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Planning instruments used across the WA Planning System

Legislation and regulations that make up the planning framework in Western Australia.

Legislative reference Planning and Development Act 2005, Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

The Western Australian planning framework is comprehensive, with many planning instruments that are used across the system.  They are generally broken into the following broad categories:

  • Legislation and regulation
  • Strategic planning and policies
  • Region and local planning schemes
  • Structure plans and precinct plans
  • Subdivision of land
  • Development

Planning legislation and regulations

The Planning and Development Act 2005 sets the scene for planning in Western Australia and aims to achieve an efficient and effective land use planning system that promotes the sustainable use and development of land in the State. The Act forms the basis of the planning system including the role and functions of decision-makers. The Act sets out:

  • functions and powers of the WAPC (Part 2)
  • how State planning policies, region planning schemes, interim development orders, planning control areas, and improvement plans and schemes are prepared (Part 3)
  • arrangements for Region and local planning schemes (Parts 4 & 5)
  • planning instruments Interim Development Orders, Planning Control Areas and Improvement Plans and Schemes (Parts 6,7 & 8)
  • how subdivision and development of land is to occur (Part 10)
  • how compensation is paid where land is affected by a planning action (Part 11)
  • financial provisions (Part 12) 
  • enforcement and legal proceedings (Part 13) 
  • how applications may be reviewed (Part 14)
  • defines the State’s planning regions (Schedules 5 & 6) and
  • defines the matters that may be dealt with in a planning scheme (Schedule 7)

A range of regulation sits underneath the Act. Regulations are typically the ‘nuts and bolts’ of planning matters set out in the Act. For instance, the Act sets out the concept of local planning schemes, and the associated regulations go into more detail about the procedures and implementation of schemes.

These regulations set out:
  • planning requirements for use of some State land (Part 2)
  • procedures for dealing with subdivision applications (and other applications) and matters to be considered (Part 3)
  • procedures for compensation and acquisition (Part 4)
  • enforcement and legal proceedings (including the issue of infringement notices for certain breaches of planning schemes or planning approvals and other matters) (Part 5) and
  • local governments fees for provision of planning services (Part 7)
The Planning and Development (Development Assessment Panels) Regulations 2011 (known as DAP Regulations) outlines the detail around DAPs, including:
  • the types of applications eligible for referral to DAPs
  • composition and membership of DAPs
  • procedural matters
  • reporting on DAP operations and
  • fees and forms associated with DAP applications

These regulations are to implement planning reforms related to DAPS and will achieve:

  • Reduction of the number of DAP panels from five to three (Metro-inner, Metro-outer and Regional)
  • Appointment of qualified and experienced professionals, on a full or part time, fixed term basis with no changes to current local Council representation
  • Removing most exclusions on applications including allowing all multiple and grouped dwelling developments over $2 million to be determined by a DAP
  • Removing mandatory application thresholds making DAPs a completely opt-in process for any development over $2 million, with standard exclusions such as single homes still applying

These regulations are to support changes to the Planning and Development Act 2005 to establish the significant development pathway as an ongoing part of the WA planning system (Part 11B). The main thing the regulations will do is set out a range of procedures and processes for the significant development pathway including eligibility criteria, timeframe for determination and other assessment processes.

Further reading

Planning and Development Amendment Act 2023 and Associated Regulations

These regulations are very significant in the Western Australian planning system, as they control the arrangements around local planning strategies and schemes, structure plans and development for all local governments. The intent of this regulation is to have a consistent Statewide approach to planning processes and procedures. Due to their significance, and also their long name, they are often described as the Regulations or Regs.

When introduced in 2015, the Regulations implemented planning reforms by:

  • establishing a risk-based approach for local planning scheme amendments, categorising them as either basic, standard or complex with different processes and consultation requirements applying to each
  • updating the Model provisions that set out the structure and administrative content for local schemes and
  • introducing a set of Deemed provisions that were automatically applied to all local planning schemes. The Deemed provisions cannot be altered, varied or excluded.  Where there may be a conflict between the provisions and a scheme, the provisions prevail. The provisions include:
    • uniform processes and procedures to schemes, such as structure plan preparation and development assessment and
    • exemptions from the requirement to obtain development approval for certain uses and development, including single houses where the R-Codes apply

The Regulations also set out the arrangements for:

  • preparation, advertising and adoption of local planning strategies (Part 3) 
  • preparation, adoption, amendment and review of local planning schemes (Parts 4, 5 and 6) 
  • development contribution areas and plans (Part 7)
  • model provisions for local planning schemes (Schedule 1) 
  • mandatory (Deemed) provisions for local planning schemes which are automatically read into all planning schemes (Schedule 2)
  • a common set of general and land use definitions (mostly within the Model and Deemed provisions) and 
  • a set of standard forms relating to development approval (also within Schedule 2)

Further reading

Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

To ensure the planning system meet contemporary needs and expectations, the system needs to be kept under review. Planning reform is a significant undertaking as it requires amendments to legislation and/or the introduction of new legislation, which needs to pass through both houses of Parliament.

