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Long-awaited changes to Perth urban planning ‘token’: councils

DAPs’ planning decisions have generated vocal debate in rapidly expanding Perth over the past year, which has intensified as the state election approaches. Photo: Robert ShakespeareChanges to Perth’s planning system have been described as “token” and “window dressing” by campaigners who believe the system is rubber-stamping poor quality buildings.
Nanjing Night Net

Planning Minister Donna Faragher on Thursday announced changes to the Development Assessment Panel (DAP) system, which has suffered a major backlash from the public and the local councils whose planning powers it has largely taken over.

In response, Ms Faragher announced agendas would now be published seven days before a meeting, instead of five, to allow the public more notice.

Each person who has provided a written submission to a development proposal in their area will also be notified when the meeting is taking place. More information will be available around reasons for decisions.

She said the changes would ensure the system was flexible and responsive, and decisions clearer.

Subiaco councillor Julie Matheson, who has led an energetic ‘scrap the DAP’ campaign, said the changes were “just window dressing on a flawed system” that lacked accountability, transparency and community engagement.

“Significantly, the Minister is seeking powers to remove DAP members who do not undertake appropriate DAP training. This is not what the community wants. The damage is done once DAP members approve a development,” she said.

“The community want powers given to the Minister to overturn DAP decisions which ignore Town Planning Schemes and local policies. There are more than 50 DAP decisions approving outrageous developments without any scrutiny or accountability.

“The Minister in her statement claimed that developments ‘must comply with the town planning scheme’ yet she lacks any power to enforce compliance or overturn a decision.”

The WA Local Government Association, which has also campaigned strongly against the DAP system, though it recently stopped short of an official endorsement of Ms Matheson’s campaign, also said the changes were superficial and would not address concerns.

WA Local Government Association President Cr Lynne Craigie said the ‘token’ changes increased, rather than reduced, red tape burdening councils and calls for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis had gone unheard.

Feedback from members had revealed significant concerns about the strategic intent and effectiveness of the DAP’s system, but the changes proposed were merely administrative.

Cr Craigie said questions remained around the relevance and effectiveness of the system, with limited DAP resources being focused on minor planning matters, rather than matters of State significance.

“The current system is getting overrun with everyday applications such as petrol stations and fast food outlets with a staggering 258 DAP meetings held over the last financial year”, she said.

“Many of these applications currently considered by DAPs align with Council recommendations and take longer to determine than through a Council-led process.”

Cr Craigie said WALGA had been advocating for ministerial call-in powers and changes to the opt-in system to reduce this unnecessary pressure and refocus the process with its original purpose of strategic high-level vision rather than day-to-day development applications.

It remained committed to working with the government on ways to deliver “genuine improvements.”

In announcing the changes on Thursday, Ms Faragher repeated earlier assertions that DAPs had delivered an additional level of technical expertise to the State’s planning system since their introduction in 2011 and provided a level of certainty and confidence that decisions would be made on the basis of proper and orderly planning.

“The system has been comprehensively reviewed twice in the last five years and today’s changes will ensure DAPs continue to provide the best planning outcomes possible for Western Australia,” she said.

Changes at a glanceProvide an option to opt-out of a DAP in favour of a local government for developments, such as industrial warehouses, that will not significantly impact local amenity. DAP agendas will be published at least seven days before a meeting – instead of the current five days – to provide greater advance notice to the public.Local governments will be required to proactively contact each person who has provided a written submission in relation to a DAP application, to inform them of when the meeting will take place.Responsible authority reports to include more information about why decisions can be made, to ensure that the decision-making process is clearly communicated and can be better understood.DAP members and local governments to be provided with more governance support, where required.DAP presiding members will be able to intervene in the ‘stop-the-clock’ process if parties disagree about the level of information that has been provided for an application.Provide proponents with the option to choose between a local government or a DAP when requesting an amendment to a minor aspect of an existing development approval (Form 2). Empower the Minister for Planning to remove DAP members who do not undertake the appropriate DAP training.The maximum term of office for DAP members can be extended if a vacancy is waiting to be filled.Add a reference to the DAP regulations that all Form 2 minor amendment meetings should be open to the public.Changes to the DAP fee structure.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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