STP-06 Obtaining Approvals
Version 1 – 02/01/2019
1 The First Steps (formerly section 4.1 of the Practice Manual)
At the commencement of the project, the developer of the property should consider what product will best suit the requirements of the completed scheme, whether a TLA subdivision or one of the options under the STA. The Strata/Survey-Strata Plan forms the foundation of every strata scheme. It is important that at the commencement of the project the correct plan type is used as it dictates the type of processing, servicing, time frame and rights and duties of owners.
The role of planning approval for strata schemes is distributed between local government and the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC). Different degrees of responsibility apply for different types of scheme. For this reason, the term “planning approval” can apply to an approval by either of these bodies. The term “development approval” is specific to local government; and the term “subdivisional approval” is specific to the WAPC. These two latter terms have been used in most cases in this manual in preference to the generic “planning approval” although that term is used where the generic use is intended, or where such use is not ambiguous.
One of the first steps in developing a property, whether it is the renovation of an existing building or the development of vacant land, is to consult the local government. These agencies are responsible for planning at the “grass roots” level and consequently have information on local issues and special requirements. Development requirements may vary between local governments.
Most local governments have a Town Planning Scheme in place governing land use and zoning. From a property owner’s perspective, land usage and zoning control the purpose for which the parcel of land may be used. For example, the parcel may be zoned commercial and be limited to use as an office/showroom.
The local government can provide advice on:
- Residential Planning Codes
- council policy
- WAPC requirements
- Building Code of Australia
- fire requirements on buildings
- heritage building limitations.
A Town Planning Scheme will specify the land usage and requirements for proposed lots. The following are some of the basic matters dealt with by a scheme:
- commercial or residential
- grouped or single dwellings
- density ratio concessions
- vehicle access and number of car parking bays per lot.
Local governments may also have further controls in the form of the Residential Building Code, which are commonly called the “R Codes”. The R Codes define residential density and specify:
- open space or plot ratio requirements for new lots
- building setbacks from the front, side and rear boundaries
- lot sizes
- privacy specifications with respect to openings overlooking abutting lots and for light and air
- heights of buildings.
After consultation with the local government on these types of issues, a development application may be necessary to indicate whether the proposed development will meet the Town Planning Scheme and R Code requirements. More information on development applications is provided in STP-07 The Role of Government Agencies.
The Water Corporation should also be approached for information on:
- water connection requirements
- sewerage connections
- easements to protect sewers
- reticulation specifications.
Once this information is obtained and considered, the financial aspect, market demand, logistics and feasibility of the project can be reviewed, and a decision reached. If it is decided to proceed with the development, there are two options:
- submit an application for proposed subdivision (Subdivisional Approval) directly to the WAPC (Freehold and Survey-Strata scheme)
- for small projects and for projects with small lot sizes, obtain from the local government, planning approval in the form of a Development Approval (this is not subdivisional approval).
When this has been obtained an application for subdivisional approval can then be submitted to local government (where delegated by the WAPC) or submitted to the WAPC (where no delegation has been given) or it can run concurrently with the development approval to local government.
2 Small Schemes that Do Not Require WAPC Approval (formerly section 4.2 of the Practice Manual)
Small strata scheme developments (except for survey-strata) that fit certain criteria are exempt from WAPC approval. These exemptions are basically for five (5) residential lots or less, where all of the buildings are constructed on a land parcel of no more than 2500m². More details on the exemptions are detailed in STP-07 The Role of Government Agencies section 7.
Most small grouped dwelling projects are processed by this method because the building permit can be issued, and construction commenced in a much shorter time frame than when using the full planning approval process that is required for a survey-strata or “vacant lot” Strata Plan. Another significant difference in using this method is that the servicing of the lots is incorporated as a part of the building process. This may result in more efficient configurations of common water, sewerage and electrical services.
Headworks charges, cut-ins for sewer and water and reticulation of the services become part of the building process. The developer liaises with the Water Corporation on these matters. Electrical, gas and other services also become part of this action rather than the planning process. In these cases local government ensures the development conforms to planning and servicing requirements as well as certifying (upon application) that the building conforms to the requirements of the Building Act 2011 by issuing an Occupancy Permit or Building Approval Certificate
3 Local Government Preliminary Determination (formerly section 4.3 of the Practice Manual)
Upon or after the submission of an application for the approval of a development, an application may be made to the local government for a determination, under section 24 of the STA, that the local government is satisfied that:
- separate occupation of the proposed lots will not contravene the provisions of any local planning scheme in force under the Planning & Development Act 2005;
- any consent or approval required under any such local planning scheme relating to any interim development order has been given to the separate occupation of the proposed lots;
- the development of the parcel as a whole will not interfere with the existing or likely future amenity of the neighbourhood.