The Western Australian Government released its Action Plan for Planning Reform in 2019 and has been delivering this through a staged program, often described as a tranche (a portion of something). The first tranche of legislative reform was introduced through the Planning and Development Amendment Act 2020 which established a temporary pathway for significant development through the WAPC to support the State’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The second tranche of reform was announced in February 2023, and the Planning and Development Bill 2023 received Royal assent on 11 December 2023. This legislation came into effect on 1 March 2024. It focused on creating a permanent assessment pathway for significant development proposals, finalising changes to the Development Assessment Panel system and reviewing the WAPC’s structure and operation. 

Further reading

Planning Reform

Planning Reform Program

Planning and Development Amendment Act 2023 and Associated Regulations

Development Assessment Panel Reforms and Significant Development Pathway

Strategic planning and policies 

Legislative reference Section 14 Planning and Development Act 2005

Strategic planning sets out a long-term vision or intent for an area of the State or establishes a position on a planning issue. Strategic planning makes sure Western Australia has allocated land to meet the needs of residents (and future residents), visitors, the environment, business, industry, tourism, health, education, essential services, agriculture and so on. It also makes sure that future planning decisions will work towards the same aims, and it forms the basis for most planning decisions.

State planning strategy and policies

The WAPC is required to prepare and keep under review a planning strategy for Western Australia. The State Planning Strategy 2050 contemplates planning for Western Australia as part of its broader economic, social and environmental context, both in Australia and globally. The strategy provides a basis for Government to plan for the State’s physical and social infrastructure, environment, food security, land availability, economic development, housing accessibility, security, education and training.

There are six principles that underpin and inform the State Planning Strategy: 

  • Community - enable diverse, affordable, accessible and safe communities
  • Economy - facilitate trade, investment, innovation, employment and community betterment
  • Environment – conserve the State’s natural assets through sustainable development
  • Infrastructure – ensure infrastructure supports development 
  • Regional Development – build the competitive and collaborative advantages of the regions and 
  • Governance – build community confidence in the development processes and practices

Further reading 

State planning strategy 2050

The WAPC is required to prepare and keep under review planning policies as a basis to co-ordinate and promote land use planning, transport planning and land development in a sustainable manner, and for the guidance of public authorities and local governments on these matters. State Planning Policies are powerful polices, due to their legislative base, and because they must be applied by decision-makers and given effect in local planning strategies and schemes. 

As the name suggests, State Planning Policies focus on matters of State significance, or where there is a need for a co-ordinated or Statewide approach to a planning issue. There are approximately 30 of these policies in operation and the first one – the State Planning Framework – sets a framework which outlines all the State and regional policies, plans, strategies and guidelines which apply to land use and development in Western Australia. SPP 1 also establishes the key principles for land-use planning and development that should apply across the State, consistent with the State Planning Strategy.

Legislative reference Part 3 Planning and Development Act 2005

Further reading

State planning policies

The Residential Design Codes (known as the R-Codes) are a planning code that provide a comprehensive basis for the guidance and control of residential development in Western Australia. The R-Codes are read into every local planning scheme by reference and set out the basis for residential development standards.   

The R-Codes are split into two volumes; Volume 1 applies to all single houses and grouped dwellings and some mid-rise apartments; Volume 2 applies to apartments in higher density areas such as activity centres. The R-Codes include standards for matters such as lot sizes, setbacks from lot boundaries, building height, landscaping, visual privacy, dwelling amenity and the extent of site cover permitted on each lot.   

The most significant function of the R-Codes is to define residential density, which controls the scale of residential development in an area or suburb. R-Coding/density codes control the number of dwellings permitted to be built per hectare (10,000m²). For example, if an area of land is zoned ‘Residential R30’ it means that the permitted residential density is 30 dwellings per hectare in that area. R-Codes range from R1 to R100+, and there are different design and planning considerations for different types of dwellings.  

Early residential development in Perth was based on the former ‘quarter acre block’ which is just over 1,000m². This means that most of the historic settlement in Western Australia occurred at a density of R10 (10 dwellings per hectare). However, with improved servicing (deep sewerage) and increased demand for housing, many suburbs and towns are developed at R30 or above standard.  

There may also be higher densities in better serviced areas such as in and around activity centres and in proximity to high frequency public transport. Site area concessions apply throughout the policy to permit a slight increase in density where small and accessible dwellings are proposed. The concessions apply to incentivise housing diversity throughout the State, a key objective of the planning code and to support accommodating Perth and Peel at 3.5 million people.   

Further reading

State Planning Policy 7.3 - Residential Design Codes

Not all policies are as significant or wide-ranging as State planning policies, so the WAPC makes other policies for specific or more detailed planning matters which guide decision-makers in their exercise of discretion. Context is important when applying these policies, as their relevance may vary across Western Australia.

The WAPC has a range of development control policies known as operational policies which are used to guide decision-making on subdivision and development applications. These policies are categorised by land-use types and provide detailed guidance and deal with subjects such as the general principles for subdivision, residential subdivision, industrial subdivision, subdivision of rural land, public open space, school sites and many that relate to the function and design of roads.

Further reading

Development control and operational policies

As the name suggests, position statements provide advice and interpretation on legislation, planning practice, subdivision and development control, and emerging or niche planning topics. Position statements can be prepared in a short period of time and are useful where guidance is needed in a hurry. The WAPC has published position statements on topics such as electric vehicle charging infrastructure, dark sky and astrotourism, workforce accommodation, short term rental accommodation and container deposit scheme infrastructure.

