THE property sector has been given its first taste of the latest changes to the state’s planning systems, with experienced town planner and urban designer Evan Jones revealing his initial ideas at a recent Urban Development Institute of Australia event.

Mr Jones has worked to deliver a more strategic and streamlined process since his appointment to head the government’s new planning reform team within the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage last November.

Speaking at this month’s UDIA WA event, Mr Jones outlined the initial stages of the planning reform and provided an overview of its imminent timeline.
In March, the team will begin a green paper consultation and comment process, with white paper preparation, including the review of green paper comments, to start in May.

By July, the white paper will be launched for comment, with government approval, adoption and implementation of proposals to follow.

“This is about the planning system of Western Australia; we need the best ideas and best ways forward,” Mr Jones told the event.

“We need to work together more and I think my challenge with the review is to get the systems aligned and responsibilities clear.”

Clarifying state and local planning roles, improving efficiency of planning systems, and reviewing the accountability and transparency of development assessment panels are just some features of the reform’s wish list.

Mr Jones highlighted a range of issues that demonstrated the need for planning reform, including the poor timeliness of state strategic planning, where State Planning Policy 1 was only recently reviewed in 2017 after the last review in 2006.

Another example was the Metropolitan Strategy for Perth and Peel and the related sub-regional plans, which are yet to be finalised and will replace plans endorsed more than 20 years ago.

Local government complexity and inconsistency was another area Mr Jones will seek to improve, with 146 local planning schemes currently applied in 1,065 different zones.

An audit of 20 zones in different local governments showed 278 land uses, with 80 of those used only once.

Mr Jones said these issues and delays in preparing plans and policies had led to long periods of uncertainty for government, developers, communities and small businesses, and had also fuelled controversies and delays in development approvals.

UDIA WA chief executive Allison Hailes said she hoped to see some real results from the current reform agenda. She said an improved system would benefit not just the development industry, but also consumers, who were paying more for land and housing due to the added costs of delays in the system.

“The industry regularly has to navigate a planning system that is too complex and development applications are expected to adhere to often conflicting and contradictory requirements from a range of government agencies,” Ms Hailes said.

“In particular, land-use planning policy is multi-layered, conflicting and often fails to balance the competing demands of environmental, economic and social development effectively.

“The current system does not encourage innovation and the Perth region deserves better.”