Planning reform focus shifts to local planning

The McGowan Government’s focus on planning reforms will now include local planning frameworks now that its major reforms have passed have through both houses of State Parliament.

THE McGowan Government’s new planning reforms have passed through both houses of Parliament with the government saying it is still engaging with local government on proposed amendments to local planning frameworks.

On March 24 Premier Mark Gowan and Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) had been invited to nominate members for three reference groups to shape specific regulation reform measures.

Last month the City of Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts, who is also the president of WALGA, said if adopted the proposed reforms would centralise decision-making and remove local council representatives from the determination.

This afternoon she told ABC Radio Perth that the government had listened to WALGA’s concerns and they now had a seat around the table.

Ms Saffioti said more than 25 proposed amendments to the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015 had been identified which related to local planning frameworks – including planning schemes and policies – structure and precinct planning and development applications processes and consultation.

Twice this month developers have had development applications refused partly due to the proposals not being consistent with the relevant planning schemes.

One involved an amendment to the City of Swan planning scheme No. 17 to allow a re-zoning in the Upper Swan, which would have allowed a bitumen plant to operate close to a residential area – Planning Minister Rita Saffioti refused to approve the amendment on June 8.

The second involved the Supreme Court overturning a development approval by the Mid-West/Wheatbelt Joint Development Assessment Panel (JDAP) for a feed mill on Brand Hwy in Muchea, which had also been recommended by the Shire of Chittering.

Ms Saffioti said the majority of the proposed amendments were part of the government’s action plan on planning reform and followed three years of consultation to remove barriers in the planning system, provide greater clarity and consistency for users of the system and reduce the administrative burden on the state’s 139 local governments.

Last week Yanchep News Online asked Ms Saffioti if under the proposed Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020, which passed the Upper House last night, would the Minister still be able to make a final decision on scheme amendments or would the Western Australian Planning Commission make the decision.

On Monday, June 22 Ms Saffioti said scheme amendments were not part of the significant development pathway – so there would be no change to the way scheme amendments were made if the legislation Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020 became law.

In May Ms Saffioti told Parliament the Bill said in considering and determining a development application, the WAPC would have to have due regard to — (a) the purpose and intent of any planning scheme that had effect in the locality to which the development application relates, (b) the need to ensure the orderly and proper planning and the preservation of amenity of that locality, (c) the need to facilitate development in response to the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and (d) any relevant state planning policies and any other relevant policies of the commission.

“The management of referrals to state government agencies and departments, and their responsiveness, will be a critical role for the commission in ensuring timely decision-making through this significant development pathway,’’ she said.

“Proposals will be lodged directly with the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage for assessment and it will provide recommendations consistent with a “responsible authority report” to the commission.

“Importantly, when the commission makes a decision under these special powers, that decision and its conditions will take priority and be binding across all other government approval pathways.

“An applicant’s right of appeal through the State Administrative Tribunal will apply as normal.

“Due to their extraordinary nature, these powers will have a sunset clause of 18 months from assent of this bill to allow time for the necessary regulatory changes to establish a special matters development assessment panel to take over this responsibility.’’

On Wednesday, June 24 Ms Saffioti said as part of negotiations with minor parties, a number of changes had been made to the original legislation including the definition of a significant development.

A significant development will now be defined as development proposals with an estimated cost of $20 million or more in the metropolitan region or development proposals with an estimated cost of $5 million in areas outside the metropolitan region (excludes warehouses).

She said the model would ensure that big and complex developments received a state coordinated approach with referral agencies and streamlined assessment processes to ensure job creating projects could start as soon as possible.

“The legislative reforms will be supported by changes to planning regulations and state planning policies, and add to the launch of Design WA policies last year which prioritise the importance of good design in planning and development,’’ she said.