Developers given more flexibility
THE State Government will widen the threshold for Development Assessment applications, providing developers more opportunity to bypass local government regulation.
State Planning Minister John Day announced the changes on Tuesday, April 21, dropping the opt-in threshold from $3 million to $2 million and extending the mandatory limit from $7 million to $10 million.
Applications to the specialist Development Assessment Panel grew by more than 40 per cent between 2011 and 2014, with more than 321 applications received last financial year.
The DAP approved more than 90 per cent of the applications submitted in 2013-14, not including those deferred.
Mr Day said the modified threshold would provide developers more flexibility and create a more transparent system.
“At a community level, the reduction of the opt-in threshold recognises that some smaller-priced developments may benefit from being reviewed by an independent panel,” Mr Day said.
Urban Development Institute of Australia chief executive Debra Goostrey welcomed the changes, which she said were long sought by the industry.
“This is not about choosing one approval process above another across the board; rather, it is about increasing the choices that are available to each proponent so that they can make decisions appropriate to their circumstances,” Ms Goostrey said.
The changes to the DAP threshold come into effect on May 1.
Mayor Simon Withers welcomed the change and said he would like to see it taken further by lifting the ceiling to $20 million or more.
“Most developers will get the same or a similar approval from our council process as they would from a DAP, but developers who want to overreach will always chance their arm with a DAP because they know they will get nowhere with the council,” Mr Withers said.
“When it works well, the local government development approval process is far superior to the DAP process.
“Some councils, however, are very difficult to deal with and it is no surprise that developers in those areas choose the DAP process.” Mosman Park More flats could be the result of the State Government increasing the value of homes that do not need council approval and go to a Development Assessment Panel (DAP), Mosman Park Mayor Ron Norris says.
“There’s a 40-year embargo on the development of apartments in this Town, but by increasing the DAP catchment you can imagine there could be a greater incentive for developers to buy 4-5 blocks to build flats, and that’s not in the town planning scheme, and getting around that by going to a DAP,” he said.
Mr Norris rejected suggestions the Government’s change was a punitive step after councils rejected mergers earlier this year and said it was “just the next step in stripping planning powers from councils”.
Mayor Jock Barker said the threshold change would not significantly affect the Town of Claremont.
“We’ve got more high-end cost developments in Claremont,” Mr Barker said.
“I can’t remember the last $2 million house we had come through Council.”
Mayor Jo Dawkins said local government planning was being moved to the Government and private sector and although councils operated along community lines, they would have to live with the consequences of DAP, Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority and the State Administrative Tribunal decisions.
“This split-system approach, which is ostensibly in the name of greater efficiency, effectiveness and economy, in reality can actually become cumbersome, confusing and costly,” she said.
She said some of the DAPapproved developments in WA risked eroding “cohesive streetscapes” and would annoy communities. Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins said expanding the DAP mandatory threshold was a “slap in the face” to the local community, who wanted to have a say about developments.
“This is Premier Colin Barnett’s payback to local government for not reforming itself,” Mr Hipkins said.
Mayor Heather Henderson said the changes to the threshold were yet another example of the “further erosion” of planning powers from local governments.
“While some applicants will choose to go with the DAP, we believe Council is best placed to make these planning decisions on behalf of our community,” Mrs Henderson said.