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Development Application Exercise of Discretion Guidelines

The WAPC has developed Guidelines to assist decision-makers in the use and exercise of discretion for development applications assessed and determined under local planning schemes.

Discretion in planning is exercised whenever the decision maker has the power to make a choice about whether to approve, not approve or conditionally approve a planning proposal. Discretion can be broadly applied or can be guided by legislation and policies.

Discretionary decision making is at the very core of good planning practice. The role of the decision maker is to make a judgement, having taken into account all relevant information and planning requirements. Clear and transparent planning decisions protect the integrity of the planning system and decision makers.

These Guidelines establish the key principles that underpin the exercise of discretion in planning decisions made under local planning schemes and provide guidance to the decision maker in order to ensure that planning decisions are clear and defensible, and that the reasoning for the decision is clear to the casual observer (i.e. someone who is not 'in the room' when a decision is made). 

The Guidelines align with the State Government's Planning Reform agenda outlined in the Action Plan for Planning Reform (Action Plan) released in 2019, and respond to the following goals and initiatives of the Action Plan:

GoalInitiativeDesired outcome
Planning systems are consistent and efficientC7: Development assessment processes are streamlined, and outcome focusedImprovements to development assessment processes to increase understanding, deliver good practice and increase consistency across jurisdictions
Planning is easier to understand and navigateB5: Clear and concise guidance is readily availableClear and concise up-to-date guidance assists local governments and other users to understand the system

The Guidelines have been prepared under State Planning Policy 1.0 - State Planning Framework and are to be read and applied in conjunction with the relevant requirements of the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015 (Regulations).

It is intended that complementary amendments to the Regulations will be prepared for consultation at a later date, to provide greater clarity and consistency regarding discretion, as necessary.

Consultation on the principles for changes to the Regulations and the associated Guidelines was undertaken during February and March 2023. The Consultation Outcomes Report (found below) outlined key findings from consultation and recommended changes to the draft proposals as a result of this process.

Contact Details

For queries, please contact the Reform Delivery team: