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Jul 1, 2014

If you are a town planner, look away now. For the rest of you I’m starting this blog with the observation that sometimes planners (and I’m one) can be a bit, well, dense. There – I’ve said it.

But I simply cannot ignore the fact that planners love an acronym and until recently everyone knew that a DAP meant a ‘Detailed Area Plan.’ Simple! The use of ‘DAP’ was so ubiquitous because the term ‘Detailed Area Plan’ had been incorporated into Liveable Neighbourhoods, Local Planning Schemes and standard subdivision conditions. In other words, it wasn’t going anywhere.

So when a new approval authority comprising specialist and elected members was established to deal with potentially difficult and high value projects, the choice of name was obvious … to the planner at least. It would be known as a ‘Development Assessment Panel’ or a ‘DAP’ said the planner. Sure, it meant that DAPs could no longer be called DAPs – because that would just confuse people. But they could be known, henceforth, as LDPs (Local Development Plans). That would be far easier than coming up with a completely new, non-conflicting acronym for the new authority. So just to be clear, now a DAP is not a DAP because a DAP is the new DAP. Except when it’s a JDAP. But that’s the same thing as a DAP. But not the old DAP (now a LDP).

I’m not afraid to say that as an acronym-hugging planner my reaction to this completely avoidable jingoistic jumble was a resounding ‘OMG!’ (for those of you without any Gen Xer’s in your mix, that is ‘Oh My God!’).

That said, I want to focus on the positives in this blog. Because when it comes to DAPs/JDAPs – whatever you wish to call it – our experience has been overwhelmingly positive. At Rowe Group we have achieved a vast number of Development Approvals via JDAPs since they were established and our observations include:

  • The ratio of approvals to refusals is well and truly in the black;
  • The combination of specialist and elected members is enhancing knowledge and understanding on both sides of the fence: the industry is being re-connected through a reminder that, at the end of the day, we are all on the same side;
  • Timeframes are certain and rigorously adhered to;
  • There is greater opportunity for flexibility and negotiation: the less formal JDAP sessions (compared to a Council meeting) allow issues to be thrashed out between proponent and decision maker on the spot;
  • The pressure is taken off Councils – and more particularly Council staff – when it comes to contentious proposals;
  • A variety of perspectives provided by a cross section of Members has facilitated quality, pragmatic decision making;
  • Our clients understand the JDAP process and respond well to the certainty of timeframes and procedures;
  • Within a finite time a decision is made, win or lose, and we all move onto the next challenge.

The success of the JDAP process means we have no hesitation recommending it to our clients when it comes to ‘optional’ applications. The success rate to date and the manner in which the industry has embraced the new approvals pathway makes us wonder whether the role of the JDAP might be expanded to deal with other proposals such as Local Scheme Amendments, minor Local Structure Plans / modifications and even more basic subdivision applications. For now, it might be a bridge too far for some but from our perspective its worthy of consideration… But hey, as the Gen Xer’s and Millennial’s say, YOLO (You Only Live Once).

You can read about some of the Developments Applications we’ve had approved through DAPs in The Springs here and the Herdsman Business Precinct here.