Australia: Fast-tracking of WA development approvals – new proposed regulations

Last Updated: 3 December 2014
Article by Charmian Barton

The WA Minister for Planning is seeking public comment on the proposed Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2014 (Regulations). If you wish to comment, submissions must be received by the Department of Planning by 30 January 2015.


As part of the WA State Government's phase two planning reforms, the proposed Regulations are intended to reduce red tape for business, industry and the community. New initiatives include planning approval exemptions for certain developments, streamlining the structure plan process, and improving the process for the preparation of new, amended consolidated schemes. The reforms will also standardise the process for lodging and dealing with development applications across all local government areas. The proposed Regulations, once enacted, will replace the Town Planning Regulation 1967 and the associated Model Scheme text.

Exemption from planning approval

Certain developments will not require planning approval, for example, where it is in accordance with a local development plan, involves a single dwelling that meets the deemed to comply provisions of State Planning Policy 3.1 Residential Design Codes, and temporary works or uses in existence for less than 48 hours. It will also be possible to carry out internal building work without approval provided it does not materially affect the building's appearance and the building is not heritage listed.

Development approval may be required for otherwise exempt development if it is carried out in a bushfire prone area. The provisions of schedule 1 to the draft Planning and Development (Bushfire Risk Management) Regulations 2014, which are currently the subject of public consultation, will be included in the proposed Regulations.

The exemptions from planning approval will be introduced through deemed provisions which will automatically apply on gazettal of the Regulations, without the need to wait until a local government updates its existing scheme. The definition of 'development' will also be clarified in the deemed provisions to clarify the distinction between works (physical development) and use.

Model provisions and local scheme amendments

The proposed Regulations will introduce model provisions for local planning schemes which broadly operate in the same way as the Model Scheme text. The model provisions will only apply when a local government next updates and amends its scheme. However, there is scope for a local government to vary the model provisions (but not deemed provisions) if it can justify a variation from the template.

A three tiered risk-based tracking approach is proposed for scheme amendments. To reflect the different levels of risk from complex scheme amendments to those of an administrative nature, it is proposed that the current single amendment process will be replaced with:

  • the 'complex' process for significant or complex amendments with a 42 day advertising period
  • the 'standard' process, with a 21 day advertising period, to address scheme amendments of less strategic significance or complexity than those falling with the 'complex' track, and
  • the 'basic' process to expedite basic and mainly administrative amendments.

Although the proposed Regulations provide timeframes for advertising, it does not provide statutory timeframes for a number of the steps in the scheme amendment process. For example, the timeframe for approval of a scheme amendment by the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) is not stipulated.

Development contribution plans

Part 7 of the proposed Regulations contains those provisions of State Planning Policy 3.6 Development Contributions for Infrastructure (SPP 3.6), which relate to the preparation of development contribution plans. SPP 3.6 is currently being reviewed by the Department of Planning. The outcome of the review will be incorporated in the final version of the Regulations which may address gaps in the proposed Regulations. For example, a local government must, within 90 days of the development contribution plan coming into effect, provide each owner of land within the development contribution area a copy of the cost apportionment schedule setting out the cost contribution for each owner of land in the area. However, there is no requirement on the local government to advertise the cost apportionment schedule prior to it being included in the plan.

Provisions relating to the implementation of development contribution plans have been included in the deemed provisions, which will automatically apply on gazettal of the Regulations. This will assist in standardising the implementation of these plans across local government areas.

Streamlined structure plan process

A 'structure plan' is a plan for the coordination of subdivision and development of an area of land. Structure plans are currently non-statutory plans with each local government providing guidance on their content. The proposed Regulations will introduce new standardised deemed provisions for the preparation of structure plans, which will come into effect on the gazettal of the Regulations.

The proposed deemed provisions provide that a structure plan may be prepared by a local government, a landowner or agent of a landowner. The WAPC will be the single point of determination for all structure plans which will remove the current dual approvals from the WAPC and local government. Local governments will be required to prepare a report to the WAPC on the proposed structure plan, including a list of submissions considered by the local government. The report must be in a form approved by the WAPC. The WAPC must then make a decision whether to approve, modify or refuse to approve the plan. A person who prepared a structure plan may apply to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) for a review of a decision by the WAPC not to approve a structure plan or to approve a structure plan with modifications.

In relation to the status of a structure plan, the proposed Regulations provide that it must be taken into account by a decision maker when deciding an application for development or subdivision to the extent that the structure plan, that applies to the area, is consistent with the relevant town planning scheme. It follows that town planning scheme provisions will override a structure plan to the extent of any inconsistency.

Local development plans, which set out specific and detailed guidance for a development or subdivision, will continue to be approved by local government. SAT will be able to review a decision by a local government not to approve a local development plan or to approve a plan with modifications.

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Charmian Barton
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