A guide to the new WAPC development assessment pathway

A guide to assist Applicants wanting to follow the new WAPC development approval pathway for ‘significant developments’ has now been released by the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage.  This article provides a brief overview of the steps to take in order to have a development assessed in this way.

Step 1 - Pre-lodgement

The pre-lodgement process is intended to facilitate early discussions and ensure that the proposal meets the eligibility criteria for assessment before proceeding. This process is important to get right, especially when considering the significant application fees for lodging a development application under the new pathway, which are in the order of up to $45,000.

The applicant will first need to complete the online ‘intent to lodge’ form to initiate discussions with the State Development Assessment Unit (SDAU) and establish eligibility for assessment under the new pathway.

Once eligibility is established, the applicant will then need to lodge a ‘Form 17A – Pre-lodgement advice request’ form with the SDAU.

The Form 17A should contain an overview of the proposed development and reasons why it meets the eligibility criteria, including, for example, whether the proposal is valued above $20 million and within the metro area or above $5 million and in a regional area. The overview will need to justify the reason for using the new assessment pathway and will benefit from reference to the relevant planning framework, preservation of amenity of the locality, orderly and proper planning, early engagement with key stakeholders and the community and job creation.

Depending on the circumstances of the proposal, the applicant may also seek to provide accompanying technical documents, however, this may be delayed until formal lodgement.

The applicant should also consider referring the proposal to the State Design Review Panel during the pre-lodgement stage, as this will expedite assessment.

Step 2 - Lodgement

Following the pre-lodgement stage, the applicant should have an understanding of any matters that need to be addressed and may formally lodge their development application by completing a ‘Form 17B – Application for development approval’ and paying the application fee.

Details of the proposal should be updated to reflect discussions and advice received from the SDAU in the pre-lodgement stage. Technical documents will also need to be updated or provided if they have not already been.

Should the applicant wish to amend or withdraw their application at any time, the applicant may lodge a ‘Form 17C – Application to amend or cancel significant development proposal’.

Step 3 - Assessment

Once the required forms have been lodged, the application will be referred to the Development Assessment Forum for consideration.

As part of this process, the application will be subject to mandatory public consultation and will be referred to the relevant state agencies, local government and State Design Review Panel (if not done in the pre-lodgement stage). There is no prescribed timeframe for public consultation but it is expected that applications will be advertised for a minimum of 28 days. Further, applicants are required to install a sign on the site, with an illustration of the proposed development, which will remain in place for the duration of the consultation period.

The Development Assessment Forum will then conduct a review of submissions received and prepare a recommendation for the WAPC.

Step 4 - Determination

The WAPC will determine the proposal during the course of normal business and the applicant may apply to make a deputation in the relevant meeting. Once the determination is made, the applicant will be advised of the outcome. If the applicant is not satisfied with the outcome, they may apply to the State Administrative Tribunal to review the decision within 28 days.

Lavan comment

The new WAPC assessment pathway offers significant benefit for applicants with proposals that meet the eligibility criteria and in particular, those that are likely to be stalled by subsequent, contrary decisions of other authorities. That said, early indications suggest that the WAPC will not condone the use of the pathway to assess unmeritorious proposals and applicants should exercise caution when pursuing this option to avoid any negative perception.

If you have any questions about utilising the new WAPC pathway, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced Planning and Environment team.