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Public consultation in the WA planning system

Engagement and consultation are important components of the planning system that help to shape, inform, and influence decisions on planning proposals.

The type and level of engagement and consultation differs between proposals, as some are prescribed through legislation and some are discretionary, depending on the extent of departure from a planning framework, and the scale of a proposal and the potential impact. For example, consultation on the planning for an entire town or city, for a new train station or for an extension for a single house would be carried out differently due to the impact and scale of the proposal.  

Western Australia’s planning legislation sets out statutory consultation requirements (minimum timeframe and notification requirements) for a range of planning instruments. This allows people who may be impacted by proposals and the community in general to comment on proposals.

Strategic planning projects like metropolitan and regional strategies, new policies or amendments to strategic policies and District Structure Planning consults allow a more engaging approach to how feedback is sought. These programs often go through a series of detailed work with the community to inform the strategies and initiatives, and once finalised may go through a further advertising process. Local planning strategies, policies and amendments are the best approach for local residents, businesses and stakeholders to have a say on the future of their local community.

Statutory planning matters such as amendments to the Metropolitan Region Scheme and / or Development Applications where the WAPC is the determining authority generally have consultation requirements set by the Regulations. Consultation requirements are generally set by Regulations for statutory planning matters, such as for amendments to the Metropolitan Region Scheme, changes to local planning schemes and development applications. 

Community Engagement

Community engagement is typically carried out for strategic planning or policy development, where engagement helps to establish community priorities and set strategic direction. The WAPC published a guide to Best Practice Planning Engagement in Western Australia that sets out a range of approaches for engaging with stakeholders and communities in land use planning. 

The Department uses the IAP2 engagement spectrum to guide how it plans consultations and engagements. For statutory consults and depending on what stakeholders can influence inform and consult are the most commonly used. For strategic projects, involve to empower can be used as needed. 

As the level of potential public impact increases, so too does the complexity of the engagement process. Significant proposals may require preparation of a separate Community Engagement Strategy to document and manage the engagement process. Specialist consultants may also be employed to engage with stakeholders and communities.

Further reading

Guide to Best Practice Planning Engagement in Western Australia

    Community consultation checklist - how to make a good submission

    Community consultations allow the planning decision-maker to collect information about development proposals from impacted stakeholders and valid considerations that will help inform good decision-making. There are many factors to consider in planning application assessment and feedback from the community provides an important local insight into potential issues. The Department collects this feedback generally through an online survey (Have your say, WA!) but information sessions, workshops and face-to-face meetings can be organised for more complex projects. 

    When preparing a submission on a planning application there are two principles you should consider - facts and impacts.

    Below is a checklist to help you make a good planning submission.

    • Give yourself enough time to prepare your submission. As soon as you receive notification, act! 
    • Be informed. Do you have all the information you need? Check the website or speak to a planning officer if you feel like something is missing that will help you address all the points you want to raise. 
    • Stick to the facts. Understand what is happening and why, and what planning document is guiding the decision. Then address why you think it is, or isn’t, consistent with the intent of those documents. 
    • Explain the impact. If you think a development is going to unduly impact you or your property, explain it as clearly as you can using as many facts as you can. Do you have access to data to support your claim? If not, include in your submission that it needs further investigation.  
    • Know when and how the decision is being made. Do you know who is making the decision, for example, the Western Australian Planning Commission or a Development Assessment Panel? Consider requesting a deputation, that is, attending a meeting and addressing the decision-makers directly.  
    • Stick to one submission. Lodging multiple submissions, especially if they contain different points can extend the time it takes to compile submissions.  
    • Get it in on time. Late submissions may not be considered.  

    Public advertising of proposals

    Public advertising of planning proposals typically occurs when there is a specific or tangible proposal such as a new building or road or a new land use (such as changing the use of a building from a café to a child-care centre). The requirement to advertise a planning proposal is usually a legislative one. Examples of this include:

    • Section 84 of the Planning and Development Act 2005 requires local governments to make reasonable endeavours to consult with people who may be affected by a local planning scheme or amendment
    • The Planning and Development (Local Planning Scheme) Regulations 2015 include specific provisions for the process of advertising local planning strategies and local planning schemes
    • Local planning schemes include provisions for “Advertising of Applications” and also set out advertising requirements for adopting and amending local planning policies, heritage lists and the like
    • Some local governments have local planning policies that provide more specific guidance for implementing the advertising process or that outline how a local government will consult with people on planning proposals

    When submissions are made, decision-makers need to consider the issues raised in submissions and determine whether the submission should be upheld (supported) or dismissed (not supported) or noted (not a planning issue, or outside the scope of the proposal). While the volume of public submissions may give a good indication of community interest in a proposal, the number of submissions alone does not control the outcome of a planning process.

    As mentioned, the timeframes and notification requirements vary for each type of proposal. The extent of advertising and/or consultation will depend on the complexity, scale and potential impact of the proposal, at the discretion of the responsible decision-maker.

    Early community engagement for large or contentious projects is recommended prior to applications being lodged. However, this is at the discretion of proponents.

    Consultation, referral and advice between organisations

    The planning system also provides for decision-makers to seek advice from other agencies regarding certain types of planning proposals via referrals, and agencies may also make submissions on planning proposals that have been advertised. Some of this is a regulated part of the process, for example, the EPA has to set a level of assessment for zoning proposals, and sometimes proposals will require specialist input from agencies which may be sought when applications are lodged. While the planning system is interconnected and involves a range of agencies, it is the role of the decision-maker to weigh up the advice provided and make a balanced decision factoring in a range of inputs. While advice from public authorities is an important part of planning assessment, no agency aside from the Environmental Protection Authority has a right of veto over a planning proposal.