Western Australia

City of Perth calls for changes to Development Assessment Panel system

ALLOWING developers to choose between having their applications assessed by a Development Assessment Panel (DAP) or the City of Perth and increasing or removing the threshold that triggers an automatic DAP referral are among the changes recommended by the City of Perth.

In a submission responding to a Department of Planning report, the City of Perth said that while the DAP system was introduced as a measure to streamline the development process, the system 'is creating, rather than reducing red tape'.

Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said that developers within the City of Perth local government area should have the choice of having their applications considered by a DAP or the council. In addition, the council said that for inner-city developments, the $15 million value threshold at which development applications are referred automatically to a DAP should be raised or scrapped altogether.

Analysis by the council showed that in 2012-13, the DAP for the City of Perth determined 17 applications for developments with values ranging from $17.5 million to $380 million.  The length of time taken to determine these applications ranged from 74 days to 120 days, with the DAP target being a maximum of 90 days.

"The DAP endorsed the City of Perth's recommendations in all instances with only minor modifications to the wording of some conditions in a few cases to clarify requirements rather than to alter the intent," Cr Scaffidi said.

"It is evident from this assessment that the DAP process has not added any value, efficiencies or effectiveness to the development application assessment process in the City. Instead it has added costs, complexities and administrative burdens to outcomes that are likely to have been arrived at by the Council within similar timeframes.

"It also needs to be borne in mind that it is the City's planning staff who do the work of preparing reports to the DAP so there is no benefit in terms of reduced workload.

"Neither is there any acknowledgment in the Department's discussion paper of the part the WA Planning Commission, Department of Planning and developers may play in delays in the planning process. There is no cost/benefit analysis of the DAPs as compared with the City's planning system.

"The Council acknowledges that time and cost are inter-related in the approvals process, but good outcomes can take time to negotiate.  There needs to be a balance between providing efficient approvals and achieving sound planning outcomes. There was a general belief within the industry that the City's processes were very efficient prior to the introduction of DAPs.

"The main focus of DAPs is said to be in determining applications that are considered to be 'significant and complex'. However, establishing mandatory dollar value thresholds based on arbitrary values of development is not a satisfactory way to determine whether a development proposal is significant or complex.

"The Council believes the mandatory threshold for the City is too low in the context of inner city development and that it should be raised to $100 million if thresholds are to remain," Cr Scaffidi said.

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