Cottesloe joins council calls for change to state development assessment panels

The system that has green-lighted $30 billion in development in WA is being subjected to intense scrutiny. Photo: Emma Young The changing face of South Perth has been the subject of intense interest as residents react to DAP approvals of towers as tall as those in the central Perth CBD. Photo: Emma Young
Nanjing Night Net

WA’s system of approving big infill developments has copped more criticism, this time from the WA Local Government Association, as yet another Perth council joined a push for reform.

State-appointed development assessment panels – not councils – have the power over any Perth development worth over $10 million.

In fact, developers who spend more than $2 million can ‘opt-in’ to bypass councils altogether.

Premier Colin Barnett’s own electorate of Cottesloe has now joined Cambridge, Nedlands, Mosman Park and Subiaco councils to lobby for development assessment panels to be scrapped.

The move followed decisions by Vincent, Bayswater and South Perth councils – and Stirling is likely to be next.

WALGA President Lynne Craigie said DAPs were not delivering promised efficiency benefits, citing 82 of the 1000-odd applications that had been challenged at the State Administrative Tribunal.

She said a recent parliamentary inquiry into the DAP system overwhelmingly focused on operational matters, and did not address a key objective of assessing effectiveness.

The inquiry failed to do a cost-benefit analysis of the DAP system and ignored concerns WALGA voiced over approval timeframes which took, on average, 104 days instead of the prescribed of 60-90.

Ms Craigie said WALGA had sought to meet with new Planning Minister Donna Faragher, whose predecessor John Day was a staunch defender of the system.

She called on the new minister to “clearly outline the true cost to the community, local government and industry of this additional administrative layer”.

Cottesloe Councillor Sally Pyvis said she had moved the motion to Council because she was concerned about communities losing their voice.

Ms Pyvis said she was disappointed by her local DAP approving a development in Overton Gardens, despite concerns about its impact on the nearby heritage-listed Civic Centre.

But her concerns were cast wider than Cottesloe.

Her motion read that DAPs had become a ‘rubber stamp’ and panellists, though experts in their fields, lacked local knowledge about community priorities in terms of character, landscape and amenity.

She said this was reflected in local planning policies developed through community consultation that were best interpreted by people with this local knowledge.

“Further, these local issues cannot always be easily captured through local planning schemes and policies. As a result, subjectivity and discretion will always have a role … best exercised on the ground,” her motion read.

Council staffers, as background to the motion, wrote that the government was already aware of councils’ opposition to DAPs.

“However, a united call for modifications to the system, may well be listened to, given the current political climate,” they advised.

The government, though it has stood by DAPs, is working on improving ‘design standards’ for medium, higher density and mixed-use residential development through a draft planning policy, it recently confirmed.

The planning minister was contacted for comment.  Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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