A view of skyscrapers looking from the ground up

Glen McLeod Legal was proud to co-organise with Murdoch University School of Law a symposium on the independent review of the WA planning system. The review, which was commissioned by the Minister for Planning, proposes reforms to make the WA planning system more efficient, open and understandable.

The lead independent reviewer, Evan Jones presented on five key reform areas identified in the Green Paper, being strategic leadership, legibility, transparency, efficiency and delivering smart growth. The following contains a brief summary of each proposed reform.

Strategically led: the key reform will be to put strategy at the centre of the WA planning system. This will involve amending the Planning and Development Act 2005 (WA) (PD Act) to define ‘strategic planning’ and ‘sustainable development’, as well as making strategic planning for sustainable development the purpose of planning in WA. The core concept of ‘sustainability’ is proposed to be defined in a State Planning Policy (SPP), with steps on how to balance economic, social and environmental factors for land use planning.

Legible: the reforms propose to:

(a)  consolidate all SPPs together into a single concise State Planning Framework spanning less than 200 pages;

(b) reorganise SPPs into common elements that are used directly for regional plans and local planning schemes (LPS);

(c) create a Comprehensive Local Planning Scheme for each local government, which contains all local planning strategies, legal provisions, maps and local planning policies. This will be published in a single, easy-to-navigate, standardised format; and

(d) create a set of standardised zones, land uses and land use permissibility to apply in Perth and major regional centres.

Transparent: the reforms propose to establish a Community Engagement Charter for more active community participation and to improve the Development Assessment Panel (DAP) system to increase transparency and community trust in the decision-making process. This includes making information about DAP meetings available online, providing reasons for all DAP decisions, appointing a state based pool of expert DAP members for complex matters and appointing a Chief Presiding Member to oversee the quality and consistency of DAP decisions.

Efficiency: the Green Paper recommends extending delegations from the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) to the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (DPLH) and local government. The long term idea is that:

(a) the WAPC will only be responsible for matters of state and regional strategic planning significance;

(b) the DPLH will be responsible for the operation of the state planning system and provide leadership and guidance to local government; and

(c) local government will be responsible for local policies, development and small infill subdivision in accordance with a local structure plan.

Other goals for reform include fast-tracking certain development approvals, reducing the timeframe in which additional information can be sought and providing upfront agreements on the scope and content of Local Structure Plans (LSP).

Connected and Smart Growth: the planning system needs tofocus on planning and delivering key urban infill locations of activity centres, urban corridors and station precincts. This will require the development of a Connected Smart Growth SPP and clearly defining the different roles to be played by the State Government.

The symposium concluded with an engaging panel discussion between Evan Jones, Paul Kotsoglo (Managing Director, Planning Solutions), Len Kosova (CEO, City of Vincent) and Jane Bennett (Director, CLE Town Planning + Design).

There was also a diverse range of input from the audience consisting of architects, environmental consultants, local government representatives and legal professionals. Questions centred around the new dynamic between state and local government in delivering the proposed reforms, the delivery of the reforms as ‘Day 1’ changes or a gradual roll out, and whether the office of an Independent Planning Reviewer should be established.

We would like to thank the panel members and audience for making the symposium a successful event.  Special thanks also to Professor Jürgen Bröhmer, Dean of Murdoch Law School, for generously providing the facilities at Murdoch University.

The Green Paper is available for download on the website of the DPLH here.