Further reading

Position Statements

The WAPC’s policies are supported by a variety of planning guidelines and manuals to assist with implementation. These provide detailed guidance on the application of WAPC policies and requirements. Some examples include acid sulphate soils; designing out crime; WAPC leases, licences, agreements and option guidelines; lifting of urban deferment; local planning strategies; and closure of public access ways. These documents are intended to operate as “how to” guides.

Fact sheets are published from time to time to provide information on certain types of planning matters where the planning implications aren’t immediately obvious or known by the planning industry. These are often prepared when there is legislative or policy change, to set out relevant information, particularly where there may be cross-agency issues. Examples include fibre ready telecommunications, piggeries, outbuildings (sheds), special entertainment precincts and tree farms. Fact sheets are policy neutral and not for use in decision-making. 

Further reading

Planning fact sheets, manuals and guidelines

As well as its Statewide responsibility to co-ordinate and promote land use in a sustainable manner, the WAPC also must keep under review strategic planning for the metropolitan region and any other part of the State to which a region planning scheme applies. These documents anticipate future land use needs in a 20+ year timeframe, looking strategically at the likely demand for housing, services and transport infrastructure, ecosystem function, environmental protection, economic opportunities. These issues need to be balanced with cultural, societal and heritage values, as planning is not just a technical endeavour.

The Perth and Peel at 3.5 million suite of documents provides a pathway for metropolitan Perth and the Peel region to reach a population of 3.5 million people by around 2050. The WAPC has also prepared regional planning and infrastructure frameworks for the State’s regions outside of Perth. In addition, the WAPC prepares sub-regional strategies and district structure plans in areas where greater co-ordination is required. A good example of this is the East Wanneroo District Structure Plan, which is a future urban area with multiple land ownership and environmental issues. The WAPC is co-ordinating planning in that area due to the challenges involved in developing the area for urban use.

Legislative reference section 14 Planning and Development Act 2005

Further reading

Perth and Peel @ 3.5 million frameworks

Regional planning and infrastructure frameworks

Regional and sub-regional strategies

East Wanneroo District Structure Plan

The WAPC is the State demographer and carries out population forecasting for Western Australia at a greater level of detail (to local government level) than the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which forecasts at a State and national level. Forecasting and modelling data generated by the WAPC is used to inform agencies involved with a range of public services including education, transport, health, police, water, power, housing and community services. Predicted population change allows agencies to plan for future community needs including physical facilities (places and infrastructure) and human services (doctors, nurses, police, social workers, therapists etc).

Part of co-ordinating and promoting sustainable land use is making sure Western Australia has enough land to meet community and business demand. The WAPC carries out research and investigation to assist people involved in future planning. This includes publications on land supply analysis, land use and employment surveys, lot activity statistics (lots approved and created and where), housing industry forecasting and economic and employment lands. The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage has a dedicated data analytics team that produces a range of data on land and lot activity, as well as spatial data (maps), some of which is available on the web-based mapping tool, PlanWA.

Further reading

Land supply and demography

Western Australia Tomorrow population forecasts


Schemes and zoning of land 

One of the terms spoken of frequently in land use planning is ‘zoning’. Zoning is essentially the colouring in of a map, which establishes a statutory planning control that decides what specific areas of land can be used for. It involves broad land use categories such as residential, commercial, industrial, or public open space. A scheme text goes into greater detail about the types of land uses (eg shop, liquor store, café, vet, hotel/motel) that can be developed in those zones. 

Zoning of land and scheme text can also establish development controls such as requirements for car parking bays, distance from lot boundaries, heights. Schemes are statutory planning instruments, but there is some flexibility in how they can be applied. This is because a scheme cannot cater for every single development scenario, and decision-makers need to consider the purpose and intent of scheme controls to make good decisions.

In Western Australia there are two types of schemes

  • region schemes prepared by the WAPC and
  • local schemes that are prepared by local governments

Region Schemes

Legislative reference Part 4 – Planning and Development Act 2005

The purpose of a region schemes is to set out requirements for land use and development across a wide area, particularly where local government co-ordination is required. Schemes provide a statutory mechanism to implement strategic planning, by setting out broad land use zones, setting aside areas for regional open space and other regional infrastructure purposes, and assisting in coordinating the provision of major infrastructure like highways and rail lines. Region planning schemes can also preserve and acquire land for public purposes. 

Where a region scheme is in place, local planning schemes must be consistent with them. If there is an inconsistency, the region scheme prevails over the local planning scheme. There are currently three region schemes in Western Australia:

The Metropolitan Region Scheme has its origins from Hepburn and Stephenson's 1955 Plan for the Metropolitan Region, Perth and Fremantle. It has been in place since 1963 and has been used to set aside much of Perth’s foreshore and coastal reserves, regional parks (like Araluen, Yellagonga, Whiteman Park) and the strategic road network including the Mitchell and Kwinana Freeways, Tonkin Highway and Roe Highway. 

Further reading Metropolitan Region Scheme

Metropolitan Region Improvement Tax

The acquisition of land reserved under the MRS is funded by a land tax called the Metropolitan Region Improvement Tax. The MRIT is a special purpose tax introduced in 1959, which forms part of land tax (a tax payable on land assets over $300,000 excluding a primary residence). The funds are used by the WAPC to acquire land for public purposes including public open space, road and railway reserves and environmental conservation. The tax applies only to the metropolitan area and has not been extended to the Peel Region Scheme or Greater Bunbury Scheme areas. Land acquisition outside of the MRS is funded through the State’s budgetary process.

