Taylor Burrell Barnett

Reforms to Determination of Applications for Single Houses

TBB Reacts: Major Planning Reforms to accelerate housing delivery

These reform measures are relatively simple but are significant and likely beneficial for ‘mum and dad’ applicants.

Through an amendment to the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015, all local governments in Western Australia will be required to determine applications for single houses (or any ancillary structures or modifications to single houses) under delegated authority (via the Chief Executive Officer or other delegated officer) and not by the Council. The exception to this is where those single houses are identified as heritage protected places.

This means that no longer will elected members waste valuable time debating the merits or impacts of relatively trivial matters like boundary setbacks, building height or overshadowing. These matters will be considered and determined by qualified and experienced town planners within the local government, freeing up the time of the elected members to focus on more significant strategic and statutory planning matters.

TBB broadly supports this measure and considers decision making is best placed in the hands of professionals. This reform must be carefully monitored to ensure decision making is sound and the intended outcomes are achieved. With the added responsibility of staff, the possibility exists that decision making could become conservative for fear of disappointing or upsetting elected members. It will also mean that planners in the decision-making role could be open to more public scrutiny.

Finally, there is a real prospect of Councils adopting very restrictive policies which could constrain delegated decisions. For now, our hope is that broader local government reforms will work in conjunction with this reform to reduce timeframes and reduce political influence on simple applications. It is also essential that the R-Codes are updated to remove allowances where local governments can reduce permissible heights, introduce excessive setback requirements and modify various other controls through local planning policies without WAPC approval.

Learn more about the major Planning Reforms to accelerate housing delivery