Developers in the area are happy with the Development Assessment Panel system despite claims by Armadale mayor Henry Zelones some have staged their projects to avoid the ‘time consuming’ process.
Mr Zelones made the comments backing up a statement from WA Local Government Association president Lynne Cragie that DAPs were not providing greater transparency, consistency or efficiency in planning decision making.
DAPs consist of two local government members and three planning ‘specialists’ and were introduced by the Barnett Government in 2011 to improve planning processes on high value applications.
Under regulations an application over the value of $10 million must be assessed by a DAP and developers can opt into the DAP process for projects over $2 million.
In 2014-15, four high value planning applications within the City of Armadale were assessed by a DAP.
In 2015, 11 applications went through a DAP for projects in the City of Gosnells while on average 20 applications are assessed annually by them for projects within the City of Canning.
Ms Cragie said WALGA’s evidence suggested they were not working and were just taking planning powers away from councils.
She said in their four years of operation DAP average approval timeframes reached 104 days – well outside the prescribed 60 to 90 day deadlines.
WALGA was unable to provide approval time statistics for comparable projects before DAPs were introduced.
Mr Zelones said DAP processes included unnecessary procedures, uncertainty for applicants and could cause delays to major projects.
“Staging works, with separate development applications for each (i.e. separating earthworks and construction) doesn’t bring the value of the project down but can allow a project that marginally exceeds the $10 million value threshold to be handled solely by the local government authority,” he said.
“This has the benefit of alleviating delays caused by DAPs and allows adequate consultation between developer and the local government authority.”
Mr Zelones said he could not provide specific examples of developers doing this because of confidentiality reasons.
Urbis WA regional director and Planning Institute vice president Ray Haeren said he was a DAP advocate and said his company had submitted applications for projects in the City of Armadale such as the Harrisdale McDonalds.
“I’ve always found it to be a very clear and concise process that can be followed,” he said.
“You get greater consistency and reduced local politics interfering with good decision making.”
He said sometimes builders or developers would choose to work with local governments on high value projects but it depended on which ones.
Armadale-based builder Daly and Shaw director Robert Shaw, who is also a director at Master Builders Australia, said DAPs gave builders a choice, which was a positive thing.
He said the choice forced local governments to pick up their game to win back planning assessment fees.
Mapel Building director Andrew Roberts said DAPs took a more pragmatic approach to the approvals process.
Planning Minister Donna Faragher was contacted for comment.