Further reading Land tax assessment

Legislative reference Part 4 Planning and Development Act 2005

The Peel Region Scheme (PRS) defines the future use of land, dividing it into broad zones and reservations. It requires local government town planning schemes to provide detailed plans for their respective parts of the region. These schemes must be consistent with the PRS.

Find out more

The region stretches from Lake Preston in the north, Peppermint Grove Beach in the south, eastwards to Darling Scarp, and covers the City of Bunbury and the shires of Harvey, Dardanup and Capel.

The GBRS defines the future of land use, dividing it into zones and reservations. Local governments are required to provide detailed plans for their part of the region consistent with the GBRS.

Find out more

The WAPC can acquire properties reserved under region schemes for public purposes.

Find out more

Improvement plans are planning instruments that allow the State Government to become the planning authority for a particular area of land where the WAPC and Minister believe special planning arrangements are required. They may also be used for major State projects such as the Metronet rail program.

An improvement plan must be prepared and advertised in the first instance, and this then forms the basis for a scheme to be put in place. An improvement scheme replaces any existing region or local planning scheme and makes the WAPC the decision-maker for development. In the metropolitan region, improvement schemes can also enable the WAPC to acquire land and undertake improvements. However, Improvement plans and schemes can be introduced anywhere in the State.  

Legislative framework – Part 8 Planning and Development Act 2005

Further reading

To see improvement plans and schemes in place in WA:

Improvement plans and schemes

Also Planning fact sheet - Improvement plans and schemes

Local Planning

In the Western Australian planning system, planning instruments with the word ‘local’ in front of them tend to be prepared and implemented by local governments. When preparing these instruments, local governments are required to implement State and regional policy, which means that the documents need to be generally consistent with State planning policies and strategic planning for the area. It is possible for local governments to seek variations to these requirements, but this needs to be supported by a compelling planning rationale. Local planning instruments are an important part of the Western Australian planning system and provide guidance and control for the vast majority of development in the State. All decision-makers must have regard to them.

Further reading

The WAPC publishes local planning instruments for every local government in the State:

Local Planning Strategies, Schemes and Structure Plans

Local governments may also publish planning documents, including local planning policies.

Local planning instruments

A local planning strategy establishes the forward planning intention for local governments and provides the basis for the zoning of land in local planning schemes. When preparing a scheme, a local government is required to prepare a strategy. A local planning strategy must:

  • set out the long-term planning directions for the local government 
  • apply any State or regional planning policy that is relevant to the strategy 
  • provide the rationale for any zoning or classification of land under the local planning scheme and 
  • be prepared in a manner and form approved by the WAPC

Strategies are generally prepared in two parts; Part one comprises the strategies and actions required to implement the strategy; and Part two details the background and planning rationale for the strategy. Strategies should be ‘fit for purpose’ such that they should deal with the issues affecting the local government, rather than taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to planning. Local planning strategies must be advertised for public comment and local governments may elect to do more targeted engagement with the local community eg. town hall meetings, community briefings, workshops etc. 

Following advertising and submissions, local planning strategies are determined by the WAPC. They are an important link between strategic and statutory planning, as they explain the reasoning behind the scheme. While strategies can set out what’s intended to happen in the future, they also need to be flexible, to cater for changes that may arise locally, or if there is an unexpected development proposal that the local government wishes to approve. Strategies can also be amended or reviewed as necessary.

Further reading

Local Planning Strategy Guidelines

Legislative reference – Part 3 Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

Local planning schemes are the principal statutory tool for achieving the development aims and objectives of a local government. They are used by local governments to implement things like residential density, land use permissibility and development controls for setbacks, car parking, landscaping. The main purpose of a local planning schemes is to:

  • set out the local government’s planning aims for the scheme area, and implement the local planning strategy
  • set aside land as reserves for public purposes, in accordance with the aims of the scheme and the local planning strategy
  • zone land within the scheme area in accordance with the aims of the scheme and the local planning strategy and
  • control and guide land use and development in accordance with the aims of the scheme and the objectives of the respective zones and reserves

The content and format of a scheme is informed by the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015 as the scheme has to follow the Model Provisions set out in Schedule 1 of the Regulations. These model provisions establish a standard structure and wording for a scheme to bring about consistency across the State. This is critical given the 137 diverse local governments in Western Australia. Model provisions are applied to schemes when they are updated or amended. The Regulations also include what is known as deemed provisions (Schedule 2 of the Regulations) and these provisions apply to all local planning schemes. Where there is any inconsistency with the local scheme, the deemed provisions prevail. The introduction of the deemed provisions was to bring about consistency for matters such as structure plans, preparation of local planning policies, and to provide development exemptions for certain types of land use and development such as single houses.

Local governments are expected to review or update their local schemes every 10 years.

