The West Australian

Special powers to be used to slash development red tape.

State of emergency powers have been enacted to extend all development approvals by two years in a bid to help the economic recovery.

The blanket extension, put in place by Planning Minister Rita Saffioti, applies to all residential and commercial developments, regardless of when they were due to expire.

The change potentially doubles the period of time builders and developers now have to act on their approved plans. Ms Saffioti, pictured, has also slashed red tape on a raft of other restrictions, including prohibitions on approved use of business and limits on takeaways. Under the changes, businesses will be able to change their approved use without going through an official process, which means restaurants and cafes can set up as takeaway-only outlets, in contravention of some existing planning schemes.

While most development proposals will still have to go through the regular approval process, some temporary facilities will be able to skip them altogether, such as medical or health-related facilities responding to the pandemic.

Most proposals will still have to go through regular council approval but it will now be possible for the council to limit their advertisement of the plans to their website, instead of sending letters to affected residents.

It will also be possible to move workplaces and commercial cars into residential areas without seeking specific approvals.

Ms Saffioti said she would consider further exemptions as the need arose.

“It is a commonsense approach to enable State and local government to respond immediately to changing circumstances and ensure that essential services are not held up by unnecessary
rules and regulations,” she said.

“It also ensures restaurants and cafes can easily change their businesses to takeaway only and not be deemed illegal under the planning scheme. This provides them the best possible opportunity to trade through this COVID-19 period.”

The Urban Development Institute of Australia welcomed the changes, particularly the extension of development approvals, which it said would help the industry ramp up once in the recovery phase.

But chief executive Tanya Steinbeck said further reform was needed.

“If we can accelerate the planning reform initiatives that were in the pipeline prior to the COVID-19 crisis and look at how project approvals could assist in a rapid economic recovery, we will be on the front foot,” she said.

Opposition leader Liza Harvey said she supported any reasonable measure that would help small businesses.

“Unnecessary red tape can be the enemy of enterprise and this is a time to make sure we support businesses keeping people employed and plan for a future after COVID-19,” she said.