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Planning to avoid delays

THE State Government’s new Planning Appeals legislation promises to deliver massive reductions in the turnaround time for planning appeals in WA.

The new two-tiered system, which is expected to consider up to 1,000 appeals a year, will process minor appeals within 30 days and has a 90-day schedule for more complicated issues.

At a recent forum hosted by the Property Council of WA, Town Planning Appeals Tribunal chairman, Les Stein highlighted the features of the revamped process.

Mr Stein said he commended the Government for finally “biting the bullet” on this difficult issue.

“There are certain problems with the existing system and one is that it is legalistic,” he said.

“The other problem is that it attracts a legalistic approach, where you have lawyers representing both parties.

“Much of the tribunal’s time was spent in relation to legal issues and as result it was quite costly.

“Another aspect was that there was a great deal of delay.”

By altering the system so that appeals are categorised depending on the value of the development, the tribunal will be able to consider developments worth up to $250,000 within about 30 days and between 60 and 90 days for the more difficult cases.

“The minister insisted on finding a way in which this [claims] could be streamed so the new tribunal has a basis for different classes of appeals,” Mr Stein said.

“Small matters shouldn’t go the same way as larger matters, and there’s an emphasis on mediation.”

A decision was also made to exclude lawyers from all minor appeals.

“The minister will still have a role and the ability to call on any appeal if it raises issues of State or regional importance,” Mr Stein said.

The new legislation has been greeted with guarded optimism by local planners and developers.

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