arises after the NSW Government released their Green Paper, A New Planning System for New South Wales, in July 2012. The government Green Paper outlined key changes to be made In the planning system. While the paper suggested that planning decisions and processes can be depoliticized and streamlined, Woolworths argues that the proposals do not go far enough to allow for expansion of business.

Woolworths is one of the largest employers in NSW, with over 900 stores including supermarkets, Big W, Dan Murphy’s, Dick Smith, petrol sites and BWS Liquor stores. The submission says that Woolworths stores deliver 52,000 jobs statewide.

The Woolworths submission outlines inadequacy of floor space experienced by retail developers, particularly in Sydney, which has a higher cost of living but also lower levels of retail floor space than any other capital city in Australia.

Figures presented to the New South Wales government detail that based on supermarkets, Sydney’s average retail floor space (sqm) per 1000 people was only 242, compared with 308 in Melbourne and 346 in Brisbane.

The Woolworths submission also outlines the need for government cooperation to progress developments through planning systems, in specific reference to the time and cost delays experienced from opposition within small communities such as occurred in Mullumbimby and Pymble.

The submission argues that development approvals have been taking nearly twice as long as other Australian states, with figures demonstrating that development approval took on average 18 months in NSW and only 10 months in QLD.

In a view that may well be contentious, Woolworths agues that it ought to be given wider opportunities to seek legal compensation when planning delays or reversals occur.

The NSW Government has stated that once the feedback on the Green Paper has been reviewed, a White Paper will be issued to detail implementation of the proposed changes.


ACCC 2008 Planning Issue:


The NSW proposals for planning law reforms make no mention of the findings of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in its 2008 enquiry into the grocery industry and supermarket competition.

 The ACCC considered that planning laws favoured the established dominant supermarket players, and made it more difficult for new supermarkets to enter the Australian market.

This latest submission by Woolworths in NSW, while not referring to the ACCC report, confirms that getting new retail developments off the ground is difficult. The submission also confirms the relative scarcity of suitable supermarket retail space, although more problematic in NSW than in other states.