Bill revision to end uncertainty

PROVISIONS in the Urban and Regional Planning Bill 2000 must be revised to avoid mass uncertainty in the planning and development sector.

Introduced by the former Court Government, the Bill aims to consolidate and simplify various planning legislation, including the 1928 Town Planning and Development Act, the 1959 Metropolitan Region Town Planning Scheme Act and the 1985 WA Planning Commission Act.

And while industry bodies are generally supportive of the Bill, they still hold grave concerns regarding absolute powers the proposed legislation would give to the Planning Minister if passed in its present form.

Two provisions are of major concern for the industry. The first gives the Minister the power to revoke a development approval on application by an aggrieved person.

The second allows the Minister to solely determine whether or not a project goes ahead if it raises an issue of policy or if it is on land deemed to be of State significance.

In a submission to the new State Government, the Urban Development Institute of Australia (WA) labelled the provisions as radical and unjustifiable.

“The aggrieved persons clause is of great concern to us as it leaves the door open to people, who may not have anything to do with the development, to make what could be mischievous comments,” UDIA WA executive director Judy Carr said.

“And this in turn could hold up developments … and that sort of thing can push up the land prices of a project.”

Ms Carr was also concerned about the lack of definition on what constituted an area of State significance.

Industry members also hold concerns that the only safeguard against in the inappropriate use of these powers is an appeal to a Judge, a right that has been restricted to local governments who may not have the resources to pursue the option.

Freehills planning lawyers Tony van Merwyk and Andrew Carr agreed the Bill could lead to uncertainty and delays if passed in its current form.

But both noted it must be considered in light of the new Planning and Infrastructure Minister’s stance on ministerial appeals.

Before coming to power, Alannah MacTiernan promised to scrap ministerial planning appeals in favour of a more flexible Town Planning Appeals Tribunal.

The Ministers office confirmed that this policy would be applied to the Bill.

Ms Carr said the industry was eager to known what, if any, provisions would be put in place of those which are likely to be withdrawn before giving support to the Bill.

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