More “significant developments” set to hold tickets for the government’s special planning pathway

01 July 2020

Last month we looked at WA’s planning shake up. Here’s what’s happened since…

The Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020 was passed by both houses of WA Parliament last week and is set to become new law.

After a quick passage through both houses over the last month, including debate of a number of amendments in the Upper House, the Legislative Assembly agreed to all the amendments last Wednesday.

A key change is the type of “significant development” that will have access to the new streamlined WAPC approvals process.

Now, instead of requiring developments to be worth at least $30 million and reach net lettable area and dwelling number thresholds for automatic qualification, a “significant development” will include:

  • A development wholly or partly in the metropolitan area with an estimated cost of $20 million or more; and
  • A development outside of the metropolitan area with an estimated cost of $5 million or more.

References to net lettable area and dwelling numbers have been entirely removed.

Minister Saffioti said “[p]eople in the commercial building area believed that the 20,000 square metres net lettable area and $30 million was basically too high a threshold for projects to fall under. There was also my concern and that of the Premier that reliance on the other pathway [i.e. the Premier’s parallel power to refer developments of State or regional importance to WAPC] would be too heavily utilised as more and more people would try to use that pathway rather than under an automatic pathway.” (Hansard (uncorrected), 24 June 2020, p.16)

Another important change is that projects utilising this special approval pathway must now substantially commence their work within 24 months, rather than 48 months (if another timeframe is not set in the approval).

Last week, the Environment Minister, the Hon Stephen Dawson, also provided some guidance on the criteria for that “other” (Premier-referred) pathway to WAPC. The Minister confirmed that criteria being considered by the Government includes:

  • Public interest – is there a need for urgency and would public interest be served by the referral?
  • Jobs – does the project create local jobs during planning and construction phases? Will the project result in jobs on an ongoing basis?
  • Investment certainty – to what extent is funding for the project secured? Is finance for the project fully committed?
  • Constraints – are there key site or other constraints that mean it is unlikely that a determination can be made within the usual time frame? Are there flooding, bushfire, contamination or ecology concerns? Can these be resolved or suitably mitigated?
  • Timing – can a decision on the project be made quickly? Can the project commence within 6 months of receiving approval?
  • Public benefit – can the project deliver or support the delivery of public benefits – for example, affordable housing or significant public space?

If you would like to discuss the planning reform or talk about whether your project could qualify for the significant development approval pathway, please do not hesitate to contact us.

This article was written by Lucy Shea, Partner, and Yvette Khoo, Associate.


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