Loss of power for councils: planning and development regulations

NEW State Government planning and development regulations to come into effect on Monday will result in a loss of decision-making power for local governments.

The planning reform process aims to streamline planning processes across all local governments.

The WA Planning Commission released draft regulations in November last year and local governments were able to provide submissions, which the City of Joondalup did in February, with the final regulations gazetted on August 25.

They include deemed provisions, which will apply automatically to all existing schemes from Monday, and model provisions, which are required to be incorporated into schemes as they are reviewed but allow for some local variation.

One of the major changes in the regulations relates to structure plans, with the deemed provision stating a local government is no longer responsible for making decisions on structure plans and only provides a recommendation to the WAPC, who is now the sole approval authority.

“The WAPC, where they used to be one of two decision-makers on a structure plan, are now the ultimate decision maker,” Joondalup planning and community development director Dale Page said.

“It will likely mean we will have loss of control.”

The City will not have a right appeal if the WAPC does not agree with a council recommendation.

Ms Page said the WAPC now had timeframes to make its decision, which it did not have before.

“Hopefully this will significantly speed up the structure plan approval process,” she said.

She said another change was that the council’s approval was no longer required before advertising a structure plan and it must be advertised within 28 days of receiving it.

“That doesn’t give us much time to do an assessment,” she said.

“Previously we would receive the structure plan, assess it and take it to council and ask for endorsement to advertise but now we need to receive it and advertise within 28 days.”

Ms Page said public consultation would not change.

“We will advertise a structure plan and we will report to council on the merits of the structure plan and on the outcomes of public consultation just like we do now,” she said.

“Instead of them making a decision on the structure plan, the council will make a recommendation and that recommendation will be based on the information relating to public submissions and assessment of the structure plan.

“Public consultation will still have a significant role to play in the process; it’s just that we don’t make the decision, the commission does.”

Under the new regulations, development approval is no longer required for applications relating to single houses and associated developments like sheds, garages and fences if the application meets the requirements of the R-codes or of the structure plans and policies.

Though this won’t effect the City of Joondalup, which has already exempt these applications needing planning approval under its scheme, approval will also no longer be required for changes of use from one permitted use to another as long as no new development is proposed and it still meets the requirements of the scheme, such as car parking.

Another deemed provision states the council can only delegate its planning decision-making powers to the chief executive.

“Currently our scheme gives council the ability to delegate its planning decision-making powers to individual employees of the City,” Ms Page said.

As the provision would become redundant from Monday, the council voted at last week