What do new planning and development reforms mean for WA?

The State Government is in the final stages of implementing regulatory changes that will have a major impact on planning and development in Western Australia. According to the State Government, the reforms are designed to streamline the planning system and make the process easier to navigate. Today, we’ll be delving into what the proposed changes are about.

Here’s what you need to know.

The big picture

  • Last month the State Government confirmed its next phase of planning reform measures will be introduced as a bill to Parliament in late 2023.
  • The bill proposes a change to The Planning and Development Act 2005, which will be amended to alter the operation and composition of the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC).
  • A permanent pathway will also be established for assessing development proposals that are of State or Regional significance.
  • These amendments form part of the 2019 Action Plan for Planning Reform, as well as additional initiatives that were identified during consultation with stakeholders.

What are the reforms about?

  • The biggest changes are around local councils, who will have significantly less development approval power under the revised planning laws.
  • The reforms are set to hand greater authority to centralised administrative panels when considering property development approvals.
  • Developers will have the ability to sidestep councils and take advantage of a new $80m infrastructure fund, which the State Government hopes will improve housing affordability and boost construction.
  • Under the reforms, proposals worth more than $2 million that include over two homes will be assessed by a centralised panel, instead of local council.
  • An approvals process relating to projects of state and regional significance (set up during COVID), will also be made permanent under the changes.

Key issues

Although Premier Mark McGowan says the reforms will drive private investment in the state, local governments have been critical of the changes. Karen Chappel, the President of the WA Local Government Association (WALGA), says the scheme shuts local voices out.

“It’s taken away local decision-making,” she told ABC News.

“It is the role of local government to represent the views of its members. It’s called local government for a reason. What has been suggested, that is going to be happening going forward, [is that decisions will be made] without local government having a say in what is going to happen in their communities. It’s just not fair to communities.”

McGowan defended the changes, saying that cutting red tape helped to lower the costs of new developments in WA.

 “Cutting red tape and driving consistency will encourage more private investment, which is critical for driving our economy, creating jobs and delivering more housing choice for our community,” he said.

Sandra Brewer, Executive Director at Property Council WA, said local councils will still be ‘deeply involved’ with planning. She told ABC Radio Perth:

“The ability for them to do that is in the creation of local planning strategies, which sets out where people would like to see more medium density development, more public open spaces, or perhaps active shopping centre areas.”

She said one of her key frustrations is when councils support a redevelopment, but it is then ‘knocked back’ by elected members.

“At the end of the day, for a developer to come in and have a plan for something that they see is absolutely perfect for a profit-making exercise may not necessarily be the particular exercise that’s of benefit to the community, so there’s a balance in all of it,” she continued.

“There’s a whole lot of considerations when we’re talking about infill, and it’s not just about saying no for no’s sake, it’s about considering what’s best for all of us.”

Supporting your development

If you need support with submitting a planning and development application, our team can help. We have an excellent track record of success, and stay up to date with changes in planning and development legislation. Get in touch to talk more about your project.

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