21 Aug 2014

WA planning reform enters second phase

by Brad Wylynko, Mark Etherington

The WA Government says these reforms could considerably speed up development approvals and streamline the planning system

In 2009, the Western Australian Department of Planning together with the Western Australian Planning Commission commenced a planning reform process that the State Government has described as the largest planning reform in WA since 1963. On 12 August 2014, the planning reform process entered its second phase.

What's already happened in WA planning reform

In Phase One the Government:

  • revised its strategic planning framework and adopted Directions 2031;
  • established Development Assessment Panels to replace local authority and Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) decision-making on substantial developments ;
  • inserted a mechanism in the Planning and Development Act 2005 to keep local planning schemes up to date with State Planning Policies; and
  • amended section 76 of the Planning and Development Act to clarify that the Minister is able to direct a local government to amend its local planning scheme.

Phase Two of the planning reforms

Following a process of consultation with key stakeholders and a public submission period, the Department released its blueprint for phase two, which includes 14 initiatives. The more significant reforms include:

1. Metropolitan Region Scheme (MRS)

The MRS will be amended (in line with the Peel Region Scheme and Greater Bunbury Region Scheme) to drop the requirement for WAPC approval of development unless the WAPC has first declared that its approval is required.

2. Concurrent amendment of region planning schemes and local planning schemes

Legislative change will allow simultaneous amendments to both region and local planning schemes.

3. Streamline structure plan process

The WAPC will become the single decision-maker on structure plans. Structure plans will still be lodged with local government but the local government will only make a recommendation to the WAPC. This proposal will also clarify rights of review as there will only be one appealable structure plan decision.

4. Develop a track-based (risk assessment) development assessment model

Phase two reform will formalise a three-track system for all types of planning applications. Applications will be allocated as "exempt", "standard" or "complex" and these allocations will determine the level of assessment required.

A faster planning process

According to Planning Minister John Day, these reforms (if implemented) have the potential to considerably speed up development approvals and streamline the planning system.

We'll keep you informed of any developments.

Further information is available from the Department of Planning

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