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Move to axe WA planning approvals for small home renovations could boost trades and building jobs

West Australians could soon be able to skip planning approvals for small home renovation projects such as patios, decks and extensions under proposed State Government reforms.

The WA Government has brought forward its planning reform package after years of consultation in a bid to stimulate the economy and create jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"For smaller projects — in particular patios, for pergolas, or for shade sails — we're going to remove the requirement for planning approval," WA Premier Mark McGowan said.

"A household who wants to put up a shed or a patio or some shade sails, to have to get planning approval from the local council is expensive and unnecessary."

lso included in the 26 proposed changes are measures to make the development application process easier for "significant, job-creating projects" over the next 18 months.

That would include projects valued at $30 million or more, residential projects of 100 homes or more, commercial developments sized at a minimum 20,000 square metres and some regional or tourism projects.

The Western Australian Planning Commission will act as the decision maker on those projects if the legislation to be introduced to Parliament is passed.

The Government announced the planned changes as WA reported no new cases of coronavirus overnight.

The state total remains at 557 with three active cases in the community.

There are no COVID-19 patients being treated in WA hospitals.

Benefits aimed at households and businesses

Mr McGowan said the reforms had been talked about for decades, were long overdue and were vital to help with the state's economic COVID-19 recovery.

"These reforms allow us to clear that red tape away and ensure that we get major developers and minor developers and householders and small businesses the opportunity to get their projects underway far more quickly," Mr McGowan said.

"With far less expense, with better design, with less bureaucracy."

Other reforms are aimed at giving small businesses and homeowners more flexibility and include a number of approval exemptions.

Those reforms include abolishing the small business change of use approval that Mr McGowan said had frustrated small business for years.

"That sort of red tape has driven small business people crazy," Mr McGowan said.

"It's cost us investment, it's cost us jobs."

'Jobs and activity' for the economy: Premier

When announcing the moves, Mr McGowan said he was hopeful the legislation would pass through Parliament quickly.

"So we can get jobs and activity back into the West Australian economy … we can get something going after this pandemic and get those thousands of people who have lost their jobs back into the workplace," he said.

But the Government was unsuccessful when it tried to get the changes through the Lower House this afternoon just hours after releasing the bill, saying it was urgent because of the pandemic.

It later backed down with the bill now to be debated next week.

WA Opposition Leader Liza Harvey said she was furious with the Government's approach.

"How urgent is it for people to be able to put up a pergola or a patio without approval before June 30?" Ms Harvey said.

"You have not articulated that. You have not articulated why we have to trash parliamentary process.

"Give agreement to a bill we haven't seen, haven't had time to consult on?

"We are not here to rubber stamp legislation from a Government that has become arrogant in the extreme."

Praise from builders but local government 'blindsided'

Housing Industry Association WA executive director Cath Hart praised the "bold planning agenda".

"Some builders have more work stuck in councils than they do on site," she said.

"With COVID causing a 50 per cent contraction in WA's residential building pipeline, getting work approved and on site is more critical than ever to support jobs and the industry."

Ms Hart said the reforms would play an important role in the industry's recovery.

If passed, the changes would give local councils less influence, a development that drew the ire of the local government lobby.

WA Local Government Association (WALGA) president Tracey Roberts said councils had been blindsided by the Government's move and she was only able to access the content of the bill after it was publicly announced.

"We are concerned because we've had no consultation," Ms Roberts said.

"There are concerns as to why this has been … rushed through."

WA Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said the "significant, job-creating" projects would be a priority to ensure the state had a "pipeline of construction work".

"We need good quality projects and we need a faster way to do that. This is a significant reform for WA," she said.

"It will assist WA's economy and create jobs."

Building approvals for home projects will still be required under the changes.

"You need the planning approval and then the building approval, so we want to eliminate planning approval where we can," Ms Saffioti said.


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