Councillors’ planning ‘limbo’ not OK: WAPC

The West Australian

23rd January 2019.

City of South Perth councillors had created an unacceptable planning limbo by postponing public advertising of a carefully considered revision to its town planning scheme, WA Planning Commission chairman David Caddy said.

Despite a groundswell of concern that some local governments are routinely refusing to support projects that comply with planning schemes, Mr Caddy rejected any suggestion the system was failing.

Joint development assessment panels, comprised of industry experts with quasi judicial powers, were supposed to streamline planning and development approvals when they were introduced in 2011.

In some cases, the system has exposed the failure of local governments to maintain contemporary planning schemes.

Vocal residents’ groups, some with membership skewed to those aged 50-plus, have intensely lobbied some councils.

Some of these groups are opposed to making changes to planning schemes that would allow the State Government to meet 47 per cent infill and housing diversity targets.

However, Mr Caddy said the City of South Perth was a “specific case” and he believed the system was working.

The City of South Perth has been embroiled in a planning wrangle with residents, developers and local business owners at odds about the best way to tackle development on the South Perth peninsula for decades. The debate intensified after 2013 changes to the planning scheme designed to increase density to build a population that would justify a train station.

A backlash from some residents prompted the council to revise its planning scheme, with amendment 46, which was delayed but ultimately gazetted in February 2017 minus height limits the council proposed.

In the aftermath, the council hired planning consultants RobertsDay to conduct workshops with residents, building owners, councillors and planners. The draft scheme included suggestions to ensure certainty about how height bonuses would be applied, to promote slender towers and to ensure distance between towers.

The council was scheduled to advertise this scheme last year but deferred it instead. That incensed developer Sirona Capital, which had hoped to get approval for a 42-storey mixed-use apartment tower opposite the zoo last month.

The Metro Central Joint Development Assessment Panel rejected the tower, saying though it was an “elegant” design on “an excellent development site” but the council’s planning framework was missing crucial guidance.

Mr Caddy said he hoped amendment 61 would bring “clarity”.

“There is a definite limbo between the two planning schemes,” he said.

When asked what length of time was acceptable for such a planning framework limbo, Mr Caddy said: “In my opinion, it’s not acceptable for there to be any lag time.

“And I think I made that quite clear when I met with the City on the 17th of December.”

City of South Perth mayor Sue Doherty declined to comment.