Industrial areas and land uses play a significant role in the Western Australian economy, however, the emissions from industrial activities can impact human health, amenity and the environment in surrounding areas. As development and urbanisation increases to accommodate Perth’s growing population, planning instruments and authorities must consider the interface between industrial and sensitive land uses, such as residential housing.

State Planning Policy 4.1 Industrial Interface (SPP 4.1) was published in July 2022 and is a long awaited response to these issues, aiming to prevent conflict between industrial and sensitive land uses. SPP 4.1 replaces State Planning Policy 4.1 Industrial Buffer Policy which was gazetted in 1997. This article will provide a brief overview of SPP 4.1 and explore the significant changes between SPP 4.1 and its predecessor. Some of the significant changes include:

  1. clarification that SPP 4.1 does not apply to rural land uses or industrial land uses on rural land;
  2. the creation of Strategic Industrial Areas (SIAs) at the state and regional planning level;
  3. the shift from the use of buffer zones to a suite of measures referred to as ‘land use transition’; and
  4. a greater emphasis on a risk-based approach.

Objectives

The primary objective of SPP 4.1 is for the impacts of industrial land uses to be considered at all stages of the planning process. This approach is designed to avoid situations where the resolution of land use conflict is deferred to the subdivision or development application stage where options may be more constrained. The policy seeks to separate industrial land uses from incompatible land uses to provide long-term certainty for industrial operations, avoid impacts on the health and amenity of people residing nearby and promote the co-location of similar or compatible land uses.

Application

SPP 4.1 is applicable across all stages of the planning process where a new proposal involves, is impacted by or is likely to impact an existing or proposed industrial land use. Examples of industrial land or industrial land uses that SPP 4.1 may apply to, include:

  1. land zoned for industrial purposes in a region or local planning scheme;
  2. industrial land uses on land zoned for industrial purposes;
  3. industrial land uses on land that is not zoned for industrial purposes; and
  4. land that may be impacted by industrial land uses and strategic industrial infrastructure.

Despite providing examples of industrial land uses, SPP 4.1 does not explicitly define what an industrial land use is for the purposes of the policy.

Proposals which include rural land uses, the extraction of raw materials, infrastructure corridors, telecommunications infrastructure and aircraft noise are exempt from SPP 4.1. The policy recognises that there is some overlap between SPP 4.1 and State Planning Policy 2.5 Rural Planning (SPP 2.5), where an industrial use interfaces with a rural use, SPP 2.5 will guide considerations of whether it is appropriate for an industrial and rural use to interface.

Strategic Industrial Areas

Among a raft of new policy measures, the implementation of SIAs stands out as a significant change. The creation of SIAs is integral to the policy’s push to ensure that the impacts of industrial land uses are considered at all stages of the planning process. The planning of SIAs should occur in a manner that enables the area to expand over time, prevents the encroachment of incompatible land uses and ensures the impacts of industrial activities are managed within a defined area. Furthermore, SPP 4.1 suggests that locating industrial facilities and associated infrastructure in distinct precincts or clusters will reduce their overall impact area.

SPP 4.1 provides that state and regional planning strategies, region schemes, local planning strategies and local planning schemes should identify and plan for:

  1. SIAs: where compatible infrastructure and complimentary land uses can be accommodated; and
  2. industrial land and reserves: where a wider variety of existing and future industrial development can be accommodated.

Impact areas, being the areas impacted by industrial activities will be identified by state and regional planning strategies and provided for by local planning schemes.

Land use transition

 A major change brought about by the implementation of SPP 4.1 is the suite of new measures referred to collectively as ‘land use transition’. SPP 4.1’s predecessor, published in 1998, provided for the establishment of statutory buffer areas around industrial areas to avoid land use conflict. It was intended that buffer areas would create an area in which sensitive land uses, such as residential dwellings, could not be placed as such land uses were more likely to suffer adverse impacts from the effects of industrial activities.

Rather than relying on buffers, SPP 4.1 provides for the gradual transition in land use from industrial to sensitive uses. Like buffer zones, the objective of land use transition is to minimise the adverse impacts of industrial activities on sensitive land uses by ensuring that there is sufficient space between industrial and sensitive land uses. This will be achieved through the use of compatible zones, reserves and land uses which are typically more tolerant of the impacts of industrial activities. An example of gradual land use transition may involve having a light industry zone and a service commercial zone situated in between an industrial zone and a residential zone.

Risk-based approach

 The policy adopts a risk-based approach to achieve its goal of minimising, managing and avoiding the detrimental impacts of industrial activities. This involves the consideration of a wide range of factors throughout the assessment process to ensure that the impact area of a proposal can be accurately defined. Factors considered may include current and future cumulative impacts of industrial activities, the potential for the intensification of industrial land uses and whether there are sustainable mitigation techniques that could be adopted to reduce off site impacts.

In accordance with the Planning and Development Act 2005 (WA), SPP 4.1 refers to the precautionary principle. SPP 4.1 provides that where the impact area of a proposed industrial use is unclear or ambiguous, a cautious approach ought to be taken when defining it.

Implications

The major difference between SPP 4.1 and its predecessor is the move from the concept of a buffer zone approach to a theoretically more adaptive approach that provides for the colocation of similar land uses to reduce land use conflicts. The idea is that a more flexible approach to the resolution of land use conflicts will allow them to be resolved on a case by case basis. Arguably, in practice this was done under the previous policy.

Comment – EPA Guidance Statement No. 3 – Separation Distances Between Industrial and Sensitive Land Uses (2005)

Surprisingly, SPP 4.1 does not mention the Environmental Protection Authority Guidance Statement No. 3 – Separation Distances Between Industrial and Sensitive Land Uses (2005) (EPA Guidance Statement). In our experience, the EPA Guidance Statement is used by planning authorities often in respect of land use conflict issues. The EPA Guidance Statement specifies a number of presumptive separation distances which are applicable to various uses with off-site impacts. It is often used (erroneously) as a prescriptive policy by both planning authorities and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. It will be interesting to see whether SPP 4.1 modifies the use of the EPA Guidance Statement as a de facto prescriptive buffer policy.

It is noted, however, that SPP 4.1 refers to an Industrial Planning Fact Sheet that refers to the EPA Guidance Statement.

We have extensive experience acting in land use conflict matters, our capability statement (view here) provides further details of the types of matters we have assisted with. If you would like to clarify any aspect of SPP 4.1 or discuss how it may apply to your land, please contact us by telephone on (08) 6460 5179 or email at admin@glenmcleodlegal.com.