On Tuesday UDIA WA hosted an exclusive Member Briefing featuring Kathy Bonus, Chief Planning Advisor at the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage providing a detailed insight into the Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020.  The presentation and subsequent Q&A session proved invaluable to the more than 160 online attendees who were keen to learn more about the detail of the new legislation.

Ms Bonus started with an overview of the various planning reforms that have taken place over the past 20 years including the most recent Action Plan for Planning Reform which was released last August.

The Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020 was created to implement several of the reforms under the action plan. The Bill has been brought forward to assist with economic recovery, by streamlining the pathway for development projects.

A primary focus of the legislation is the facilitation of a pathway for significant developments whereby the WAPC will be granted extraordinary powers for a period of 18 months to assess development applications without being bound by the normal constraints of a planning decision maker such as planning schemes or other regulations.

Ms Bonus advised there will be two ways a project can be assessed by the Commission. The first is through a direct application where a project meets the required criteria as a ‘significant development’.

Secondly, a request can be made to the Planning Minister to recommend to the Premier that a specific development application be assessed through the significant development pathway.

The Minister will only make that recommendation to the Premier if she’s of the view that the proposal is a State or regional significance. This is aimed at encouraging regional and tourism developments that can add benefit to the local economy and community.

Ms Bonus highlighted that while the assessment process is outlined in the bill, it does not put forward any timeframes on the Commission’s capacity to assess the application given the likely complexity of the development applications.

She suggested that while the current planning legislation sets a 90-day period, there may be a large number of conditions that need to be met in order to achieve full approval, which can lead to timeframes upwards of 18 months from the date the initial planning application was put in before work can officially commence.

Rather than providing a decision within 90 days with a number of conditions, the Commission will ensure all of the relevant agencies will be in place at the right time to provide information as required.

“The decision of the Commission might take a bit longer, perhaps 100 or 120 days, but you might be putting your shovel in the ground within six months, not 18 months’ time,” Ms Bonus explained.

“I encourage you to look at how this process works from the date of application. That date that you launch your application, through to actually starting your construction, rather than just the narrow interpretation of the date of application through the date that the decision is received. Because we all know a lot of time is actually spent from the decision being received, sorting out the conditions to actually starting your construction.”

Ms Bonus said once the Commission has made a decision, it would own the decision in perpetuity because in making a decision, the Commission will take into account methods that are outside of the normal parameters of a planning decision. And so, therefore, almost certainly will impose conditions that are not within the confines of a normal planning decision.

This means that a decision made by the Commission will not be undone by a local government that is bound by its own planning scheme rules and regulations.

Ms Bonus went on to explain further details of how the Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020 will impact the planning space following its anticipated endorsement by Parliament at the end of July.  Importantly, the Commission will not extend the timeframe of an approval if a project does not implement or get to substantial commencement within the set timeframe.

“You cannot apply for an application to extend the timeline of that approval,” Ms Bonus said. “You can apply to amend the condition or to amend the plan, but not to extend it.

“The other significant part in part two of the bill is a new part 18 of the Act. And that actually gives an additional two years extension of time to approved subdivisions. That two years is dating from the date that the state of emergency was declared.”

Following Ms Bonus’s presentation, she answered a raft of questions that came in from the more than 160 registered attendees which proved highly valuable to participants.

We would like to thank Kathy Bonus for providing this important information to our members and to CLE Town Planning + Design for sponsoring and hosting this Member Briefing.