Structure Plan Regulations

For the first time I have a guest blogger. From here on, the words are from Cr Dan Bull.

For quite some time now many, many members of the public, along with numerous local Councils and Councillors have been protesting against the undemocratic State Government Development Assessment Panels and State Administrative Tribunal. 

This is an example of the de-democratisation of our neighbourhoods which impacts on amenity.

However there is a bigger issue.  A sleeper issue that will have the effect of handing over any power locals and local governments thought they had to shape the future of their suburbs, to private developers, and the State Government’s Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC).

And that sleeper issue is the legal right for a land owner to submit a structure plan (a plan that up until recently would have traditionally been prepared by a local government, and which sets the strategy for changing the land use of a precinct, generally through allowing for greater density (i.e. blocks of flats/apartments)) for an area in which their land is located (subject to meeting certain criteria). That right is not only for their land, but also YOUR land. A right that was introduced through regulation by the State Government on 19 October 2015 –two days after a Local Government election day – a time when Local Governments would have been focused on preparing for a new Council – traditionally a very busy time.

This is an ironic date given the effect of the regulations was to rip democracy away from locals.

The impact of these new regulations is being felt for the first time (that I am aware of) through a proposed structure plan application being made by a private developer in the train station precinct of Meltham, in Bayswater.

That is, a private developer has decided to put a structure plan together independently of the Local Government.

Why is this a problem?  The local government is an organisation that must act in the best interests of ratepayers and residents.  A private developer/land holding company however must act in the best interests of its shareholders.  In this instance the developer’s/land holding company’s shareholders are not in Bayswater – meaning their best interests do not lie in creating, protecting or contributing to the amenity of Meltham.

What is more, under the State Government regulations the City of Bayswater must run a prescribed, very limited consultation process under these new regulations, which comprises an extremely short advertising period of between 14 days and 28 days.  The City has no choice.

It is worth mentioning that the City did write to the WAPC to request for an additional month of consultation to allow residents in Meltham more time to digest the complex structure plan and formulate their views and submission.  The WAPC chose to ignore the City’s request and grant only an additional two weeks.  Why, I ask.  What is the rush?

The feedback that I have received from locals who will be effected by the proposed structure plan is that in the most part they are open to, and accept that density around a train station such as Meltham makes sense, and that the Meltham Precinct is due for redevelopment.  However, the same people are angry and confused as to how such a system could exist.  A system where a private enterprise with a small land holding and no primary interest owed to the local community can request the WAPC to approve a plan that could change the face of their neighbourhood forever.  A system that prescribes nothing more than token consultation with the very people who will be directly impacted by the outcome forever more.

So, what’s the answer?  The planning system in WA needs to be reformed in a way that puts power and democracy back into the hands of locals.  Additionally, accountability of decision making needs to be reintroduced into the process which has been taken away given the decision making body is an unelected State Government body (the WAPC).  And the ability to initiate a structure plan process should not be put in the hands of enterprises or individuals who have no primary obligation to the very people who will be directly affected by it: local residents.

While the issue of DAPs and SAT are real and valid issues, the ability for a land owner to completely change the land uses of precincts is a game changer – potentially a game changer for the worse.

(These views are my own and are not endorsed by the City of Bayswater.)

Dan Bull – www.facebook.com/danbullforwestward/

7 thoughts on “Structure Plan Regulations

  1. Hi Dan,
    I think this is a pretty simplistic and one sided representation of the Meltham Structure Plan process. I am one of those people who has some issues with the proposed structure plan and I am strongly supportive of changing the planning framework around the station area to increase housing options in proximity to rail and support the long term viability of Meltham station. I don’t however have issues with the developer-led nature of the proposal. The area needs better planning. As I’m aware a structure plan for Meltham was not on the City of Bayswater’s radar. There is an opportunity here to work with the current proposal and get a reasonable outcome for the Meltham area. This is particularly urgent given the impending changes to the rail network in the north-eastern corridor – FAL and potentially the Morley-Ellenbrook line. I know there are others who share this view and these are not reflected in your post.

    While the planning system is far from perfect, there’s plenty local government can do to work within the current state planning framework to ensure pretty good outcomes for locals whilst also addressing broader metropolitan planning concerns – design advisory committees, better local traffic management, travel demand management, better designed incentives, bonuses etc, come to mind.

    Unfortunately, I think your post will only serve to muddy the debate about the plan and potentially lock in poor quality development in the area for the foreseeable future.

    Kind regards,

    Dr. Courtney Babb
    Curtin University

    1. Hi Dr Babb – thank you for your comment.

      Changing the Meltham area land uses is contemplated in the City of Bayswater’s Local Housing Strategy, although it does priorities other areas of the District first.

      The point I am making however is not about Meltham per se. At the end of the day it is a LG that must act in the best interests of residents/ratepayers. A development company must act in the best interests of its shareholders. Short of shareholders living in the area the subject of a proposal I struggle to see how those differing primary obligations intersect. That’s a clear flaw in the system.

      Thanks
      Dan

    2. Dear Dr Babb,
      Is this the official Curtin University position?
      Where does local identity and local desires fit into these plans? Should the existing residents be ignored in order to fulfil your, and the planning industry’s, greater ambitions?
      Lastly, what do you have a PhD in as it can’t be community consultation, so I presume town planning?
      Regards,
      Pauline.

  2. Hi Dan and Chris,

    Thanks for highlighting these issues. I have question though in regards to structure plans.

    What it the City’s priority and timeframes for having structure plans in place for the various centres and corridors shown in the Local Housing Strategy?

    My house is within close proximity to the “Urban Village” centred around the corner of Walter Rd and Beechboro Rd (lets just call it the Hampton Park area or “Hampton Park Village”). The area is going to be ripe for rejuvenation and change in the not too distant future. I would like to know what the City’s priority and time frame is for putting together the structure plan for Hampton Park and possibly be involved in any community consultation.

    regards,

    Michael

    1. Hi Michael,
      I will alert Dan to your comment so he can respond.
      I personally am not aware of any moves to address the zoning there. That said, I can see that it would be a good place as there is a decent hub of retail/commercial there, good public open space and residential areas which could be developed. The only negative would be no train station.
      Rgds,
      Chris

    2. Hi Michael

      Thank you for your message.

      I’ve followed this up with the City who has let me know that the area around Walter Rd and Beechboro Road North has been identified for detailed planning (structure plan) to be undertaken in 2021-22. Additionally I have been told that the City will also examine the land use (zoning) and residential densities as part of the preparation of the Local Planning Strategy, which is underway.

      In my view it will be vital that the community is given ample opportunity to provide their views and help shape the structure planning and I’ve made that point to the City.

      Please feel free to get in touch if you would like any more information or have further queries (0423 692 827 or dan.bull@bayswater.wa.gov.au).

      Thanks
      Dan

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