Claims Councils display poor performance of local planning are misleading and does not take into account the many activities Councils undertake that contribute to their strategic plans.

WA Local Government Association President Cr Lynne Craigie said a recent report by the Property Council of Australia categorised and ranked Council planning processes in a simplistic fashion.

“Whilst this report focuses primarily upon Local Government plans and policies, it fails to include other contributors to the strategic planning process such as State Government agencies,” Cr Craigie said.

“It also does not recognise a significant number of the documents were currently with the State Government awaiting approval. The delays incurred in the processing of Local Government’s strategic documents by the State unfairly penalised Local Governments in the rating process for a State-caused delay."

“Anecdotal feedback from our Members is that there were also errors in application of data and in the criteria applied for scoring individual ranking items. We have not seen the source data for this report however, to assess information put forward or how it was used to calculate end scores.”

Cr Craigie said a number of report recommendations were directed at State Government activity. However, the State’s activity was not assessed in the report.
“The State Government has the ability to gather and report on Council performance, however, they have not undertaken any review of this nature to date,” she said.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with the State and our Members to progress a more transparent review of the entire planning process, which would allow our Members the opportunity to provide greater input and feedback into any findings and methods of assessment.”

The report also claimed that all planning approval should be delegated to professionals, such as planning officers, to demonstrate best practice in local planning framework.

Cr Craigie said the Local Government sector does not support mandating all delegation on these decisions to professionals.

“Under the Planning Schemes approved by the State Government, Councils have the power to choose the sorts of planning and development applications they wish to consider as an elected body, and those they wish to delegate to the relevant planning officers to determine,” she said.

“A significant proportion of these decisions do not currently go to Council, with some 95 per cent of all planning applications made through delegation arrangement.  

“However, the nature of those decisions for the remaining five per cent may differ between the Councils according to their individual focus, as well as the expectations of the communities who elect them. The association wishes to see the continuation of locally elected representatives in local decision making.”