The urban planning process in Perth is a shame. Our City is completely open to unscrupulous property developers who have no regard for the amenity, character and long term livability of Perth.
Over a period of decades the democratic process we had in place to act as a check and balance over property developers have been removed. Our democracy has been replaced with volumes of planning procedures, policies, strategies and guidelines that have been written by unelected bureaucrats who then reside over these documents to interpret them, and make decisions on them that can dramatically impact the lives of residents of Western Australia.
The system treats Western Australian householders as muppets. Residents have no right of appeal, only development applicants have a right of appeal. The whole planning system works as a well oiled planning approval machine for the benefit of developers. It creates a facade of community engagement and pretends to be democratic via an elected local government, which actually has no power over the process. The system divides the community into pockets based on the geographic radius of developments.
The system is designed by, administered by and overseen by the property development industry and related industries. The system is more concerned with short term job creation than it is will long term sound urban planning.
Our solution is to take back our democracy and put people and communities at the center of the planning process.
Irrational approvals, thrown up by Western Australia’s unfair development assessment process, are again being challenged by two South Perth ratepayers. Under the former government, a 35-storey tower was approved in the Peninsula where the zoned height is only 8 storeys.
South Perth Peninsula Action Group’s Vicki Redden says Karyl Nairn and Ric Hawley are once again, having to use their own funds to launch a costly judicial review into a decision by the Joint Development Assessment Panel to approve the tower block at 74 Mill Point Road.
Court action is the only option to prevent this anomalous development since neither residents nor council can appeal flawed planning decisions to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT). Because they are party to the initial application, developers can make repeated appeals to SAT over conditions they don't agree with.
The Western Australian planning system does not allow third party appeals to SAT. Consequently, in this matter, ratepayers, Councils and affected residents are not afforded the same access to justice as developers.
“Something is seriously wrong with a system where ratepayers have to police, at their own expense, the lawfulness of decisions of an unelected, unaccountable and poorly advised planning body,” Vicki says.
“Most residents do not have the means to mount a judicial review but it is currently the only way to protect communities from long-term harm when JDAP misuses its extraordinary powers. We can't keep relying on altruism though, we need better and more cost-effective supervision of planning decisions."
Ms Redden says JDAP's lack of depth of enquiry into the elements of planning has allowed developers to exploit the process, resulting in approvals for inappropriate developments which are out of step with community wishes and contrary to Council's wider vision for the area.
The individual investors in these planned developments are as much the losers as the local residents – while developers continue to be allowed to lodge variation after variation of the approval conditions, to maximize profits, investors will never have the required certainty to understand exactly what they are getting into.
As Mark McGowan declared in his victory night speech "We will govern in the best interests of ALL West Australians"
The South Perth Peninsula Action Group along with 50 other community action groups are calling on the new state government and Minister for Planning, Rita Saffioti to intervene and develop a more democratic and superior development assessment process.