IN THE PRESS: Code review a timely call

Public consultation opened early last month on revisions to the residential design codes (R-Codes) state planning policy to speed up approvals for single houses, multiple and grouped dwellings, and smaller structures such as patios, carports, decks and sheds.

R-Codes are a set of density and design standards which apply to all residential development in Western Australia and specify what can be built and where. The proposed new policy is part of the State Government’s planning reform strategy to reduce red tape.

For new homes or home extensions that currently require planning and building approvals, R-Code revisions propose to allow local governments to deem more applications compliant, allowing applicants to proceed straight to a building permit.

“The housing industry and home renovation sector are major employers in Western Australia and any measures to introduce more efficient approvals and expedite development will deliver significant benefits across the community,” Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said.

“Cutting red tape and streamlining planning processes will reduce application costs for homeowners and alleviate the administrative and regulatory burden on local governments, saving time and money and providing extra capacity to support more strategic local planning.”

R-Codes have an impact for prospective homebuilders, as they define the way that land can be used. If a block is earmarked as R40, it means roughly 40 dwellings can be constructed per hectare on that land.

The review of the codes is a move welcomed by Brian Burke Homes Managing Director Mike Burke, who said they needed to be updated to reflect modern day living.

“If you went back to 1990 and told the market that you had a 200sqm block for sale they would laugh at you. Now it is common place,” he said. “The R-Codes need to change with these market shifts, which is why the consultation process is extremely important.”

Mr Burke said the current system involved too much red tape and slowed down developments, and called for the system be privatised.

“I believe planning should go the way of building licenses,” he said.

“A few years ago, the government legislated that they could be privately certified. Now you have business that privately certify building licenses – I believe the same should be available for planning.

“To have that red tape cut and to be able to have private certification for planning issues would be a massive step forward.”

Mr Burke said for those wanting to learn more about R-Codes they were available in full online, but advised prospective homebuilders to seek expert advice from their local council or a builder to avoid confusion.

Submissions on the new R-Codes policy can be made at until September 10, 2020.