Western Australians, particularly those living in rural areas, are well versed on the threat of bushfires every summer. State Planning Policy 3.7 – Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas (SPP 3.7) and its associated Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas were introduced in 2015, in an effort to reduce the impact that bushfires have had on property, infrastructure and most importantly, lives. The policy applies to all land designated as bushfire prone by the Fire and Emergency Services (FES) Commissioner and addresses how bushfire risk management should be implemented. The current map of bushfire prone areas can be found on the website of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

SPP 3.7 requires high risk development applications to contain a Bushfire Management Plan (BMP), and for an assessment of the bushfire attack level (BAL) to be undertaken; where the application must receive a BAL below 12.5 to avoid an assessment against the bushfire protection criteria. These criteria consist of four elements; location, siting and design of development, vehicular access and access to water. Each element includes; a desired outcome, acceptable solutions and a statement of how to best achieve the intent of the relevant bushfire element.

Through our experience in acting for clients developing land in bushfire prone areas, we have found that one of the most challenging requirements in SPP 3.7 is the need in some instances for land to be serviced by two public roads. We make the comment that entire town sites such as Yallingup and Grace Town in the South West are accessed by a single public road and therefore, would fall short of the requirements of SPP 3.7.

Future development in bushfire prone areas should be guided by a strong understanding of SPP 3.7 and its implications. The Department of Fire & Emergency Services has advised that applications for development or subdivision in vulnerable areas will not be supported unless accompanied by an effective and workable BMP developed by an accredited bushfire practitioner. These new measures are in place to preserve life and mitigate against the risk of bushfires, though it may result in developers being refused approval for projects if the appropriate bushfire prevention regulations are not met. Please contact the Glen McLeod Legal team if you would like to discuss your development in a bushfire prone area or would like to clarify any aspect of SPP 3.7.