The Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) have recently released the much anticipated “Structure Plan Preparation Guidelines” (Guidelines), and complimentary “Structure Plan Digital Data and Mapping Standards” (Standards) aimed at standardising the scope, format, content and assessment of structure plan reporting and mapping throughout Western Australia.
The WAPC will start applying the Guidelines and the Standards to all new structure plans from 5 November 2012.
The main reason for the introduction of the guidelines has been to simplify the existing structure planning requirements, which often differ between, and within, local government areas.
Relevantly, the Guidelines:
Require structure plan reports to be divided into statutory and non statutory parts.
Provide a summary of what is expected to be contained within each of the statutory and non statutory parts.
Provide guidance on the format of structure plan reports.
Provide a summary of what is expected in terms of detail at each level of the structure planning hierarchy.
Provide examples of what a sub-regional, district, local and activity centre structure plan should look like.
Provide guidance on the level of consultation expected.
Provide guidance on the process of modifying/amending a structure plan, including the differences between minor and major modifications.
There are a number of requirements specified within the Guidelines which many planning professionals/developers may find have changed from the current requirements, these include:
Separating out a structure plan into its statutory and non statutory components.
The statutory components of a structure plan no longer need to provide a specific R-Coding for land. The coding may only be specified in terms of a “banding” of codes for example R20-R40 and R40-R60 to allow greater flexibility when it comes to design and market conditions at the time of subdivision.
Road reserve widths must not be shown in the statutory component of the Structure Plan.
Only road reserve locations designated as neighbourhood connectors and higher in the road hierarchy may be shown on the statutory structure plan, all other areas must be shown as zoned or reserved land. The location of lower order roads and local block design are to be determined at the time of subdivision.
Lavan Legal comment
Lavan Legal supports any move by the WAPC to try and simplify the structure plan process. Reducing detail included within the statutory component of the structure plan should allow greater flexibility when it comes to the final design at the time of subdivision.
By showing less detail at the statutory stage, there is greater scope for change and flexibility in design when it comes to final subdivision. As long as the proposed subdivision design fits within the broad framework and criteria set by the statutory component of the structure plan, the subdivision should be approved.
However developers, planners and local governments should proceed with caution in applying the broad brush “criteria based” approach to the coding of land and the location and width of local roads. If the wording of the development criteria contained within the statutory component of the draft structure plan is not water tight, then there is the potential for a loophole to be opened, allowing the potential for land to be developed at a higher (or lower) densities, or for governments to enforce densities at a higher (or lower) density than was initially envisioned or planned for.
In summary, special care must be taken in drafting the statutory components of a structure plan to avoid problems down the line.