Overhaul of the planning system – proposed new draft Regulations

The Minister for Planning has recently released for public comment the proposed Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2014 (Regulations) and a related discussion paper as part of the next step in the State Government’s planning reform agenda.

The Regulations are intended to amend and replace the Town Planning Regulations 1967 (WA) and the associated Model Scheme Text (MST) in order to streamline the preparation and amendment of local planning schemes and to provide some consistency in their content.

They also incorporate changes arising from the “Planning makes it happen: phase two blueprint for planning reform” paper released by the Department of Planning and Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) in August this year and the Town Planning Regulations 1967 (WA) review.

The proposed changes represent potentially significant reduction in planning delays and red tape.

Key changes in the Regulations include:

  • A simpler process for preparing new local planning schemes;
  • A risk-based amendment process for existing schemes;
  •  Streamlining and standardisation of the structure plan approval process;
  • Extending the cases where  development does not require planning approval;
  • Where possible, reducing the number of decision makers down to one decision maker (the WAPC or local government); and
  • New provisions concerning development contribution schemes.

Deemed provisions and Model provisions

One of the more significant changes is the introduction of new deemed planning provisions that will apply automatically across all local government planning schemes upon commencement of the Regulations.

The deemed provisions will apply regardless of whether a local government updates its scheme.  If there is any inconsistency between a deemed provision and a local planning scheme, the deemed provision will prevail.

Local governments will still have the ability to include, exclude or vary non-deemed Model provisions under section 73(2A) of the Planning and Development Act 2005 (WA) (Act), provided they are consistent with the Regulations and subject to the Minister’s approval under s 257A(3) of the Act.

However, the blanket application of deemed provisions will provide consistency across local governments, providing greater certainty for developers about applicable rules and regulations.

 Expansion of cases where development does not require prior planning approval

These will include development such a single residence that is compliant with the R Codes, and associated development such as patios, carport/garage, pool or granny flat that is R- Code compliant (these will still be subject to building permit requirements).  Other cases are where development is in accordance with an approved local development plan, where development is not required under the new Bushfire Regulations and temporary works or uses of less than 48 hours duration.

Three-tier risk based approach to streamline scheme amendments

It is proposed that the present single process for local scheme amendments be replaced with a three-tier risk based tracking approach, being first the ‘basic’ amendment process (the most basic or purely administrative type amendments), the ‘standard’ amendment process (involving less strategic significance or complexity) and the ‘complex’ amendment process (equivalent to the current process, to be used for significant or complex amendments).

Streamlining and standardisation of the structure plan approval process

New standardised deemed provisions will apply concerning the application, procedure and legal effect of structure plans, including triggers as to who may prepare a structure plan, the substance and form of a structure plan, the role of the local government to report to the WAPC in respect of the structure plan and the role of the WAPC (or the local government as the delegate of the WAPC) in determining the application.

Developer Contribution Plans

The proposed regulations set out the requirements for Developer Contribution Plans (DCP’s) and Developer Contribution Areas (DCA’s) and to provide standardised deemed provisions for processes and implementation of DCP’s to give legal effect to State Planning Policy 3.6 (SPP3.6).  The Discussion Paper notes that SPP3.6 is being reviewed concurrently and that the outcome of that review will be incorporated in the final version of the Regulations.

Model Scheme Text

The MST has been reviewed and updated and will have the status of Model provisions to be a standard template for when a local government next updates its planning scheme.  Local governments will have to incorporate these into their next scheme review and any new scheme but may seek to vary or amend those provisions – it will be a matter for the Minister, however, whether to approve such variation or amendment.

Lavan Legal comment

The release of the proposed draft Regulations is an important step in the State Government’s planning reforms and has been generally welcomed by the development industry to provide for greater efficiencies and a standardised approach to planning processes and development approvals.  The industry particularly welcomes the introduction of a uniform system for developer contributions and the streamlining of scheme amendments and structure plan processes.  The new Regulations will remove red tape for homeowners, small business and industry alike.

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.