The most significant change to Western Australia’s planning system since 1963 has been promised to deliver cheaper and easier-to-build new housing, and include provisions for better design outcomes.

WA Planning Minister John Day has announced the commencement of the second phase of the State Government’s Planning reform alongside a blueprint document highlighting what we can expect from the reforms.

The blueprint includes plans to create policy or legislation provisions to require that large scale developments involve engagement from architects and other accredited design professionals.

Phase one of Planning Makes it Happen: a blueprint for planning reform was released back in September 2009.Phase two includes 12 new statutory planning reforms, and six governance and administrative reforms.

The primary focus of phase two is on statutory decision making processes and land use planning and supply. Other governance and administrative reforms are also being pursued to complement this main focus.

The changes are based on findings from Day’s Planning Reform Discussion Paper released last year, and the responses from the public via email, post and online surveys since.

The Blueprint lists assessments and changes to WA planning policy and includes the following:

  • Research and prepare a draft State Planning Policy on design principles for planning and development.
  • Prepare a best practice model for the establishment and operation of design advisory panels.
  • Prepare a design manual with case studies and examples, with a potential training program for decision-makers.
  • Prepare a discussion paper on the policy or legislation provisions to require that large scale developments are designed by a registered architect or other accredited design professional.

The Blueprint also includes more specific changes relevant to the architecture and design industry under the title of Design and development:

“It is generally accepted that an increased focus on quality of urban design and place-making would be beneficial to development outcomes across Western Australia, particularly in the context of a trend to greater density and intensity of built form across the metropolitan region.

As described in the discussion paper, there are various potential ways to achieve this. Part of the phase two reform agenda is a commitment that the WAPC will further investigate and research the mechanisms that could be used to improve built form and place design outcomes. Specifically, it is proposed that the following initiatives be undertaken:

a) Formulation of a WAPC State Planning Policy, which incorporates the key themes of the State Government’s Better Places and Spaces policy, and promotes the importance of quality design principles relating to architecture, urban design, landscape and environmentally sensitive design outcomes

b) Establishment of a best practice model for design advisory panels to improve consistency by providing guidance on how State and local government should operate the panels, what type of applications should be assessed by the panels, and at what stage of the application process a panel’s advice should be sought, potentially also including the WAPC establishing a pool of professionals for local governments to engage as required

c) Preparation of a discussion paper on the policy or legislation provisions to require that development meeting particular criteria (such as multi-unit housing or mixed used development over three-storeys in height) must be designed or accredited by a qualified, registered architect or other licensed design professional

d) Potential establishment of a training program for local and State Government staff and elected members in urban design and place-making principles."

View the full blueprint here:

Image: WA Government