Legislative reference – Part 5 and Schedule 7 of the Planning and Development Act 2005 and Parts 2 and 4 of the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

Development contribution plans oversee development contributions made by landowners and developers. These plans outline the technical and financial arrangements in situations where land being developed requires major new infrastructure (such as roads, essential services and community facilities) and where multiple parties need to contribute to that infrastructure. Once the plans have been developed and approved, they are given effect in a local planning scheme via a scheme amendment. The intent is for costs to be shared fairly and equitably, and to allow parties who may make ‘up front’ contributions to recoup those costs from future developers. They also allow purchasers of property in those developments to have greater certainty about the provision of community services. They are a tool that can only be used when development is imminent, and likely to occur within five to 10 years. In areas where the demand for land or timing of development is uncertain, they are not a suitable planning instrument.

Further reading

State Planning Policy 3.6 - Infrastructure contributions

Legislative reference – Part 7 Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

Local governments are required to identify places of cultural heritage significance by carrying out a local heritage survey (previously referred to as a municipal or local government inventory). These surveys are the first step to identify sites or places of heritage value, and in order to provide protection to heritage assets, sites to be formally protected need to be included in a heritage list in a local planning scheme.

As the name suggests, a heritage list is used for locally significant heritage, as heritage of State significance is listed on the State register, or subject to a protection order or heritage agreement, which gives them protection under planning legislation.

Legislative reference – Part 3, Deemed Provisions (Schedule 2) Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015, Heritage Act 2018

Further reading

State Planning Policy 3.5 - Historic heritage conservation

Guidelines for establishing a heritage list

The State Register and other heritage listings

Schemes need to be amended from time to time, and a local government may resolve to amend its scheme at its own initiative, or at the request of a landowner or proponent. In rare circumstances, the Minister for Planning may direct a local government to amend their scheme (s76 of the Act). 

When the Regulations were introduced in 2015, they established a ‘risk-based’ approach to scheme amendments that allows less-complex proposals to be determined in a shorter time period, and potentially without the need for public advertising. The three types of amendments are:

  • basic amendment - no advertising required – where the proposal would be of a minor or administrative nature, would bring the scheme in line with the Model or Deemed Provisions, or would implement a State Planning Policy, structure plan or other planning legislation 
  • standard amendment – amendments which are consistent with the local planning strategy, and relate to the changes of zones, reserves and uses within the area
  • complex amendment - an amendment that is inconsistent with a local planning strategy and is of a scale and impact that is significant relative to its locality or relates to a development contribution area. This requires the local government to seek advice from the WAPC prior to advertising

Approximately 200 local scheme amendments are carried out each year across Western Australia, and all require the consent of the Minister for Planning prior to being advertised. Scheme amendments must also be referred to the Environmental Protection Authority to allow a level of assessment to be set (if required). In this way there are checks and balances in the zoning system to prevent unacceptable proposals from proceeding to advertising.

Legislative reference – Part 5 of the Planning and Development Act 2005 and Part 5 of the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

Local planning policies can be prepared by local governments to assist with the exercise of discretion when considering development applications. Local planning policies usually express the local government’s objectives for certain types of development and may set out matters that need to be addressed when applications are made and indicate what types of conditions may be applied. They are usually specific to certain types of development like outbuildings (sheds), streetscape (appearance of buildings and treatment), signs, landscaping or they may apply to a specific area like a shopping centre or suburb. Most local governments have several local planning policies, and larger local governments may have dozens of them.

Local planning policies are a useful tool for local governments to deal with specific issues affecting them. They can establish exemptions for development approval for example, outbuildings that meet ‘x, y and z’ conditions. Local planning policies can be introduced quite quickly compared to other planning instruments and their specificity allows local governments to interrogate detailed mattes where required. The main issue with a local planning policy is that it must be consistent with the scheme. If it is not, that element of the policy is of no effect and cannot be effectively implemented.

Legislative reference – Part 2, Division 2 of Schedule 2 (Deemed Provisions) of the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

A full scheme review is a considerable undertaking, and with assessment and advertising processes, can take up to three years. To assist the way forward with scheme reviews, the Regulations introduced the concept of a ‘health check’ or report of review. This provides for local governments to briefly check the performance of the Scheme and isolate matters that need to be addressed in either a future scheme review, or via amendments to the scheme. Reports of review documents should focus on key issues such as population change, land supply and take-up, subdivision and development activity and determine whether the scheme requires a full review, is functioning as intended, or whether certain elements of the scheme ought to be updated.

The Report of Review also allows the local government to consider whether the local planning framework as a whole is fit for purpose, including the local planning strategy, structure plans and local planning policies. Reports of review, once adopted by the WAPC, set a path forward for local planning, and provide certainty for the parties involved. They are typically prepared every five years. 

Legislative reference – Part 6 Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

Structure plans, precinct plan and others

A structure plan sets out matters that need to be addressed prior to zoning and/or subdivision of an area of land. These plans design the layout to enable future subdivision and development, which includes future land use zones and reserves and estimates of dwelling and population yields. They include major transport and other infrastructure and address environmental issues – this may involve the preparation of specialist technical studies to demonstrate the land is capable of being developed for its intended purpose. The plans are advertised by the local government for public comment and determined and published by the WAPC. Structure plans usually have a lifespan of 10 years, as they are typically used close to the subdivision and development stage. Like most plans, structure plans can be amended and reviewed as required, and proponents may seek a review of WAPC decision-making before the State Administrative Tribunal.

