FREMANTLE is likely to join a growing chorus calling for the state government to introduce third-party appeals against planning decisions, says councillor Rachel Pemberton.
Western Australia is the only state not to have third-party appeals, except in a very limited capacity, with Albany the last council to rip it out of its town planning scheme in 2014.
The WA Local Government Association is currently sounding out its members on whether to launch a sector-wide push for reform, with some councils arguing the introduction of state-controlled development assessment panels have swung the pendulum too far towards the interests of developers.
While Fremantle missed the deadline set by WALGA for submissions, Cr Pemberton said the city had been encouraged to form a position anyway, as the association’s consultation was in its early stages.
Cr Pemberton believes there’s mood for change amongst her colleagues, as her motion calling on staff to draft a discussion paper was supported unanimously and included passionate speeches from both her and council veteran Andrew Sullivan.
“Andrew and I spoke, and he was passionate about it, as it harks back to his time with the coastal alliance, and the fact that it didn’t seem natural justice or common sense if there was no avenue of appeal for someone affected by a decision,” she told the Herald.
Cr Pemberton said currently the only avenue for people unhappy with a planning decision involving someone else’s property was a costly trip to the supreme court.
At a 2009 conference to mark 80 years of town planning law in Western Australia, senior South Australian judge Christine Trenorden who works in the state’s environment, resources and development court, said it was “inevitable” WA would introduce its own third-party appeals at some point.
“I would argue that, just as town planning legislation in Australia was inevitable following the developments in Europe and United States of America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the consequent groundswell of opinion in this country as to the benefits of town planning, so the adoption of third-party appeal rights in Western Australia is inevitable,” Ms Trenorden told the conference.
WALGA’S discussion paper says that opponents often complain there’ll be a flood of complaints if third-party appeals are introduced, but examples over east suggest this has been exaggerated.
“Evidence from Victoria shows that third-party appeals account for only 19 per cent of VCAT cases,” the papers states.
But the paper reveals there are areas of concern, including opening up the appeal process for people who’s real motive didn’t include planning; there are already opportunities to participate in the planning process, and increases in costs.
The former Barnett government said it didn’t want to introduce third-party appeals having worked hard to reduce red tape.
by STEVE GRANT