Planning reforms to encourage WA COVID-19 recovery

WA’s planning system will be simplified in new reforms that will boost the state’s economic recovery from COVID-19, the McGowan Government has revealed.

The State Government announced the changes which are urgently being brought forward to create new job opportunities and protect WA jobs.

As part of the reforms, a series of amendments to planning legislation and regulations will cut red tape and increase support for small businesses.

The first initiative will introduce a new development application process for significant, job-creating projects for the next 18 months.

Projects will include those estimated at a cost of $30 million or more, residential dwelling proposals with 100 or more dwellings and commercial developments with a minimum 20,000sqm or commercial floor space.

Regional tourism projects that considered important to assist in the COVID-19 recovery will also be considered.

The initiative will be made effective when the legislation is passed.

The Western Australian Planning Commission will be the decision-maker for the projects.

A new Special Matters Development Assessment Panel will be created after the initial 18-month period based on a similar model.

Further proposed changes will provide flexibility for small businesses, improve community engagement and increase exemptions or approval.

The planning reforms will include initiatives responding to community and stakeholder feedback.

It will include abolishing change of use approvals for different types of small business, exempt a wider range of small residential projects, abolish onerous requirements for small businesses to pay cash-in-lieu for parking shortfalls up to 10 bays and improve community consultation.

Premier Mark McGowan said the reforms were “long overdue.”

“It’s once-in-a-lifetime reform that will leave a long lasting legacy for our State, while driving much-needed economic activity in the wake of COVID-19,” Mr McGowan said.

“These reforms will cut red tape, support small businesses, create more jobs and deliver an overall better outcome for our community.”

He said the changes will “support projects that shape our communities.”

“The economic impacts of COVID-19 are devastating, we need projects that have investment certainty and are ready for construction and a planning system that lets business do business,” Mr McGowan said.

Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said it introduced “long term improvements to our planning system.”

“Western Australia needs a planning system that promotes smart growth, is robust, contemporary and easy to navigate, and recognises the importance of community engagement early in the planning process,” Mrs Saffioti said.

“The proposals within this Bill will bring a long-awaited overhaul of the State planning framework. We have a genuine opportunity to remove barriers and red tape for small business, local government and developers and enable them to get back to work.”

Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier and Planning Minister John Carey said small businesses were a “big winner.”

“Too often new small businesses have been hit with long and burdensome planning approval processes to set up a new café or restaurant or business enterprise. Our changes will cut red tape and costs,” Mr Carey said.

“For the first time, we will introduce visual representation of proposed developments on site, and mandate State wide community consultation processes, which includes a simple radius model for engagement.”

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