Further reading

WA Planning Manual - Guidance for Structure Plans

Local Planning Strategies, Schemes and Structure Plans

Legislative framework Part 4 Planning and development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

A precinct plan informs future subdivision, zoning and development of an activity centre. Activity centres are identified under State Planning Policy 4.2 and principally apply to centres in the Perth and Peel planning regions. While a precinct plan can set out similar information to that of a structure plan, these types of plans have a much greater focus on urban design and development standards for when the site is developed. These design issues are more relevant to activity centres, especially redevelopment areas where scale, bulk, appearance, landscaping and sequencing of development needs to be addressed.

Similar to a structure plan, a precinct plan is prepared and advertised by the local government for public comment and determined by the WAPC. 

Further reading

State Planning Policy 7.2 - Precinct Design

Legislative reference Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015
Policy reference State Planning Policies 4.2 Activity Centres and 7.2 Precinct Design

Local development plans may be prepared for land that is subdivided and has characteristics that require special attention at development stage. This may include small lots, lots serviced by laneways, narrow lots, lots abutting public open space, or residential lots in mixed-use areas. These plans are intended to address design elements such as building setbacks, building heights, parking and access requirements, and placement of private open space and ancillary dwellings to demonstrate the land is capable of being developed given the site constraints.  

Local development plans are intended to be used for small areas like a street or a cluster of lots, rather than an entire suburb. They are determined by local governments and have the legislative ability to remove requirements for development approval. This gives developers and landowners certainty and a timely process at development stage.

Further reading

Framework for Local Development Plans, WAPC 2015 (constitutes a manner and form document under clause 48 (1)(a) of the Deemed Provisions)

Legislative reference – Part 6 of Schedule 2 – Deemed Provisions – Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

There are up to 280 remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia, and the WAPC’s State Planning Policy 3.2 – Aboriginal settlements, provides a basis for the planning and development of these communities. The objectives of SPP 3.2 are:

  • to provide for the recognition of Aboriginal settlements through local planning schemes and strategies and 
  • to collaboratively plan for the orderly and coordinated development of Aboriginal settlements

Layout plans comprise: a) map-set; b) background report, and c) provisions. They must reflect the growth aspirations of the resident community and traditional owners based on sound planning principles including consideration of known cultural, environmental, economic, tenure and infrastructure constraints, opportunities and requirements. Consultation is a key feature of the preparation of plans which is to be undertaken with the resident community, traditional owners, local government and relevant key agencies and stakeholders.

Layout plans may be amended through the same processes as those undertaken to establish a new one. A local planning scheme is to recognise an Aboriginal settlement by designating the land as a ‘settlement zone’ and provide for development to be in accordance with an endorsed layout plan.

Further reading

State Planning Policy 3.2 Aboriginal settlements

Aboriginal Settlement Layout Plans

Subdivision of land, including strata titles

Landgate is the State agency responsible for registering property ownership and for maintaining information on land titles. However, if a person wishes to alter a land title, through subdivision, amalgamation, relocation of boundaries or to lay out, grant or convey a road, WAPC approval is required. Strata titling of land is also classified as subdivision. The WAPC has this responsibility for freehold land, being land that is alienated from (that is, not owned by) the Crown. This principally concerns land that is in the south west land division – broadly in an arc from Northampton in the north to Ravensthorpe in the south - and for established cities and towns in regional Western Australia. Over 90 per cent of the State is classified as Crown land, which is administered under the Land Administration Act 1997.

The subdivision process is a private one, so it is not subject to public consultation or advertising. This is because leading up to a subdivision, there have typically been many steps involved in identifying the land as being suitable for subdivision, including activities such as strategic planning, zoning and structure planning.

The process for a subdivision decision usually takes 90 days, and follows this general process: 


Application made to WAPC for freehold or strata title subdivision

  • Fees paid
  • Information checked
  • 90-days clock starts ticking


Referral to agencies for advice and to request conditions

  • Referral to agencies (eg. local government, Western Power, Water Corporation, Main Roads) for referral advice in the first 42 days
  • Agencies make recommendations to WAPC
  • If conditions are requested, these are mostly in keeping with the WAPC's Model subdivision conditions schedule


Application is assessed

  • DPLH planning officers assess the application, including referral advice and make a recommendation to the WAPC for the application to be approved, approved with conditions or refused
  • Conditions requested by referral agencies are not always applied, and the WAPC needs to have good reasons for departing from agency advice. If an application needs further investigation, or more information is required, the WAPC and applicant may agree to revise decision date
  • Both parties must agree because if the WAPC does not determine the application within 90 days, it is known as a "deemed refusal" which triggers the applicant's right to seek a review by the State Administrative Tribunal


WAPC decision is issued (preliminary approval)

  • Once the WAPC has determined an application, the applicant and the referral agencies are notified
  • Most applications are approved, which is known as preliminary approval
  • Approval has effect for three years (five lots or less) to four (over five lots) years and may be extended by an addition two years where there are extenuating circumstances
  • If an application is refused, the applicant may either request the WAPC to reconsider its decision (based on new or additional information that was not known at the time of subdivision) or may seek a review of the decision by the State Administrative Tribunal


