DAP and DACs in WA - survey report

28 September 2016

The ACA – WA member survey on WA Development Assessment Panel and local authority Design Advisory Committees is providing an important evidence base for advocacy with the Minister for Planning.

ACA – WA met with the Minister for Planning, the Hon Donna Faragher MLC, and her senior policy advisers on 27 September 2016. ACA – WA President Kieran Wong presented the key findings and key recommendations from the recent Member Survey conducted into WA’s Development Assessment Panels (DAPs) and Design Advisory Committees (DACs).

The Minister was interested in the views presented, stated her support for the continuance of DAPs and confirmed the government’s intentions to improve their operational effectiveness through the current review. She has consulted widely with Local Authorities as well as with industry and professional bodies as part of the Department’s review. Some of the points made by the ACA provided her and her advisers with new insights.

The Minister confirmed that her Department has been working hard with the Office of the Government Architect with respect to DACs. She confirmed her concern that design quality be supported and championed by governments and the professions, particularly as urban infill becomes more and more extensive. She indicated that there is an understanding within the Department of the value of a robust framework within which DACs should operate, across all Local Authorities and was particularly interested in the ACA’s recommendation that the DAC process should operate within reasonable statutory timeframes.

The report was well received by the Minister and her advisers, particularly as our recommendations have been solidly based on member’s experiences and responses.

Key findings and recommendations are as follows:

Development Assessment Panels (DAP) 

  • Overwhelming support for the DAP process over the previous system of Local Authority applications, with majority believing the outcomes are better for their clients than previous system.
  • Strong support for administrative reforms to streamline the process including the ability for minor amendments to be dealt with expeditiously.
  • Strong support for the ability for all project to “opt-in” to the DAP process regardless of value. This would assist in streamlining certain sectors such as industrial and educational which may have had a delegated approval pathway previously. It would also provide clear feedback on local authority performance with the ability for applicants to opt-in (or out) of local authority approvals process.
  • A majority of firms have had none or slight improvements in processing times for Development applications through the DAP process compared to the previous system. This may be as a result of prolongations often experienced with existing Design Review Panel processes.Concerns were raised over the time taken for RAR to be completed (often in excess of statutory timeframes requirements), and the limited opportunity for applicants to prepare responses prior to DAP sitting (as little as one day to prepare responses)

ACA – WA strongly supports the continuation of the Development Assessment Panels in Western Australia, and calls for a streamlining of processes relating to minor amendments, and the ability to “opt-in” or “opt-out” to the DAP process regardless of project value or type.

Design Advisory Committees in Local Authorities (DAC)

  • Overwhelming support for quality and standardized framework and terms of reference for Design Advisory Committees. There was considerable feedback that Design Advisory Committees operated inconsistently across jurisdictions, and sometimes within a single DAC decisions would vary depending upon panel composition and the influence of the Chair.
  • Support for Design Advisory Committees to review all Development Applications and Proposals for strategic or town centre projects.

 ACA – WA considers it essential that all DACs have both clear operational frameworks and uniform terms of reference to ensure consistent advice is provided across Local Authority jurisdictions.

A stronger link to the approval process is recognised as an opportunity but only if considered as part of an efficient planning approvals process, and with strong statutory timeframes for provision of Design Review advice.

Download the full survey report here.

Download the ACA – WA Letter to the Minister here.