In practise and briefly for the purposes of informal discussion

In practise and  briefly for the purposes of informal discussion  –  there are two main components of the Planning System operating concurrently.-  One that can be described as a ‘top-down’ system that  involves a formal and centrally researched  set of Strategies, Guidelines and Regulations developed by the WA Department of Planning and authorised by Parliament-via a ‘Planning Commission’(WAPC).
The other is a ‘bottom-up’ procedure, devised by the same peak authorities, that provides a framework for responding  to proposals for development that emanate  from  land and property owners to be processed through Local Authorities.  Many, but not all Local Authorities, have prescribed responsibilities and procedures for producing and processing Local Planning ‘Schemes ‘that are set in the context of WAPC Objectives and Strategies.

Frequent emphasis is placed (in legal determinations based on ‘case law’ that are in constant flux), on the phrase “public policy conceived after considerable public discussion.” However, public discussion is in fact rare and actual Public participation in planning policies and decision-making on development is currently very limited. That participation is not systematically guaranteed, but mainly limited to formal publishing from time to time of broad draft policies intending to apply state-wide or in specified regions, by the WAPC – inviting public comment. The other is when individual development proposals are submitted by land-holders to the Local Authorities, when public comment is invited.

In the latter case, the proposals themselves go through advisory staff (Planning Officers) within
Local Authorities, who have detailed knowledge of the relevant WAPC procedures. Those staff have the opportunity to offer advice (both to the proposers of development and to the elected Local Authority Councillors) – Councillors must then act as intermediary Arbitrators – with their recommendations going forward for final decision to the WAPC that formally administers the Planning Laws set by Parliament.                                                                                                                                                   

(Local Authority Councils when sitting in formal session to arbitrate can normally receive brief statements in ‘Delegation’ from proponents or the public, prior to voting.) Proposers of development however do have an opportunity to Appeal against a Council’s recommendations via a State Administrative Tribunal, prior to the decisions being referred to the authorisation machinery of the WAPC for final decision. (In extreme cases of irreconcilable disagreement at SAT, proponents can take their case to the Supreme Court that has power to over-ride the recommendations of the SAT)


  1. Frankly speaking – I feel the Planning system in WA is far too centralised. Although paid for entirely by the Public, it is not demonstrating by locally visible results, particularly over the large Metropolitan Perth Region, that it is capable of acting in the “overall public interest” with the enormous complexity and range of powers it now retains to itself.

    It seems to be structured to severely limit, or even completely exclude the possibility of local developments being initiated and controlled locally according to locally derived and arbitrated community needs.

    Coincidentally, recent intended alteration to the number and structure of Local Authorities, plus introduction of small ‘Joint Development Assessment Panels’ with power to actually over-ride representative community input on local development proposals, provide even more evidence to me that major re-structuring of the Planning System is overdue.

  2. From a community viewpoint, that “top-down” part of the WA Planning System that focusses on initiating and managing long-term strategic research to assist the State Government in the formation of policy objectives e.g. concerning broad demographic, economic, industrial development and social adjustment (as in the State Planning Strategy 2050) does not appear to present problems to us.

    However, the system loses relevance when it extends from that (probably with a narrow-range of professional skills, perspectives and expertise) and becomes heavily authoritative in producing and applying a huge number of detailed Regulations prescribing local Land-Use design outcomes. In trying to do that it has failed repeatedly to comprehend and respond to social, environmental and local values and thus, in recent time obviously produced numerous very poor local social outcomes, that anyone can see.

    These problems most likely cannot be easily resolved by ‘tinkering’ and the overall system really needs to be functionally re-organised and modernised to e.g.-

    A) Retain the central State Strategic Planning role primarily to assist the Government and also the civil legal protections but –
    B) With a decentralised, separate, differently structured and professionally staffed system at regional, sub-regional and local level i.e. to be in continuous direct interactive contact with the communities with which it should be directly identified; (working closely alongside, but probably not administratively integrated with Local Authorities).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *