Newsflash! Every local planning scheme in WA amended

Whether you realise it or not, every local planning scheme in Western Australia was amended earlier this month.  That is because the new “deemed provisions” under the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015 (WA) (Regulations) came into force.

As a consequence of section 257B of the Planning and Development Act 2005 (WA), the deemed provisions in Schedule 2 of the Regulations are now taken to be built into every local planning scheme in the State.  To the extent that a local planning scheme is inconsistent with the deemed provisions, the deemed provisions are taken to prevail.  Every new local planning scheme that is adopted moving into the future will need to expressly incorporate the deemed provisions, but until then, existing local planning schemes will need to be read together with the deemed provisions in Schedule 2 of the Regulations.

So that does this all mean for developers, landowners and planning authorities?

For the foreseeable future, one cannot simply rely on the text contained within a local planning scheme.  That is because the text of existing local planning schemes may be indirectly amended, varied or displaced entirely by the deemed provisions.  Simply reading a local planning scheme in isolation may paint an inaccurate picture as to the actual planning framework.

In practice, this will necessitate a two stage approach to interpreting provisions of a local planning scheme:

  1. read the local planning scheme; and
  2. check the local planning scheme against the deemed provisions for any inconsistency.

Some interesting examples of how the deemed provisions have effectively amended local planning schemes are as follows:

  • the provisions regarding structure plans have been normalised across all local government areas, with the scope of what a structure plan may cover having been reduced and the weight of decision-making responsibility vested in the Western Australian Planning Commission;
  • commonly used terms in town planning such as “amenity” and “substantially commenced” now have consistent meanings across all local planning schemes, as they appear in the deemed provisions; and
  • an application for planning approval may be submitted to local government by a person who has contracted to acquire the subject land, without the legal owner having signed the application forms.

It goes without saying that if there is any uncertainty as to the effect of the deemed provisions on particular content within a local planning scheme, legal advice should be sought as to the correct interpretation.

If you have any questions in relation to the deemed provisions or any aspect of the Regulations, do not hesitate to contact Craig Wallace or Alex McGlue.

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.