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Property industry gives thumbs-up to major WA planning reforms

Property industry leaders have voiced support for a raft of bold planning reforms introduced to Parliament on Wednesday as the WA Government continues to look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reforms have been three years in the making, but have been brought forward to coincide with the State’s bid for a swift economic recovery from the coronavirus.

One of the most telling initiatives is the move to give the WA Planning Commission decision-making powers for the next 18 months for projects seen as significant or job-creating.

The McGowan Government has deemed significant projects to be:

  • development proposals with an estimated cost of $30 million or more; or
  • residential dwelling proposals with 100 or more dwellings; or
  • commercial developments with a minimum 20,000sqm of commercial floor space; or
  • regional or tourism projects that may not meet the criteria but are considered important to assist in the COVID-19 recovery.

Property Council WA executive director Sandra Brewer said the Planning Commission’s new powers would prevent unnecessary red tape and hold-ups en route to project approvals.

“This innovation demonstrates a quick-thinking approach to putting experts in charge of resolving issues that can add expense and delay important economic projects,” Ms Brewer said.

“It will create an effective, transparent system that delivers projects and jobs as soon as possible.

“We support decisions that employ Western Australians and revive the WA economy.”

The WA Housing Industry Authority has also applauded the move, with Executive Director Cath Hart noting homebuilding starts were forecast to fall 40 per cent next financial year.

“This is a large body of generational planning reform that cuts red tape and supports businesses and trades across the industry,” she said.

The planned reforms have not surprisingly been welcomed by property developers, many of whom have been vocal in calling for greater consistency in approvals paths for major projects in WA.

Interestingly, the reforms also include an attempt to improve community consultation by “mandating consistent processes across the State” – rather than leaving these to the whims of different local councils.

And it’s not just major developers which will benefit from the reforms, with the amendments making it simpler for homeowners to renovate or build add-ons and extensions, as well as abolishing requirements for change-of-use approvals for a variety of small businesses.

Premier Mark McGowan said the reforms could be a key driver of WA’s emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s once-in-a-lifetime reform that will leave a long-lasting legacy for our State, while driving much-needed economic activity in the wake of COVID-19,” Mr McGowan said.

Fran Lawrence leads Cannings Purple’s Corporate Affairs team and has more than 20 years’ experience in media and communications. She is an expert in communication in the property sector. Contact Fran.

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