WAPC final approval

  • A subdivision application become final when the applicant has new land titles drawn up, known as a Deposited Plan or diagram of survey. This plan is lodged with Landgate
  • The applicant must apply to the WAPC for clearance of the Deposited Plan or diagram of survey, and if conditions were applied, include evidence from the referral agencies that the condition has been met
  • Conditions usually involve arrangements for water and power supply, new roads, ceding of land for parks etc
  • The WAPC has 30 days to confirm that the Deposited Plan is consistent with the approved plan of subdivision, and that conditions have been met
  • An applicant can seek a review by the State Administrative Tribunal if the application is not determined within 30 days, or if the WAPC refuses the application
  • Once the WAPC approves a Deposited Plan, the applicant has two years to apply to the Registrar of Titles (Landgate) to have the new land titles issues

Legislative reference – Part 10 of the Planning and Development Act 2005, Planning and Development Regulations 2009

Policy reference - State planning policies, developmental control policies and guidelines

Further reading

Planning subdivision fees and forms

Information about subdivisions, leases and licenses on freehold land, development and property

Strata title is a form of land tenure where portions of a property are owned by some people, and owners also share ownership of ‘common property’, which could range from a driveway to walls, parks, gyms, foyers, car parks etc. Strata titles are used commonly in residential areas where more than one house shares a driveway, and in apartment buildings. Recent changes to the State’s strata title laws provide for multiple layers of strata title (known as community title), where there could be residential and commercial stratas in a single development.

The State’s strata title legislation is managed by Landgate, however establishing, amending or cancelling a strata title is a form of subdivision, and is determined by WAPC. There are two forms of strata subdivision schemes: survey strata schemes; and strata schemes. The way in which the boundaries are defined on the scheme plan determines which of the two schemes are applicable:

  • A survey-strata scheme is defined by surveyed land boundaries. Buildings are not shown on a survey-strata plan, even though there may in fact be buildings on the survey-strata lots. A survey-strata may, or may not, have common property (i.e. a common driveway), and like other forms of strata may also have by-laws and a strata company
  • A strata scheme or 'built strata' refers to the subdivision of a building (by cubic space) and on occasion the land around it into lots

The WAPC has delegated decision-making to local governments to determine certain categories of 'built strata' subdivision.

Legislative reference Strata Titles Act 2020 (administered by Landgate)

Further reading

Development control policy 1.3 Strata titles

Strata reform and land tenure changes

Strata titles | Landgate

Planning subdivision fees and forms

WAPC Fact Sheet Termination of Strata Title Scheme

Western Australian Planning Commission resolutions and instruments of delegation (Del 2020/01)

WAPC approval is required to lease, licence, sell and enter into agreements to sell land and options to purchase over a portion of a lot or lots for a term exceeding 20 years (including any option to renew or extend the term). This applies only to freehold land, and the purpose of the requirement is to avoid situations where landowners are entering into quasi-subdivision arrangements. These types of leases are commonly used for wind and solar farms where a landowner is making of portion of their land available to a third party, and where that party needs formal and secure access to the land.

Other leasing arrangements are possible over Crown land under the Land Administration Act 1997.

Legislative reference Section 136 & 139 Planning and Development Act 2005

Further reading

Western Australian Planning Commission leases, licences, classes, agreements to sell and options to purchase

Leasing Crown land (Crown leases)

Pastoral land and leases

Development and planning pathways

Legislative reference – Part 10 (Division 5 & 5A), Part 11A Planning and Development Act 2005, Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015, local planning schemes

The Planning and Development Act 2005 defines development as being both physical works and the use of any land or building including, demolition, alteration or excavation. The Act says that where a planning approval is required, development is not to occur without approval being obtained, and development is to be carried out in accordance with any granted approval. The wording of this sounds a bit convoluted because many types of development do not require planning approval, particularly for minor works on residential land eg fences, sheds, pergolas etc (that comply with the Residential Design Code). 

Most development is determined by local governments. However, there are certain categories of development, which due to their significance or scale, may be determined by other parties such as a Development Assessment Panel or the WAPC. For certain types of development, applicants can also choose which decision-maker they wish to determine an application. However, the principles of assessing and determining an application are similar throughout Western Australia. This is because decision-makers are guided by the same legislative and policy principles. A good example of this is Clause 67 of the Deemed Provisions (part of the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015), which outlines the matters that a local government is required to consider in determining an application for development approval, whether for a use of land or for physical works, or both. 

Decision-makers have the ability to approve, approve subject to conditions, or refuse a development application. Approval, if given, will generally be for a time limited period, often two years, to ensure that development is commenced in a timely manner and if not, that any changes to the planning framework in the interim can be considered when a new application is lodged. Applications that comply with a local planning scheme are not typically advertised for public comment, however there are both discretionary and mandatory requirements to advertise or refer certain categories of development, depending on their impact and/or scale. If the relevant authority does not make a determination on an application within the prescribed period, which is usually 60 days (but can be 90 or 120 days), the application is a ‘deemed refusal’, which means an applicant may then seek a review by the State Administrative Tribunal.

Part of the State Government’s ongoing reform of the land use planning system was to create a significant development pathway, under a new Part 11B of the Planning and Development Act 2005, which will permanently retain the temporary arrangements put in place during Covid-19 (Part 17 of the Act). Applicants can apply to the WAPC for development approval over $20 million in Perth and Peel, and over $5 million in other areas of the State. This pathway is entirely optional for proponents; there is no mandatory requirement to have development determined under this part of the Act. It is used for proposals that would benefit from co-ordinated referral and consultation processes with State agencies and for applications that may involve more than one local government. This pathway is expected to have a 120-day time limit.

