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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

Revised map and guidelines for planning in bushfire prone areas

Government agencies DPLH, DFES, DMIRS, WAPC and CSIRO have released the revised map and guidelines for planning in bush fire prone areas effective 13 December 2021.

In Western Australia, controls and prescriptions for bush fire planning and construction are raised within both State Planning Policy (SPP), the Local Planning Scheme (LPS) Regulations 2015 and the Building Regulations 2012 (the Regulations). Regarding the preparation of Bushfire Management Plans (BMPs), the revisions to the mapping and Guidelines have different implications across each of the frameworks and will be addressed separately for clarity.

What does this mean for applications?

Significant changes to terminology, definitions and generally understood processes have been revised with the Guidelines (v1.4), along with the replacement and rescinding of previous Position Statements and Planning Bulletins. This is not a retrospective application to approved development – however, a prior approval does not guarantee a future or subsequent approval for ongoing subdivisions under the new frameworks (Section 2.7).

There are also different transition periods applicable depending on the frameworks to which a proposal is being assessed against.

The Guidelines continue to be reviewed and a new Policy and Guidelines will form part of Stage 3 reforms in response to the revised Map of Bushfire Prone Areas and the Bushfires Royal Commission.

What’s changed from a Planning perspective?

When the Guidelines (v1.4) apply

Part 1.2 of the Guidelines (v1.4) notes the Guidelines apply to all higher-order strategic planning documents and proposals, along with subdivisions and development applications within areas identified as Bushfire Prone.

However, in a welcome clarification for industry, the Guidelines (v1.4) now specifies the ‘development footprint’ of a proposal, noting…

“…For development applications where only part of a lot is designated as bushfire prone and the proposed development footprint is wholly outside of the designated area, the development application will not need to address SPP 3.7 or these Guidelines…”

 

Guidelines (v1.4) Part 4.5

Changes to Element 2 – Siting and Design

The primary changes are to Schedule 1 Standards for Asset Protection Zones (APZ), providing greater detail on allowable objects or “fine” fuel loads within an APZ. It also provides for siting guidance for habitable buildings to minimise clearing.

More importantly, however; this Element now aligns prescribed tree and scrub heights with AS3959:2018 Buildings in Bush Fire Prone Areas, furthering the entrenched consideration of the Standard within the Guidelines (v1.4).

Two new Sections have been added to the Guidelines (v1.4) at Element 2, being:

  • Section 2.6 - Discretionary decision making and
  • Section 2.7 - Legacy Approvals and discretionary decision making.

Both Sections provide guidance for discretionary decision-making should an application not be able to comply with the Guidelines (v1.4). Detail is also provided surrounding what a BMP should address when categorising sites and proposed subdivisions with legacy approvals in place.

Changes to Element 3 – Vehicular Access

Perimeter roads have previously been prescribed for lots adjoining unmanaged reserves for fire appliance access - this is now considered a less than ideal use of land for smaller subdivision parcels (<10 lots). For these outcomes, lots may abut unmanaged reserves when providing a Fire Service Access Routes (FASR) through a property as an easement.

These acceptable solution additions are accompanied by the removal of the acceptable solution for firebreak widths and more detailed explanatory notes.

There are also changes to no-through road length provisions, and acceptable solutions applied for battle-axe and private driveway requirements. These are accompanied by additional terminology changes for specific road types.

Clarifications added to Element 4 – Water

These clarifications provide for additional acceptable solutions, technical specifications for tank and coupling materials, clarification on potable water crossovers and the planning stage at which the provision of tanks must be considered.

Additional discretions have also been afforded to local governments to consider a managed strategic water tank for a locality, or individual requirements for subdivided lots.

An additional Element (5) has been added to the Guidelines (v1.4) – Vulnerable tourism land uses

This Element replaces the Position Statement: Tourism Land Uses within Bushfire Prone Areas and Planning Bulletin 111/2016 – Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas at the end of transition period for Version 1.3 of the Guidelines (13 March 2022), with additional guidance provided at Section 5.5.

Bushfire Management Plan Endorsement

State Planning Policy (SPP) 3.7 Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas notes at Section 6.6 that BMPs prepared for vulnerable or high-risk land uses (per Section 5.5 of the Guidelines (v1.4)) are to be jointly endorsed by the Local Government and (by default) DFES.
However, DFES will now only provide referral advice, and only state whether a prepared BMP is compliant with the Guidelines (v1.4) and SPP3.7.
The Guidelines (v1.4) details the process for ‘endorsement’ of a BMP and this approach will be updated and detailed further in a future review of SPP3.7 as a result of the Bushfires Royal Commission.

(Planning and Development) Local Planning Scheme (LPS) Regulations 2015 and SPP3.7

Within updated Bush Fire Prone Area maps, the requirement to prepare a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment (or Contour Map) are subject to a four (4) month transition period for those areas that are newly identified in the new mapping extents, per Clause 78D of the LPS Regulations.

A BAL assessment (or Contour Map) is still required for all habitable (or specified) buildings (excluding single houses and ancillary dwellings on lots less than 1,100m²), if the proposed building is identified being within the Map of Bush Fire Prone Areas.

Non-habitable buildings require a BAL assessment (or Contour Map), irrespective of land size, if proposed building within a designate bushfire prone area under SPP3.7. 

It’s important to remember that if a proposed development is within a BAL-40 or BAL-FZ location, a development approval must be in place before the granting of a building permit.

When does this take effect?

There is a three (3) month transition period for the adoption of the Guidelines (v1.4), being 13 March 2022.

This transition period also applies to the Position Statement: Tourism Land Uses within Bushfire Prone Areas and Planning Bulletin 111/2016 – Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas – both to be replaced by the new Element 5 within the Guidelines (v1.4).

Until this date, Bushfire Management Plans (BMPs) may continue to be prepared in accordance with Version 1.3 of the Guidelines, the Position Statement and the Planning Bulletin; and lodged.

After this date, the Position Statement and the Planning Bulletin cannot be used in decision-making, and the Guidelines (v1.4) will be to only guiding document to accompany SPP3.7.

Are there any Building considerations?

Clause 31BA(1) of the Building Regulations 2012 (Aug 2021 update) details a similar transition period as the LPS Regulations (being four (4) months) for all relevant buildings (ie Class 1, 2 or 3 as defined by the Building Code of Australia) that are newly designated as bushfire prone.

There are also some exemptions for Class 10a buildings and other incidental structures when associated with a relevant building within Clause 31BA(1).

This also means that a proposed Class 10a building (or incidental structure) that may be associated with a relevant building constructed before the introduction of designated bushfire prone areas, will be able to claim a building standard exemption for a proposed associated building.

However, an associated building proposal that may be exempt from bushfire building standards may still need to undertake a BAL assessment (or Contour Mapping) per SPP3.7 for the lot subject to development – and may still require a development application if within a BAL-40 or BAL-FZ area.

To find out more, contact HIA’s Planning and Environment team.

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