Extract – BUSINESS NEWS, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Author: Dan Wilkie
Thursday, 13 October, 2016
THE state government has moved to make the development assessment process more transparent, unveiling a raft of changes to the system in response to feedback from local governments and resident groups.
Development Assessment Panels have been in place in Western Australia since 2011, with the system designed to add an additional level of technical expertise to the planning process.
Changes announced today include publishing DAP agendas earlier, providing opportunities for developers to opt out if their project does not significantly impact local amenity, and more information to be provided in regard to why decisions are made.
Other changes include local governments being required to contact all those who provided written submissions to DAP applications to inform them of the meeting, and allowing developers to choose between local councils and DAPs when seeking minor amendments to existing approvals.
Planning Minister Donna Faragher –
– said the changes would ensure the decision-making process is better communicated and understood. Ms Faragher said the system had been reviewed twice to provide the best planning outcomes for the state.
All of the amendments can be seen below:
- Provide an option to opt-out of a DAP in favour of a local government for developments, such as industrial warehouses, that will not significantly impact local amenity.
- DAP agendas will be published at least seven days before a meeting – instead of the current five days – to provide greater advance notice to the public.
- Local governments will be required to proactively contact each person who has provided a written submission in relation to a DAP application, to inform them of when the meeting will take place.
- Responsible authority reports to include more information about why decisions can be made, to ensure that the decision-making process is clearly communicated and can be better understood.
- DAP members and local governments to be provided with more governance support, where required.
- DAP presiding members will be able to intervene in the ‘stop-the-clock’ process if parties disagree about the level of information that has been provided for an application.
- Provide proponents with the option to choose between a local government or a DAP when requesting an amendment to a minor aspect of an existing development approval (Form 2).
- Empower the Minister for Planning to remove DAP members who do not undertake the appropriate DAP training.
- The maximum term of office for DAP members can be extended if a vacancy is waiting to be filled.
- Add a reference to the DAP regulations that all Form 2 minor amendment meetings should be open to the public.
- Changes to the DAP fee structure.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
“Feedback from our members has revealed significant concerns about the strategic intent and effectiveness of the DAPs system, however the changes proposed are merely administrative in nature,” she said.
“Our call for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis remains unheard and instead the sector is being required to undertake additional administration that should be the role of the State.”
Cr Craigie said without the cost benefit analysis, questions would remain around the relevance and effectiveness of the system with limited DAPs resources being focused on minor planning matters, rather than matters of State significance.
“The current system is getting overrun with everyday applications such as petrol stations and fast food outlets with a staggering 258 DAPs meetings held over the last financial year”, she said.
“Many of these applications currently considered by DAPs align with Council recommendations and take longer to determine than through a Council-led process.”
Cr Craigie said WALGA had been advocating for ministerial call in powers and changes to the opt-in system to reduce this unnecessary pressure on DAPs and refocus the process with its original purpose of strategic high level vision rather than day to day development applications.
“Instead of effective review, we are faced with token changes and are being required to absorb an administrative burden on behalf of the Department,” she said.
“Whilst the sector agrees those providing submissions to a DAP application should be notified of upcoming meetings, it is the responsibility of the Department of Planning that administers DAPs rather than the role of individual Local Governments.
“We remain committed to working with the State Government on ways to deliver genuine improvements to the system, but these changes are at best superficial and will do little to benefit local communities and industry alike.”
52 Adelaide Street (former Spotlight/Coles site)
The 8 storey proposal shown above for 72 flats, 6 commercial tenancies and 98 car bays was deferred at the state government’s Development Assessment Panel (DAP) meeting yesterday (Monday 19 September).
Two Fremantle councillors, Crs Sullivan and Pemberton, voted with one other DAP member to have the matter deferred so the developer could bring back revised plans showing parts of the building above 21 metres being set back as per council policy. Councillor Sullivan proposed the deferral and it passed with a narrow 3-2 vote.
The developer is seeking 8 storeys straight up from the street with no set backs. Council’s lawyer insisted that it could not be approved, but the applicant’s lawyer cleverly shredded the council officer’s report to argue otherwise.
The Fremantle Society has invested a great deal of time on this issue because of its importance, and the fact that any variations to the current scheme that are approved will set a precedent for future developments in this city centre area.
For the Fremantle Society, four architects scrutinised the plans and the officer’s report, and all were scathing at the quality of the report written.
The council report recommended refusal on grounds of:
b) detriment to amenity under clause 67.
(though nowhere in the officer’s report are the arguments presented to support that refusal)
Despite the officer’s recommendation, Mayor Pettitt, and councillors Nabor, Hume, McDonald, Walthan, and Jones all voted to send the item to the DAP to let them decide on the legal advice. By the time it got to the DAP, somehow the officer’s recommendation for refusal had turned into a glowing approval. The applicant’s lawyer said she had been at the planning meeting and that there had been ‘a unanimous decision to approve.’ The applicant said that council staff ‘are clearly supportive of this plan’. The chair of DAP Ian Birch said that ‘the alternative recommendation (for approval) had been adopted by the planning committee.’ Remarkable stuff.
The Fremantle Society presented their case and a Fremantle lawyer was brought in to present for the Fremantle Society as well. This is a very complex case with many facets and issues to be dealt with, but the focus from DAP was mainly on how could the developer have the extra storey he was seeking.
