Taylor Burrell Barnett

Permanent Pathway for Projects of State Significance

TBB Reacts: Major Planning Reforms to accelerate housing delivery

The amendments to the Planning and Development Act 2005 (the Act) and the release of the new Planning and Development (Significant Development) Regulations 2023 provide the legislative framework to facilitate a permanent pathway for State Government assessment and determination of significant development proposals.

This capitalises on the success of the temporary State Development Assessment Unit (SDAU) pathway which was introduced as part of the COVID-19 emergency measures.

The new process will allow applicants to opt-in for determination of a development application which meets the definition of ‘significant development’, which for the purpose of the draft Regulations is simply an application which has a value of:

  • $20 million or more for development within the area of the Metropolitan Region Scheme or Peel Region Scheme; or
  • $5 million or more outside of the above region scheme areas.

This provides the opportunity for applicants to opt-in to have complex proposals which require greater coordination or alignment between government agencies to be considered and determined by the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) rather than the local government or Development Assessment Panel (which would be the ‘normal decision-makers’).

The process will have a 120-day determination timeframe, which seeks to address criticism with the length of time taken by the temporary SDAU process. This period will include mandatory public advertising, referral to the relevant local government and consultation with any other government agency or body considered relevant by the WAPC.

We have noted the following with interest in our review of the Amendments:

  • The WAPC may determine a significant development application even if the application conflicts with the provisions of a planning instrument (e.g. Local Planning Scheme) if it is of the opinion that:
    • The application raises issues of State or regional importance and determination is in the public interest; or
    • The local planning scheme is more than 10 years old and has not been subject to a review over this period; or
    • The conflict is considered minor in nature, and the proposal is otherwise consistent with the general intent of the broader State planning framework and the relevant local planning strategy.
  • The Premier, on advice of the Minister, may give authorisation for an application which does not meet the definition of significant development to be considered and determined by the WAPC in the same manner as if it did meet the definition.
  • The pathway only applies to applications for determination under a local planning scheme, and not those to be determined in areas subject to improvement schemes, redevelopment schemes, planning control areas or other specified Acts (e.g. Hope Valley-Wattleup Redevelopment Act 2000).
  • The Act provides that some development types may ultimately become ‘mandatory’ through the significant development pathway, but for the purpose of the draft Regulations there are no mandatory application types currently listed. This may be amended further at some point if there is seen to be benefit in identifying mandatory application types.

We very much support the introduction of a permanent significant development pathway, as the success of the temporary pathway demonstrates that this is a highly advantageous addition to our planning system and will assist in attracting investment to WA and streamlining much needed property development. One item to keep an eye on will be application fees. In an earlier draft of this reform, application fees had been slated at close to $100,000.

Learn more about the major Planning Reforms to accelerate housing delivery