“The purpose of the R-Codes is to provide a comprehensive basis for the control, through local government, of residential development throughout Western Australia. They are intended to cover all requirements for development control purposes and to minimise the need for local government to introduce separate planning policies concerning residential development” (Planning WA website). So why we are still confused and still experiencing delays for our approvals?
The Residential Design Codes continue to be a source of frustration for builders as applications are held pending amendments to comply with local Council policies and neighbour demands. With lengthy appeal processes and different interpretations, builders dealing with different Councils fear there cannot be a solution to this continuing problem.
The cost of delays
Ask anyone that has submitted an application for approval what their experience was like, and expect nothing but eye-rolling and head shaking. Two identical projects submitted in different Councils result in different requirements or non-compliance issues that must be addressed before the approval is granted.
The delays experienced by builders due to approval time can become costly, and often not able to be recouped. Teamed with the ever increasing material and labour costs over the life of a construction project, builders are eating into their bottom line to meet contractual obligations and client expectations.
The main concerns of Builders have in relation to the Codes are the inconsistencies of their interpretation across Approval Authorities, the time and cost implications of the assessment of applications and the process for variations, the delivery of compliant buildings on ever reducing lot sizes, and the complexity of the R-Codes and compliance with individual Council requirements.
Is there a solution?
We don’t want a city that all looks the same because planning is so consistent it doesn’t promote any unique character, but the many setback, council policy, building height, privacy, and streetscape provisions make it difficult to keep development to a budget due to delays and changes required for approval.
Residential Design Codes under review
With housing trends and environmental constraints needing to be addressed, Planning WA is working to make the changes. WA needs more affordable and sustainable housing, provisions that encourage innovation and clever design for small lots and population changes, and processes that are consistent and simple.
The review of the R-Codes is currently underway, we are hoping the new Codes will address our concerns and provide for a smoother approval of developments. A number of key stakeholders, including Master Builders, are part of the consultation group for the review.
More information regarding the Residential Design Codes and State Planning Policy 3.1 is available on the Planning WA website www.planning.wa.gov.au