Planning Reforms

COVID 19 has certainly led to interesting times in the planning industry and has a huge effect on the way we currently live.  The planning reforms were on the cards for some time however with current pandemic and economic uncertainty there was a need to accelerate the introduction of the reforms to assist in stimulating the economy with a view to create and protect jobs.

So, what are the planning reforms all about?

Firstly, major development in the state (that will create significant jobs demands) will be determined by the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) for the short term.  The WAPC are the statutory authority (board) and are supported by the Department of Land, Planning and Heritage.  The WAPC have delegated powers to the Local government to determine a range of planning applications under the Region Schemes.  However, the reforms are about to take some these powers away and for now the WAPC will be determining these significant projects.  Ultimately, a Special Matters Development Assessment Panel will be created after the 18-month period based on a model used by the WAPC.

Significant projects are developments that has estimated cost of $20million or more, which incorporates 100 or more dwellings with at least 20m2 of commercial floor space.  Individual commercial and/or residential development projects with those criteria will also be considered.  Finally, significant tourism or regional projects that meet the about criteria or that are considered important to the state.

The WAPC and the Department of Planning, Land and Heritage have yet to work out the finer details of how this will interrelate with the current process undertaken by the Local Governments.  As many projects require expert advice from internal local government departments such as engineering, building, environment health to name a few.

Prior to the reform, major development worth $10 million or over are access (advertised) and a report prepared by Local government and then considered by Development Assessment Panel (DAP) for determination.  Many local government planning departments, particularly regional areas, do not have delegated authority from the Council to consider DAP application at an officer level and require consideration by full Council.  Based on the outcome of the Council meetings, a DAP report is prepared and considered by the DAP’s for final determination.

This new reform will remove the geographical boundaries of the current DAP’s and reduce the number of DAP to 3 panels for the state.  For now, WAPC will be determining projects that are over $20million and/or of significance to the state, with the aim of expediting the projects for construction, therefore creating jobs and bolster the WA economy.

According to the Premier office “This model will ensure that large and complex developments receive a State co-ordinated approach with referral agencies and streamlined assessment processes to ensure job creating projects can start as soon as possible.”

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