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Planning Reform FAQ

Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the State Government's planning reform program.

Further information on these reforms will be provided when the relevant projects are progressed and underway. For enquiries, please contact the Department's Reform Delivery Team on 6551 8002 or [email protected].

Planning Reform FAQ

The Action Plan outlines the State Government’s vision and agenda to reform the Western Australian planning system. 

The Action Plan provides three overarching goals for the planning system:

  • Planning creates great places for people
  • Planning is easier to understand and navigate
  • Planning systems are consistent and efficient

To achieve these goals, the Action Plan outlines 19 initiatives. Some of these initiatives were fast-tracked in 2020 to support Western Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the Government has introduced new reform initiatives that were drawn from industry and community consultation in 2021.

While the Western Australian planning system has become increasingly more complex, legalistic and unable to respond quickly to changing needs and expectations.

The planning reform program seeks to address these issues and ensure that Western Australia’s planning system is contemporary, fit-for-purpose and sufficiently flexible and responsive to respond to challenges such as the housing crisis.  

The reforms being introduced are streamlining processes and reducing unnecessary red-tape, creating improved planning tools and processes, and making our planning system more consistent and efficient. 

The first phase of planning reform was introduced through the Planning and Development Amendment Act 2020. These reforms made it easier to do business across the State, supported economic recovery from COVID-19, and helped to create a more flexible, responsive, and contemporary planning system.

We are creating great places for people; making planning easier to understand and navigate; and ensuring planning systems are consistent and efficient. Some significant reforms are: 

  • Released new policies to support the design and delivery of key precincts and activity centres
  • Introduced exemptions from planning approval for certain works to support home projects
  • Improved consultation and engagement processes by mandating consistent consultation processes across the State and introducing best-practice guidance to promote engagement and foster good planning outcomes
  • Prioritised local planning strategies so all local governments have a clear development vision for their communities, including through the release of updated guidance
  • Reformed the Development Assessment Panel (DAP) system to increase transparency and improve consistency
  • Created a permanent pathway to deal with significant development proposals

More information on what’s been achieved so far can be found on Progress Made web page.

The State Government is continuing to deliver major planning reforms. Work continues on a number of projects. Some of the reform projects currently being progressed include:

  • Creating the new State Referral Coordination Unit and associated processes to better coordinate State Government referrals
  • Regulatory changes and improved guidance relating to the exercise of discretion on development applications assessed and determined under Local Planning Schemes
  • Regulatory changes and enhanced guidance on Local Planning Schemes, including modernising and introducing more consistent land use terms, and zones/reserves across all Schemes, and standardising land use permissibility and development requirements within the service commercial and industrial zones
  • Improving guidance on car parking, and modernising rates applied to development
  • Progressing the review of the Metropolitan Region Scheme text, and subsequential amendments to the Greater Bunbury Region Scheme and Peel Region Scheme to achieve consistency
  • Continuing work on the new online planning system, and working towards the ultimate goal of creating a single home for planning frameworks
  • Investigating new ways to incentivise the delivery of social housing projects

Reviewing and improving the guidance on Local Planning Policies and Local Development Plans to improve consistency.

More information on reforms currently being progressed can be found on the Current Reform Initiatives web page

A series of reforms to the Planning and Development (Local Planning Scheme) Regulations 2015 were undertaken in 2020 to reduce unnecessary red tape and reducing costs and impacts to small businesses, homeowners and other applicants. Changes included:

  • Introduced a broad range of exemptions for small home projects such as patios, water tanks and cubby houses
  • Removing the need for planning approvals for certain change-of-use applications (such as establishing a small café, a restaurant or small bar)

You can read more about these changes on the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015 web page.

Further legislative and regulatory changes will be undertaken in the future, to further reduce red tape for users of the planning system, provide greater clarity and consistency across the State, and reduce the administrative burden on our local government sector. These changes will be identified working in collaboration with key stakeholders, including the local government sector.

You can read more about future changes on the Current Reform Initiatives web page. 

A more consistent and strategic planning system will ensure people are at the heart of local planning. Early consultation and engagement, more consistency and transparency in decision making processes and a strong strategic vision will improve community confidence in planning and development matters.

A range of initiatives have already been implemented to streamline processes and improve consistency across Western Australia’s planning system. This includes:

  • Establishing a centralised, coordinated system for the assessment and management of developer contribution plans
  • Establishing a dedicated unit to centralise and better coordinate State Government referrals
  • Improved consistency of consultation on development applications across the State
  • Introducing permanent Presiding and Deputy Presiding Development Assessment Panel members to help improve consistency in the decision making processes on development applications
  • Developing clear and consistent guidance for developing and accessing local planning strategies and structure plans
  • Simplify Region Planning Scheme and State Planning Policy processes
  • Developing new policy for the planning and design of key precincts and modernising the activity centre policy to improve the consistency in zoning, planning assessment and decision making

Further proposed reform measures include:

  • Creating a dedicated assessment pathway for significant development and further reforming the DAP system to improve the consistency of the assessment and decision making of major development proposals
  • Developing clear and consistent guidance for developing and assessing local planning schemes, local planning policies, and local development plans
  • Developing clear and consistent guidance about the use and application of discretion
  • Opportunities to reduce duplication and conflict in decision-making across State and local government through legislative and regulatory amendments and modernising the Metropolitan Region Scheme text
  • Reviewing and enhancing reporting templates made available on key planning processes
  • Standard ‘manner and form’ for key planning documents to ensure consistency across all local governments
  • An online planning portal to track applications, facilitate improved community access to local planning information and creating one location for planning documents
  • Centralising the preparation and administration of structure plans at the district or regional level
  • Reviewing and modernising land use terms, zones and reserves to ensure all local planning schemes across the State are using the same terminology, definitions and objectives

Standardising land use permissibility and development standards in the service commercial and industrial areas, improving the assessment in these zones and increasing certainty in the decision making process.

Planning Reform: Better Consistency

No. Planning proposals will continue to be progressed in accordance with current legislative requirements. Decision makers are regularly consulted on reform proposals and, where required, transition periods are applied to allow for new practices to take effect.

As the detail of the reform initiatives is prepared, new practices and requirements will be progressively implemented, and the need for and nature of transitional measures will be considered. Where necessary and appropriate, transitional measures will be communicated to affected stakeholders and supporting documentation and training will be provided.

Both the Action Plan on Planning Reform and the new initiatives are drawn from extensive community and stakeholder consultation. We’ll continue to work with key stakeholders to scope, test, evaluate and refine various initiatives, and opportunities for the community to be involved will also be provided where appropriate.

Future consultation processes will be advertised through the Planning Reform webpage and will be available through our DPLH Consultation Hub.