A NEW campaign has been launched to change the Development Assessment Panels (DAP) system.
The initiative was given the green light at the WA Local Government Association State Council meeting earlier this month and hopes to allow communities to have their voices heard on large-scale developments.
Each DAP consists of five members, two of them local government councillors and three industry specialists.
Applicants can currently opt-in to have development applications valued between $2 million and $10 million determined by a DAP rather than the applicable local government.
The campaign calls for a number of changes, including abolishing the opt-in mechanism in favour of a ministerial call-in power for projects of state or regional significance, with a minimal value of $20 million, as has been adopted interstate.
WALGA also wants a cost-benefit analysis of the DAP system from an independent organisation and the local government sector to be consulted prior to any amendments, to ensure operational efficiencies can be achieved.
Minister for Planning Donna Faragher said in general the DAP system was working exceptionally well and had added significant value to the planning system.
“Department of Planning figures show that the average determination time for DAPs applications in the 2015/2016 financial year was 54 days and 88 days respectively for 60 and 90-day application types,” she said.
“DAPs can only make decisions in accordance with the applicable local planning scheme. The 2015 parliamentary review of DAPs found that the outdated nature of some local planning schemes and their inconsistency with state planning policies have contributed to the types of determinations being made by development assessment panels.
“I have met with metropolitan local governments and continue to consider feedback provided by them, as well as industry.”
WHAT THE COUNCILS SAY
City of Melville: In principle, Melville would be supportive of changes that help improve accountability and transparency around the DAP system. Ultimately the City remains of the view that decision making should be restored to local governments, as we are best placed to take decisions that impact the local community. Melville has a proven best-practice approach in dealing with planning matters, having very recently been benchmarked by Property Council Australia as the top local government for high-quality planning performance.
City of Cockburn: The City of Cockburn supports a cost-benefit analysis of Development Assessment Panels to be conducted by an independent organisation. The City is ambivalent about abolishing the current opt-in mechanism. Of the 30-plus DAP applications received by the City since the introduction of the regulations, the opt-in mechanism has only been used once. The City therefore does not perceive it to be a significant issue. The City would like to be consulted prior to any amendments to the DAP system.
Town of Victoria Park: The Town agrees with the changes outlined by WALGA, some of which were our suggestions. There are a number of further changes to the DAP system that the Town would like to see, most notably equal representation between local government and specialist members, training of DAP members on issues relevant to the local government and its strategic planning direction, and meeting times and procedures being modified to allow increased community participation.
City of South Perth: The City of South Perth welcomes and supports a WALGA-led campaign that lobbies for changes to Development Assessment Panels. At the WALGA Annual General Meeting held on August 3, it was the City’s Mayor Sue Doherty who moved the motion to request WALGA to advocate for an independent review of the WA Planning System.
City of Fremantle: Fremantle supports WALGA’s proposed changes. The City believes the independent cost-benefit analysis will help restore confidence in the process and that the ministerial call-in power will allow the system to focus on critical development applications. The City also believes local government involvement is essential, as we will be working with the system on a day-to-day basis. Councils able to make timely planning decisions and who can meet their housing and employment targets should be granted an exemption from the DAP process.
City of Gosnells: The City of Gosnells has worked hard to ensure that the DAP system for this region works well. However, it is very doubtful that the DAP process has actually saved time in regard to decision making processes for major applications and this was a prime reason for introducing DAPs. In addition, under current referral limits, many applications referred to the DAP are of keen interest to local stakeholders but are of little consequence when measured against regional or state-wide planning objectives. There is a strong case that such proposals should be allowed to be determined by the relevant local governments.
City of Belmont: As with any system there is room for improvement and these (WALGA amendments) will benefit all stakeholders impacted by the DAP process. WALGA should be advocating a review of the entire planning process system, including the operation of SAT, which makes determinations from a legal perspective. It should also be requiring the WA Planning Commission to enforce the provisions of the Planning and Development Act for those local governments which fail to meet their statutory responsibilities. The $10 million value for mandatory determination by the DAP should remain and the opt-in value should be $4 million.
Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale: DAPs represent a significant erosion of planning powers by elected representatives and they have gone well beyond the purpose, intent and application of the relevant Local Planning Scheme and policies adopted by the Shire. In the event that DAPs remain in place, the Shire advocates for a range of reforms, including the abolition of the current opt-in mechanism which allows applicants to choose whether the council or DAP is the decision maker, in favour of a ministerial call for projects of state or regional significance with a minimum value of $20 million. It also wants equal membership between local government and appointed specialist members.