Planning chief is sceptic of reform

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
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Premier Mark McGowan and Planning Minister Rita Saffioti have backed the governments Action Plan on Planning Reform despite local scepticism Pic: Michael Wilson
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan and Planning Minister Rita Saffioti have backed the governments Action Plan on Planning Reform despite local scepticism Pic: Michael Wilson Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

A series of proposed amendments to State planning legislation and regulations on “significant developments” has been met with scepticism from the City of Busselton.

The State Government’s proposed planning reforms last week passed the Legislative Assembly but City of Busselton director of planning and development services Paul Needham said the proposal “completely bypasses” local government.

Mr Needham said allowing “significant developments” to be assessed by the WA Planning Commission provided minimal opportunity for the involvement of local community members.

“Such development will also not need to comply with local town planning schemes or even the State’s own planning policies,” he said.

“Whilst such powers are only proposed to be operative for the COVID-19 recovery period, they represent a very substantial change for planning in WA, and there has been no consultation with local governments or the community prior to the introduction of the legislation into the Parliament.”

The reforms are being urgently brought forward to support the wider economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic and “create new job opportunities”.

However, Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said the majority of planning reforms followed more than three years of consultation with a range of stakeholders, including local governments.

“Local governments will continue to have a vital role in all planning decisions, while consultation with local community will be strengthened under our proposed reforms,” Ms Saffioti said.

“Small businesses and those seeking to improve their homes are significant winners under our proposed reforms.

“It will enable costly and time-consuming planning approvals to be removed for simple home improvements, while small businesses will have fewer hurdles.

“Regional areas in particular can benefit from projects such as tourism initiatives, which are major employers and generators of economic activity.”

The State Government's Action Plan on Planning Reform will be debated in the Legislative Council next week.

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