The local government may charge fees for such a determination. A Preliminary determination is valid and binding on the local government for 2 years unless the local government, at the time of the determination, declares in writing that it shall be valid for a period greater than 2 years but not exceeding 3 years
4 Strata Plan Option for Non-Residential and More than Five Residential Lots (formerly section 4.4 of the Practice Manual)
Strata plans that are not exempt from WAPC approval under STGR regulation 15 require certificates from both the local government and WAPC. These types of Strata Plans generally are:
- residential developments involving more than five lots
- all non-residential developments.
A development in this category can be treated in one of two ways:
- The buildings can be constructed, or existing buildings renovated and the strata plan submitted to local government for local government approval and WAPC approval (under delegation to local government).
- A sketch or architectural plans of the proposed development or redevelopment (including the development approval) may be submitted to the Local Government. A letter stating either the progress of construction or, that the construction is completed should accompany the application. This provides guidance to the Local Government for referrals. After due consideration and possibly referrals to various government agencies such as the Water Corporation and Western Power the Local Government may issue a certificate that may or may not be subject to conditions. Buildings are constructed, or renovations completed and the local government can then give its certification.
Both processes require all buildings and services to be completed before final certification is granted.
Usually, the first method is used for small developments and the second method for larger residential or commercial projects. The second method enables the Local Government to ensure density requirements fit the planning scheme for the area. The Local Government may refer the application to other government agencies for comment and may grant conditional approval.
The local government planning and building requirements must also be met before its certification can be given.
Although the WAPC has delegated its power to determine built strata applications to all local governments, it retains call in powers where it determines the type of development or land is within an area of state or regional significance.
5 Vacant Lot Strata Plans (formerly section 4.5 of the Practice Manual)
Vacant lot Strata Plans are a hybrid type of plan. At least one of the lots must have a building constructed on it. This type of plan is a vital tool for staged developments and for owner-developers of small projects. The advantage is the ability for a title to be issued for a lot that is a definable cubic space that does not contain a building at the time of registration of the Strata Plan. Consequently, on staged developments, the remaining land after the completion of each stage remains as a vacant lot with the developer being the registered proprietor. The title for the vacant lot can be transferred and mortgaged, making it an attractive method of land development to both big and small developers.
The process to develop a vacant lot Strata Plan involves both WAPC and local government certification. It may be advisable to apply for and obtain development approval from the local government before applying for WAPC approval. Because vacant strata lots are processed under Sections 142, 143, 144 and 151 of the P & D Act (formerly section 24 of the Town Planning and Development Act), full referral to government agencies is necessary, in the same manner as a survey-strata or TLA subdivision title application.
The time frame to allow for (WAPC) subdivision approval is 90 days from the date of application. However, if planning consent (development approval) has been previously obtained from the local government and approaches made to government servicing agencies in expectation of approval of the application, the time can be cut significantly.
As a building or buildings will be involved, inspection and certification by the local government are also required. This can be put in motion in anticipation of WAPC approval by applying to the local government toward the end of the (WAPC) subdivisional approval process.
The types of strata scheme, known as “vacant airspace stratas”, are not considered authorised under the STA. The Department of Planning has recommended to the WAPC that the approval of “vacant airspace strata” schemes be withheld (see STP-02 Lots section 4.7).
6 Survey Strata Plans (formerly section 4.6 of the Practice Manual)
Developments of this type are processed in the same manner as TLA subdivision applications.
An application is made to the WAPC on a form that is accompanied by a sketch of the proposed subdivision. This application is then referred by WAPC for comment to all relevant government agencies.
If the application is successful, the developer can proceed to commence subdivisional works. A survey-strata subdivision does not involve any building construction. Titles can issue for vacant lots. As the development progresses, liaison between surveyors, engineers, various contractors and government agencies (who may have sought conditions to be imposed for subdivisional approval) is necessary to enable the appropriate clearances to be obtained. These clearances are obtained either at the completion of the subdivisional works or by the developer depositing a bond with the agency.
This system varies depending on the agency and project size.
7 Large Developments (formerly section 4.7 of the Practice Manual)
The process for large or unusual developments is far more complex. A planning consultant, architect or licensed surveyor should be engaged to design the proposed development and to liaise with Local Government, the WAPC and government agencies as to conditions. The negotiations involved can be lengthy and complex as other factors such as foreign capital limitations, prospectus approval from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, money in lieu of open space or removal of contaminated waste from the site may require the involvement of lawyers, financiers, and federal government agencies.
8 Forms (formerly section 4.8 of the Practice Manual)
Throughout these guides there are constant references to “forms”.
8.1 WAPC Forms (formerly section 4.8.2 of the Practice Manual)
A STGR Form 24 is an application form for approval of a Strata Plan. However, an application to the WAPC for survey-strata subdivision must be made on a WAPC Form 1A.
8.2 Others (formerly section 4.8.4 of the Practice Manual)
The Water Corporation and local government also have various in-house forms and checklists that are used for processing various types of applications. These types of forms vary from agency to agency.