Urgent amendments needed to planning regulations in response to SAT decision

The recent State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) decision to deny Shalom House’s occupancy of its Craigie premises in the northern suburbs has exposed a loophole and the potential to create uncertainty for thousands of development approvals that have been granted, according to Shadow Planning Minister Neil Thomson.

“The decision by Dr S Willey of the SAT made it clear that exemptions for an approval under the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations are not considered an approval under a Region Scheme where the Region Scheme requires a duplicate approval,” Mr Thomson said.

“This means approvals granted for developments such as patios, sheds, group dwellings and swimming pools, under ‘deemed approvals’ provisions could in effect be unlawful as a consequence of this decision.

“This puts thousands of past and existing planning decisions in potential legal limbo and could create further delays in the construction sector in Perth and regional areas in Peel and Bunbury.

“The new Minister for Planning John Carey must urgently intervene to rectify the situation.”

Mr Thomson said it also appears the core issue identified by Dr Willey in his SAT determination had been considered by WA Labor when changes were made to planning laws under the COVID emergency, but the then Minister for Planning, Rita Saffioti, did not act to provide a long-term fix to the laws at that opportunity.

“Minister Saffioti has clearly failed to keep her eye on the detail of the law,” Mr Thomson said.

Mr Thomson said Labor loves unnecessary red-tape and Minister for Planning John Carey in his new role has an opportunity to review and implement measures that reduce red tape more broadly.

“Significant planning reforms that reduced red tape were initiated under the Barnett Government, but WA Labor has failed to continue this legacy,” Mr Thomson said.

“The Cook Labor Government should be working constructively with local governments but has instead confounded the planning system with more complexity and red tape as it has centralised decision-making power to the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC).

“The latest outcome of the SAT highlights the importance of the WAPC not being involved in individual decisions on matters such as patios, sheds and small multi-unit developments.

“This issue comes on the back of concerns about the new Aboriginal Heritage Act which is already adding considerable uncertainty in the civil works and construction sector.”