Potential changes to ‘significant development’ approvals in WA

Up until January 2022, the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) implemented a temporary assessment pathway, which expedited ‘significant developments’ in metro and regional areas for a period of 18 months.

According to WAPC Chairman David Caddy, the objective of the temporary assessment pathway was to, ‘generate investment in the State to assist with economic recovery as we respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic.’

The pathway did have positive outcomes for development projects in WA, especially in regional areas where industrial developments on rural land are not easily approved. Approvals across the board were also streamlined as a result of State-level involvement.

There’s now talk of implementing a State Development Assessment Panel, which would take on the role of assessing significant or complex projects on an ongoing basis. We’re expecting to hear more about this in the months to come.

For now, here’s what you need to know about how this potential shift would benefit industrial developers in WA, as well as building industries across the state.

What is a ‘significant development’?

According to the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, a significant development is when a proposal within the Perth metro area has an estimated value of $20 million or more. Or in the case of a proposal for a regional area, an estimated value of $5 million or more.

What is the State Development Assessment Unit?

The State Development Assessment Unit oversaw decision-making on behalf of the WAPC during the temporary assessment pathway. The Unit is a team of experienced planners, within the Department of Planning, Land and Heritage.

The role of the State Development Assessment Unit was to:

  • Hold preliminary meetings with applicants to assess whether a particular proposal met the eligibility criteria for a ‘significant development’.
  • Engage with key stakeholders, such as the public and local government, regarding the proposals.
  • Assess development applications, including design review and referrals from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, Main Roads Western Australia and other relevant agencies.
  • Prepare a report and make recommendations regarding individual applications to the WAPC, who were then tasked with making a final determination.
  • Issue clearances for approval conditions (on behalf of the WAPC).

Streamlining the approvals process

The objective of the early engagement phase was to deliver advice and address potential issues with prospective applicants, before a development application was formally lodged. The consultation and referrals processes were conducted simultaneously to ensure the entire process ran efficiently, while minimising delays.

The impact of reform

The WAPC and Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage is considering reforming the Development Assessment Panel (DAP) system in order to:

  • ensure processes are more transparent and consistent; and
  • make development assessment processes more streamlined and outcomes-focused.

These changes may include widening the scope of the DAP to consider significant or complex developments, much like the Temporary Assessment Unit did in the lead up to January 2022. If this occurred, a more streamlined assessment approvals process, with greater support at the preliminary stages of an application, is likely to result.

What’s next?

The State Government is yet to make a decision on whether reforms to the DAP system will occur in the next 12 months. However, we will keep you posted when new information on the subject is released.

If you’re seeking approvals for a significant development in a rural or metro area of Western Australia, please get in touch. We can assist you with preparing the application and handling the approvals process, so you have more time to invest in what you do best in your business.

Contact us more information on how we can support you.

Return to Top