Opinion piece written by UDIA WA CEO Tanya Steinbeck, published in The West Australian

Controversy in Cottesloe hit another peak recently when the WA Planning Commission approved a $22.8 million apartment development on Marine Parade via the State Development Assessment Unit pathway.

I accept there is a perception by some in the community that the pathway sidelines their views. However, let’s consider the facts. Each application to the SDAU is advertised for public comment. All submissions are considered in the context of making a broader strategic assessment in the public interest and the broader economic, social and environmental benefits that can be delivered for the State.

There must be due regard for the local planning framework, all regulatory agencies and the State Design Review Panel.

The Cottesloe project went through several design revisions and two rounds of public advertising before getting the final nod. The reality is you are never going to please everyone. Thankfully, the intent and positive outcomes being delivered by the temporary SDAU process will not be lost.

A Special Matters Development Assessment Panel is set to be established to consider complex proposals that provide significant tourism or other unique features and benefits to the economy, liveability and the community.

UDIA has recommended in our submission on phase two of the Government’s planning reform agenda, that the proposed SMDAP replicates the SDAU in managing the assessment of State significant development projects and ensures the responses of individual referral agencies are co-ordinated to align with strategic objectives.

I believe our industry and the community are aligned when we ask for greater consistency and transparency around decision-making, which a single decision-making body of this nature has a better chance of delivering.

Calls to “scrap the DAPs” are born out of frustration from those who feel their views are not adequately represented in the decision-making process. However, often this occurs because compliance is sought with outdated local planning schemes that do not reflect community needs or the State Government’s infill policy.

Alternatively, when decisions are made within the law by experts who understand the complex nature of our planning system, it is often challenged by those who don’t have the same level of understanding. That is why greater education and communication is needed.

We need transparent, clear, timely and well-considered decisions that stay out of the State Administrative Tribunal and Supreme Court. Utopian perhaps, but idealism needs to be met with realism to achieve true progress.