Industry News, News, Western Australia

WA government pivots to create flexible planning response

The Western Australian government has made changes which are now in effect, to planning and development regulations which provide for the continuation of essential public services in a State of Emergency.

As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, the McGowan Government said that it has been working to identify legislative and regulatory measures that would better support urgent decision making. In a statement, the Government said that this would enable it to have the flexibility to best serve the Western Australian community.

Planning changes

Amendments to the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015, provide the Minister for Planning Rita Saffioti with authority to temporarily override requirements and conditions set out in a local planning scheme, and existing conditions in planning approvals.

This could include exemptions relating to noise or amenity restrictions that guide supermarket deliveries, waste and recycling services and construction activities, and take-away and retail delivery services among other locally driven compliance requirements.

Under the amendments, the minister can issue a notice to suppress local scheme provisions for a single council, across a specific region or across the State.

“These are unprecedented times and the McGowan Government has been working to identify extraordinary measures that can support urgent decision making and ensure we can appropriately provide and care for the Western Australian community.

“In a State of Emergency, these regulatory changes will provide the Government with an important mechanism to safeguard the supply of essential goods and services, help maintain civil order and lessen the administrative requirement for local councils in favour of direct frontline support in their communities.

“We have seen in recent weeks the community response to this health crisis and its impact on our key services – and we have mobilised quickly to accommodate the increase in demand.

“We need to keep the trucks rolling and the shutters open, and while there might be some short-term inconvenience, we need greater flexibility, speed and a higher degree of co-ordination around our planning regulations to prioritise these services, at this time,” Saffioti said.

Digital access to plans

The regulations also provide for streamlined advertising and decision-making processes. In this COVID-19 crisis, where strict social distancing protocols are enforced, this provides for digital access to plans and safer means of public inspection rather than inviting community members to venture away from home and visit physical buildings.

A State of Emergency must be declared for these new regulatory provisions to have effect.

The Minister thanked the Western Australian Local Government Association and all local councils for their collaboration and responsiveness to bring these regulatory changes into reality and across all COVID-19 response matters in recent weeks.

“These powers would provide for a higher order of community service in the face of an emergency and are not about circumventing public input in our planning processes.

“All West Australians benefit from strong collaboration between State and local government, and this is a good example of introducing greater flexibility in our planning system when and where it is warranted,”  Saffioti added.