Legislative reference Part 17 Planning and Development Act 2005, to be replaced in 2024 with Part 11B Planning and Development Act 2005

Development Assessment Panels (DAPs) are independent decision-making bodies and do not form part of the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage or the WAPC. 

From 1 March 2024, planning reforms introduced changes to the DAP system including: 

  • reducing the number of panels from five to three (Metro inner, Metro outer and regional) 
  • appointing fixed-term, full-time DAP members; there will still be two local government members on each panel making a total of five members
  • removing mandatory threshold thresholds and making the system opt-in over $2 million
  • allowing any community housing proponents to opt-in to the pathway

Legislative reference Part 11A Planning and Development Act 2005, Planning and Development (Development Assessment Regulations) 2011

Further reading

Development Assessment Panels

Metropolitan Perth and Peel and Greater Bunbury are covered by region schemes. Development under a region scheme is mostly determined by local governments, being delegated by the WAPC. However, some categories of development require WAPC and/or local government approval which is generally:

  • reserved land (Crown reserves, eg parks, schools, foreshore reserves) except for regional roads
  • sites of State significance (clause 32 MRS, clause 21 of PRS and clause 27 GBRS) for example Raffles Hotel, Observation City, Perth Convention Centre
  • land within a planning control area
  • land within an Improvement Scheme
  • land managed by the Swan River Trust

The Department also issues zoning certificates under region schemes, which may be required when land ownership is being transferred.

Further reading

Region planning schemes

Development control policy 1.2 general principles

Development Control Policy 1.2 General Principles - DRAFT

Acquiring a region scheme certificate

The vast majority of development in Western Australia is determined by local governments under the auspices of a local planning scheme. A scheme consists of map/s (zoning the land) and a scheme text, which operate in tandem to control land use. An important part of a scheme is a zoning table, which lists a range of land uses (defined in Schedule 1 of a scheme) and whether they are:

  • P – permitted where they meet scheme requirements
  • D – discretionary, where they meet scheme requirements and the local government has exercised its discretion (which may include referral to affected neighbours) 
  • A – where the proposal needs to be advertised for public comment and the local government has exercised its discretion or
  • X – prohibited – the land use may not be approved

In considering development applications, a local government is required to have due regard to a comprehensive range of planning matters listed in clause 26 of the Deemed Provisions. There are 28 matters, including the local government’s local planning strategy and scheme, State planning policies, environmental protection policies, WAPC policies, structure plans, heritage, amenity, access, traffic, waste disposal and submissions and advice received on the application. 

Local governments do the heavy lifting for development in Western Australia and are also usually the first point of enquiry for people wanting to know more about land use planning. 

Further reading

Local Planning Strategies, Schemes and Structure Plans

Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

Improvement schemes are similar instruments to local planning schemes. They contain development control provisions regarding a specified area and are prepared in the same manner as a local scheme but do not need to comply with the Model Provisions due to the unique circumstances of the improvement area. The Minister for Planning is the decision-maker for these schemes, which come into effect when published in the Government Gazette. An improvement scheme overrides the local planning scheme in the subject area and makes the WAPC the decision-maker for any development in the scheme area.

At present (2024) there are six Improvement Schemes in Western Australia, in the Pilbara for the Anketell and Ashburton North strategic industrial areas, and for the west end of Port Hedland. In Perth, there are Improvement Schemes in place for Shenton Park hospital redevelopment, Ocean Reef Marina and Mandogalup. Other schemes are planned for areas such as Ellenbrook, Malaga and Redcliffe stations, Koondoola neighbourhood centre and Claremont showground.

Further reading

Improvement plans and schemes

Planning fact sheet - Improvement plans and schemes

The Swan Valley, north east of Perth is valued for its cultural, agricultural, tourism and environmental values such that it is of State significance. Competing and unique land-use challenges mean that the State Government has taken a direct role in the planning for this area, and development applications are determined by a Swan Valley Statutory Planning Committee, which is administered by the WAPC. Development applications are made directly to the WAPC.

Legislative reference Swan Valley Planning Act 2020, Swan Valley Planning Scheme

Further reading

Swan Valley Planning

Land can be designated as a planning control area, usually where it is going to be required for a public purpose but the acquiring body has not progressed acquisition or the planning arrangements have not been finalised. The effect of this is that the WAPC becomes the decision-maker for any development in the planning control area, so that development is centrally co-ordinated, and decisions would not prejudice the future use of the area for its intended purpose. They are used in conjunction with region schemes, typically for State and regional roads and for major infrastructure like railways and train stations. They are usually in place for a defined period for example, five years and once the land has been formally acquired, the planning control order can be revoked. 

Planning control areas can also establish a trigger to give an affected landowner the right to seek compensation if land is injuriously affected by the planning control area. This broadly means a landowner can no longer use the land as they can currently, as a result of something that is done, or proposed to be done.

Legislative reference Part 7 Planning and Development Act 2005

Further reading

Planning control areas

Project 98 - Compensation for injurious affection

Development within redevelopment areas is determined by Development WA.

Further reading

Planning & Approvals - DevelopmentWA - Shaping our State's future

Legislative reference Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority Act 2011