A NEW report that measures best practice planning performance of local government planning systems in 29 of Greater Perth's councils highlights a worrying lack of strategic and statutory planning amongst councils, according to the Property Council of Australia.
The report, 'Benchmarking Greater Perth Local Governments', compares how each local government is planning for future growth; as well as the relevance and consistency of each council's planning rules so that they are clearly linked to stated policy intentions.
"The results of our benchmarking report are generally disappointing with only 2 councils – the Cities of Melville and Belmont, showing a high level of planning performance," said Property Council WA Executive Director Lino Iacomella.
"Unfortunately, the bulk of councils in Greater Perth fell well below what is expected of a best practice planning system which is needed to ensure that communities understand a council's vision for growth in their area and so that developers understand the planning rules.
"A local planning strategy sets out a vision for the type of development that is needed in order for an area to grow and prosper. A good strategy is produced or reviewed at least every five years. The best local planning strategies are those that are developed in consultation with the community and ultimately get implemented as there is already a level of community buy-in," Mr Iacomella said.
While the report shows a poor level of performance across Perth's local councils, the Property Council said it also highlights concerns at the state planning level.
Many of the local governments, that took part in the self-survey, commented that the Department of Planning and Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) are unable to process planning documents in a timely manner, according to the report.
"It is concerning that some local government's efforts to plan for their communities are being held up by slow processing times at the state level. In fact, many would have performed better if the Department and WAPC were more efficient," Mr Iacomella said.
"Ultimately, many communities are being let down by the poor planning performance of their council. These councils need to raise their game to ensure that communities can grow and thrive and build a vibrant Western Australia."
Of the 29 councils surveyed, key findings from the report include:
- Only 2 councils – the Cities of Melville and Belmont, have a high level of planning performance.
- Only 7 councils surveyed have a local planning strategy that is less than 5 years old.
- Only 3 councils have a local planning scheme that is less than 5 years old with the average age of council schemes being 14 years old.
- Only 3 comprehensive scheme reviews have been completed by the City of Armadale, City of Cockburn and City of Kwinana.
- On average, 95% of all applications are being delegated to planning officers.
- 88.5% of applications are being processed within the required timeframe of 60 days.
- Only two local governments publicise indicators of local planning performance.
- Only 24% of local governments believe that the Department of Planning and WAPC could meet required processing timeframes.
The findings of the report are based on the results of 29 out of 32 Greater Perth local governments who took part in a self-assessment of their planning system. These local governments were then benchmarked against 5 elements of a best practice planning framework including: strategic planning; statutory planning; delegation of planning approval to professionals for determination; timeliness of processing planning applications and performance reporting.
"Our findings highlight that WA's councils are very good at processing development applications with 95% of applications being delegated to planning officers and 88.5% of applications being processed within the necessary timeframes. However, they are not good at strategic or statutory planning with only a select few having up-to-date strategies and schemes," Mr Iacomella said.
"A good starting point for councils would be to focus on improving the way they report on their local planning performance - only 2 councils, Stirling and Armadale, actually report this. By monitoring and reporting performance we will be able to identify gaps in the system and work on improving it."