16/09/2019 - 15:06

Caddy welcomes reform role

16/09/2019 - 15:06

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Consistency across local governments and clear guidelines for decision makers are top priorities for the state government’s comprehensive suite of planning reforms.

David Caddy will draw on his 40-plus years experience in planning. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira.

Consistency across local governments and clear guidelines for decision makers are top priorities for the state government’s comprehensive suite of planning reforms.

Western Australian Planning Commission chairman David Caddy has a good sense of the enormity of the challenge of responding to the concerns of industry, local government and residents over the state’s planning and approvals system.

Planning reform has been high on the agenda of successive state governments for the past decade, with both sides of politics having to deal with developer complaints that the system is plagued with delays and inconsistency, as well as ratepayers and resident groups confused over a system they view as overly complicated and opaque.

Since being installed as chairman 16 months ago, Mr Caddy has been given a mandate to reform the WAPC within the next three to four years – an indication of the complexity of the task as well as the current state government’s commitment to change.

Last month, the state government released its ‘Action Plan for Planning Reform’ report, detailing 19 initiatives to achieve the government’s vision of making approvals and planning easier to navigate for developers and more transparent for residents.

“Part of the planning reform recognises that there is too much regulation,” Mr Caddy told Business News.

“We need to build a planning framework that everyone understands and everyone can work within.”

Mr Caddy said a key focus of the reforms would be consistency across local governments, with a perennial issue for developers the differences between processes across WA’s 139 councils.

“Obviously we are looking at a strategically led planning system and we are looking at one that will be very easy to understand,” he said.

“But it is going to require local government to come along with us on this journey

“There are some local governments that are just going to say ‘no, we are going to continue to do it our way’.

“There are some local governments that do tend to make it more difficult than others, or that is the public perception.

“And there are some local governments where the local government is quite honestly micromanaging the planning system and I would suggest they tend to be the smaller local governments where those issues are very important to local communities, therefore they get involved in them.

“But I would suggest that, through WALGA and their cooperation, we should be able to achieve quite a bit.”

And while Mr Caddy said the WAPC would listen to industry and make it easier for them to operate across local councils, another key priority would be to provide transparency in approvals for residents, particularly through Development Assessment Panels.

Earlier this year, Planning Minister Rita Saffioti announced a major shakeup of the DAP system, reducing the number of panels that operate from nine to no more than three in a move designed to reduce potential conflicts of interest and promote better consistency in decision making.

Mr Caddy said the DAP system had come under close scrutiny in recent years, largely because there was little detail as to how DAP members had made their decisions to approve or reject development proposals.

“We believe there are too many DAPs; you have a number of DAPs making these decisions but there doesn’t seem to be a body of corporate knowledge as to why that decision was made,” Mr Caddy said.

“Part of the reform is to create up to three DAPs and we would have permanent DAP members who would be employed by the state, much the same way that State Administrative Tribunal members are employed.

“Then they would be able to build up a body of corporate knowledge regarding decision making and why discretion was exercised for example.”

Mr Caddy said the changes were designed to improve transparency around why DAPs use discretion to approve projects that exceeded height limits put in place by local governments.

“Everyone now is just trying to push the limits of whatever the development is, and everyone is asking for discretion to be exercised in this, that, or another field,” Mr Caddy said.

“But the decision makers need to have a clear guide as to why and when they are able to exercise that discretion.”


 

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