Local government amalgamations – opportunity for development?

The State Government of Western Australia has recently announced the long-awaited details of its plans to both amalgamate local governments and to redefine the boundaries of existing local government areas.  These changes come into effect in the middle of 2015 and will see the number of local government areas in the Perth metropolitan region reduce from 30 to 14.

Now that the dust has settled with respect to the initial announcement, landowners should consider just what the changes mean for them in terms of development opportunities and constraints.  In particular, landowners should consider whether the development potential of their land will be influenced in the event that a new local government becomes responsible for their land as a result of an amalgamation or boundary change.

If following the changes, a particular parcel of land comes under the jurisdiction of a different local government, that incoming local government may have more progressive or conservative views regarding development as compared to the outgoing local government.  That shift in the political landscape may be the difference between a particular development proposal being approved or refused.

If the resulting local government will be more amenable to progress and development, landowners should consider commencing discussions with the incoming local government, with a view to having development proposals assessed immediately after the changes come into effect.  On the other hand, if the incoming local government will be less accommodating to development, landowners should consider expediting existing development proposals with the current local government, in an attempt to secure approval before the political landscape changes.

By way of example, potential opportunities may arise in:

  • the western suburbs of Perth, where a number of smaller (and arguably more conservative) local governments will be condensed into one;

  • the City of Vincent, which will be divided between the City of Stirling (subject to further discussion) and the City of Perth; and

  • part of the Town of Victoria Park that will join the City of Perth.

Aside from local government attitudes towards development, landowners in areas that will be affected by the amalgamations and boundary changes should also consider whether the applicable local planning scheme is likely to change.  Under current regulations, transitional arrangements suggest that when a particular district joins a new local government area, the existing local planning scheme that applied to that district immediately before the change will continue to apply.  In that situation, the only real difference from a planning perspective would be that development applications under that existing local planning scheme will be decided by the incoming local government.

As a matter of practice however, it is likely that local governments will begin preparing new local planning schemes to accommodate the amalgamations and boundary changes.  Landowners in affected areas should consider the extent to which changes in the local planning framework may affect the development potential of their land.

On this note, landowners in affected areas may also consider submitting proposals to the incoming local government, the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) and the Minister for Planning regarding the future planning constraints of the affected area, with a view to influencing the future planning direction with respect to the area.  Such submissions should ideally be made as early as possible and well in advance of any new local planning scheme being adopted following the amalgamations and boundary changes.

The local government amalgamations and boundary changes are likely to cause complications both legally and practically for years to come.

If you have any queries about how these changes and transitional arrangements affect your property, please contact a member of Lavan Legal's Planning, Environment and Land Compensation Team.

Changes to the Residential Design Codes

The WAPC has announced changes to the Residential Design Codes.  These changes were gazetted on 2 August 2013.

Key changes to the Residential Design Codes include a reduction in the minimum lot size for which planning approval is required for a single dwelling and the removal of the requirement that “granny flats” may only be occupied by a relative of the landowner.

For more information about these changes to the Residential Design Codes, please see our previous Planning Updates dated 26 March 2013 and 20 June 2013.

If you have any further queries in relation to the impact of these changes on your development or proposals for developments, please do not hesitate to contact Tom Mouritz.

Changes to the State Coastal Planning Policy

The WAPC has also announced changes to the State Coastal Planning Policy.  These changes were gazetted on 30 July 2013.

The State Coastal Planning Policy guides decision-making with respect to development in close proximity to the Western Australian coastline.  This is achieved through mechanisms such as the establishment of foreshore reserves. For more information about coastal planning generally, please see our Environmental Update dated 6 March 2013.

If you have any further queries in relation to the gazettal of the State Coastal Planning Policy, please do not hesitate to contact Clare Gleeson.

New Commercial Arbitration Act

After being passed in parliament over a year ago, the Commercial Arbitration Act 2012 (WA) (2012 Act) was proclaimed to commence on 7 August 2013, repealing the Commercial Arbitration Act 1985 (1985 Act).

This brings Western Australia (WA) into line with other jurisdictions who have already implemented the uniform domestic arbitration laws which are based on the provisions of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (given effect in Australia by amendments in 2010 to the International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth)).

This change to the legislation, within which all commercial arbitration in WA operates, will effect the manner in which arbitration functions, as the 2012 Act introduces new procedure for the conduct of proceedings, alters the role and powers of the arbitrator and limits the potential grounds of appeal from arbitral award.

Which act applies to ongoing compensation proceedings in arbitration?

Landowners with property affected by reserves or taking orders that may give rise to entitlements for compensation on the basis of injurious affection or compulsory acquisition under the Planning and Development Act 2005 (WA) or the Land Administration Act 1997 (WA) ought to be aware of the introduction of this new legislative framework for commercial arbitration.

In case there is any confusion about whether the 1985 Act or 2012 Act applies, consideration must be given to the relevant transitional provisions.

Section 42(2) of the 2012 Act provides that if arbitration commenced before that act had come into force, the law governing the arbitration agreement is to be that which would have been applicable if this act had not been enacted.

As a result, the 1985 Act still applies to arbitration proceedings commenced before the 2012 Act was proclaimed and, by association, all arbitration proceedings instituted from 7 August 2013 onwards will fall under the domain of the new legislation.

If negotiations with the relevant authorities regarding compensation have recently commenced, it may be critical to immediately determine whether the trigger for “commencement” of a proceeding has occurred and in turn, which act applies.

If you have any queries in relation to the Arbitration Act or issues surrounding land compensation, please contact Lavan Legal's Planning, Environment and Land Compensation Team.

Disclaimer – the information contained in this publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should seek legal advice in relation to any particular matter you may have before relying or acting on this information. The Lavan team are here to assist.