Negotiated Planning Solutions (NPS): A Win-win solution
The Government, through its agency the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC), wish to reserve land for parks and recreation etc, but have limited funds to compensate or acquire land. Owners understand that their land is required for the common good but want to be fairly compensated.
We at WA Land Compensation, for over seventeen years, have been acting for owners of affected land, to achieve fair compensation. This work has put us at loggerheads with the WAPC, who have the onerous responsibility to acquire land and pay compensation with limited resources.
We believe Negotiated Planning Solutions, as provided in the Bush Forever Policy, provides the solution to produce a win for the government and a win for the owners.
What is needed?
Amendment to the Planning & Development Act to include reference to negotiated planning solutions. This would include a definition along the following lines: “a planning solution that aims to place the owner of affected land back in the same financial position he/she was before the land was affected, by the use of subdivision, zoning, use, or other planning solution. Any short fall in value will need monetary payment.”
The Act will need to be amended to include that any dispute on the solution proposed, should be able to be resolved by a dispute reconciliation mechanism such as SAT, mediation or arbitration…
What are the benefits of the proposal?
Significantly reduces the public financial burden of reserving or quasi reserving (Bush Forever and other policies). Not having to acquire the sites or pay compensation, with the extra burden of maintaining the reserves. NPS’ would try to keep the maintenance and responsibility for the use of the land in the hands of the private owner. This would be achieved through subdivision, amalgamation and planning agreements, which would need to be protected by caveats or memorials on land titles.
Overcomes much of the heartache and financial stress on the owners whose land is reserved or quasi reserved.
Would reduce or alleviate the adversarial approach of the WAPC to that of a facilitating approach. This would reduce the stress and difficulty experienced by officers in this area. This would certainly change the public opinion on the way Departments for the Government work.
Provides that WIN WIN position, where Government does not have to find increasingly more money to acquire land or pay compensation. Provides fair compensation to affected owners through the planning solution method.
Currently, many Bush Forever affected properties are not reserved. As a result affected owners do not have access to the rights currently embodied in the Planning and Development Act. Under this proposition to include NPS’ in the P & D Act these owners will be able to obtain fair compensation.
How would it work?
A NPS may allow planning concessions on the size of subdivided lots, whilst an area of bush is transferred to the State. Bush areas may stay in private ownership with covenants on title to protect remnant vegetation etc.
Large rural lot of some 200 hectares with Title Memorial stating that half could be cleared Owner wanted to do the right thing so checked again with Agriculture Department. Rare flora was discovered. Was informed that te could not clear the land despite the Memorial.
We tried to negotiate a three lot subdivision which with a part payment would put him in the same position as he was before. WAPC said they could not create a precedent, by allowing three lots for this rural area, only two lots could be created.
An NPS of three lots with a small payment would have solved this problem.
Comment: This example emphasises the change of attitude needed in the planning department to produce a WIN –WIN solution.
The example of a site set aside for Bush Forever under policy. The area is 40 hectares and adjoins land proposed for industrial use.
A planning solution would be to allow greater industrial potential to the adjoining owners and implement a contribution Scheme. The Scheme would require the adjoining developer to pay a contribution to the owner of the bush who could not develop. The contribution would be used to compensate the owner so the Government could formally reserve the land.
Another solution would be to allow subdivision of the site into two sites of 20 hectares with the owner able to subdivide the land into large industrial lots. Alternatively a strata lot subdivision could be considered with the 20 hectares of bushland included as common land in the strata plan. The owners being responsible for maintaining the bush and a memorial placed on the common land to ensure it is never cleared.
Land reserved for Parks and Recreation and Bush Forever in Southern River.
The surrounding land has been developed for urban subdivision on land originally the same as that reserved.
(A) One planning solution would have been for the WAPC to impose a condition on those developers developing their land. The condition would be the payment of a contribution to the Council or WAPC based on lots developed. Sufficient funds could then have been collected, to be able to purchase the land required to be reserved. Values would be based on the values of adjoining zoned land.
(B) Another solution would be to allow subdivision of the land but into 4000m2 to 1ha conservation lots including the bush forever lots. These lots would have a building envelope and a covenant on the bush so it could not be cleared. The owner would be responsible for the maintenance. A monetary payment would be payable, but nothing like, if the land could not be developed at all.
An alternative could have been a development as proposed in (B) with the adjoining developers contributing the monetary difference.
How can it be implemented?
An official working group would need to be established made up of interested stakeholders to investigate various NPS solutions.
Deeply entrenched attitudes of the Planning Department would have to be changed. So what if a precedent is set for an owner affected by a reservation or quasi reservation! This is justified, otherwise monetary payment would have to be made. Any precedent would only relate to similarly affected owners.
The Planning Department would have to be open to breaking new ground to come up with a planning solution that suits all parties.
Can it work?
We believe it offers the perfect solution to enable the Government to reserve and quasi reserve land and keep the owners happy by paying fair remuneration.
Change the current strategy of creating quasi reservations through policies without compensation rights. This is tantamount to stealing. NPS’ offers fair compensation with limited monetary compensation.
Because of the above, if there is the will of the government to implement NPS’, then we believe owners of affected land will embrace the concept as currently, their land is of little value.