The applicant’s aerial view of the 52 Adelaide Street proposal as shown is dishonest and should not have been allowed to go forward by council officers. The drawing shows Johnston Court as being significantly higher, whereas both are almost the same height. The applicant has shown his building bathed in light on the facing side, whereas the same side of Johnston Court is ominously dark. Also there are no lift overruns or rooftop clutter shown on 52 Adelaide Street, clutter which always ends up adding considerably to how buildings are viewed around town.
Claudia Green from FRRA was there and supported the Fremantle Society case, as did Julie Matheson from Scrap the DAPs.
Further details will be provided of the expert analysis from Fremantle Society architects.
HISTORY will show that mayor Pettitt and councillors Hume, Nabor, McDonald, Waltham, and Jones are happy to see new developments in the heart of Fremantle as high as the detested 1970 Johnston Court block of flats.
They are the ones who voted to allow an eight-storey, plus basement, plus rooftop clutter, development to go through council’s planning committee to the development assessment panel, despite a legal opinion by council’s own lawyers that council could not approve the eighth storey.
The mayor and councillors danced around the legal advice and decided to let the DAP decide. On this former Spotlight site (originally Coles) adjacent to Westgate Mall, 72 residences, 7 commercial tenancies and 97 cars will somehow be jammed into the 1390sqm site.
On this block bounded by Adelaide, Queen and Cantonment streets, on 15 December 1965, Charles Court opened council’s Westgate “Super Centre”, a transit orientated development with Bairds, Coles, and Walsh’s as key tenants. It was promoted as the ‘shopping mecca of the western and southern suburbs.’ It wasn’t long before Myer came to town and wanted something bigger and so within seven years the centre of gravity shifted to King’s Square and Westgate Mall went into decline with Myer (which opened 1 August 1972) and the adjacent Queensgate (1987) becoming the latest salvation of retail in Fremantle.
The photograph showing all the paving leading into Westgate Mall was taken in 1968 from council’s Point Street car park (the first split level car park in WA) soon after Westgate Mall opened. In the background stands the handsome Johnston Church, weeks before it was demolished to make way for the Johnston Court flats seen in the second (1971) photograph, which also shows the new Crane House at the rear.
Soon after Johnston Court was built in 1970, the mayor and some councillors were aghast at its negative impact, and promised that something like it would never be built again. But here we are 46 years later and neither the mayor nor any councillor blinked when the developer for 52 Adelaide Street argued that Johnston Court was ‘adjacent’ and could be ‘built up to.’ Once 52 Adelaide Street goes through the DAP next Monday (9.30am in Fremantle Council Chamber) the rest of the area could well be blighted with such heights.
The mayor said that nothing ‘but a bomb’ could improve the Westgate Mall area, hardly a considered planning argument for that small part of Fremantle which sits between the important heritage areas of King’s Square and Princess May Park. It may be run down and lacking investment but at least it has a human scale that suits Fremantle.
The solution for Fremantle’s regeneration is not high rise nor super high density housing creating the slums of the future.
Rather, we need the high quality new buidings we were promised by this council, and some ‘bomb proof’ sensitivity to whatever site the mayor and councillors next lay their eyes on.
The Fremantle Society
This article from the Weekend West Australian of 17-18 September refers to the anticipated latest development from the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) on the ongoing saga of Development Assessment Panels (DAPs):
It is disappointing in that it refers to times taken to arrive at decisions, rather than appropriateness of them. The final quote from the Planning Minister is revealing – that applicants are passing over councils for the DAP – thus eliminating a major function of councils as well as indicating dissatisfaction with councils by applicants (or indicating that applicants have found a way of avoiding local planning guidelines) and acknowledging that, if an application could end up with the DAP anyway, why bother going to council at all. It would help somewhat, if the $2M mandatory threshold were fully enforced.
There are a number of interpretations of the situation, most indicating that if councils were the final arbiter, there would be better and more appropriate local control and answerability – something the Fremantle Society believes is lacking under the present system.
Given the Minister has stated she requires changes to DAPs but will not agree to their elimination, the last media release from WALGA provides the best hope yet of at least some advancement in addressing significant concerns, although the proposal for, ” a Ministerial call-in power”, warrants examination and there appears to be no opportunity for community representatives on DAP panels:
Campaign Seeks to Solve System Inefficiencies
Monday, September 12, 2016
A campaign to change the Development Assessment Panels (DAP) system has received the green light from WA Local Government Association State Council, allowing communities to have their voices heard on large scale developments.
The State Council agreed on Friday, 9 September to support a campaign that lobbies for changes to the Development Assessment Panels.
The campaign will call for the following changes:
- A full and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of Development Assessment Panels be conducted by an independent organisation.
- Abolishing the current opt-in mechanism which allows applicants to choose either elected Councils or the DAP as the decision maker in favour of a Ministerial call-in power for projects of state or regional significance, with a minimal value of $20 million, as has been adopted in the eastern states.
- The Local Government sector be consulted prior to any amendments to the Development Assessment Panels system, to ensure that operational efficiencies can be achieved.
WA Local Government Association President Cr Lynne Craigie said the upcoming state election presents a valuable opportunity to change the flawed DAP system.
“WALGA five-year review of the DAP have proven that the current system has a number of failings,” she said.
“These include exceeding legislated timeframes for development application outcomes, running inefficient meetings and dealing with small-scale development applications rather than projects of that affects the state.
“The suggested changes will deal with these failings and improve the system.”