Design WA

Design WA is a State Government initiative to ensure good design is at the centre of all development in Western Australia.

Design WA aims to create a built environment that reflects the distinctive characteristics of a local area, that enhances streetscapes and neighbourhoods and that contributes to the development of vibrant and liveable communities.

Design WA Stage 1

Design WA Stage 1 has been released by the Minister for Planning and will become operational on 24 May 2019.

Stage 1 includes:

State Planning Policy 7.0: Design of the Built Environment: the lead policy that elevates the importance of design quality across the whole built environment. It includes 10 principles for good design and establishes the framework for integrating design review as a part of the evaluation process.

State Planning Policy 7.3: Residential Design Codes Volume 2 – Apartments: This is a policy for apartments and mixed-use developments which focuses on improved design outcomes for apartments, and will replace Part 6 of the R-Codes.

Design Review Guide: this works with SPP7.0 to assist local governments with the establishment and operation of design review panels, and will support consistency in the design review processes already in operation across the State.  It also provides a framework for the operation of the State Design Review Panel.

Stakeholder feedback survey

We are seeking your feedback on the stakeholder engagement process for the launch of Design WA Stage One.

Please provide your feedback by using the online feedback form.  Reponses close 10 May 2019.

Online feedback form

Updates to the R Codes

The existing State Planning Policy 3.1 Residential Design Codes becomes State Planning Policy 7.3 ‘R-Codes Volume 1’ retaining all content with the exception of Part 6;

New State Planning Policy 7.3: R-Codes Volume 2 - Apartments - replaces the content of Part 6 of the R-Codes for apartments (multiple dwellings).

Work on Design WA Stage 2, focussing on precinct design and medium density is already underway.

Stage 1 documents

Frequently Asked Questions (as at 15 April 2019)

What is Design WA Stage One?

Design WA Stage One focuses on the overall design quality of the built environment. The policies are:

Are the Design WA documents available for download?

Yes, via

We encourage you to read them online, but they are also unlocked for printing.

Are there any templates to help us?

Yes. The following guidance templates included as appendices within SPP 7.3 Residential Design Codes Volume 2 – Apartments are available for download as a Microsoft Word document (‘SPP 7.3 R-Codes Apartments – Appendices word version’).

  • A4 Design Development Guidance: Assists proponents as their designs develop. Includes a list of basic information that should be provided by the applicant for design review prior to development application.
  • A5 Development Application Guidance: Assists proponents in formulating the appropriate materials when submitting a development application.   
  • A6 Objectives Summary: Assists proponents and assessors to explain and assess the development against the Element Objectives listed in the Apartment Design Policy.

The following guidance templates included as appendices in the Design Review Guide are also available for download as a Microsoft Word document (Design Review Guide - Appendices Word version):

  • DR1 Design Review Panel Meeting Agenda
  • DR2 Development Assessment Overview
  • DR3 Design Review Report and Recommendations
  • DR4 Model Terms of Reference

While the templates can be adapted where required, local governments are encouraged to think carefully about doing so. The templates have been prepared to enhance consistency across local governments and provide greater certainty to proponents.

Will the department be offering Design WA briefings?

The department is working closely with local governments and industry groups to deliver Design WA briefings as needed. Keep an eye on the Planning Institute of Australia (WA) and Australian Institute of Architects (WA) websites in case future Design WA events are organised: 

The department is also developing a series of industry videos to assist stakeholders such as proponents, assessors, decision makers and the general community, in understanding Design WA Stage One. A video is also being prepared on Design Review. The videos will soon be uploaded to this page and promoted via our social media.

When will the policies take effect?

Design WA Stage One was launched on 18 February 2019 by the Minister for Planning, the Hon Rita Saffioti MLA.

SPP 7.0 Design of the Built Environment and SPP 7.3 Residential Design Codes Volume 2 – Apartments will become operational on Friday 24 May 2019 when they are published in the Government Gazette.

The Design Review Guide became operational on 18 February 2019.

Why is there a delay in the policies becoming operational?

The three-month period between launch of the policies and gazettal provides for a period of adjustment in application and approval processes. It also enables key stakeholders, including designers and local governments, to become familiar with the new policies and documents prior to them becoming operational on 24 May 2019. This transition time is similar to previous updates to the R-Codes (such as for the introduction of the Multi-Unit Housing Codes in 2010).

The Design WA team at DPLH is working with various industry groups to deliver workshops/information sessions as needed.  

What happens to development assessments in the interim?

If a development application is submitted and a decision is made prior to gazettal on 24 May 2019, it will be assessed under the current planning framework (which includes Part 6 of the R-Codes).

During this transition period, decision makers (including local governments and Development Assessment Panels) should have due regard for SPP7.3 R-Codes Volume 2 – Apartments.

If an application is not determined by this date, planning authorities will be required to assess the application under the new SPP7.3 R-Codes Volume 2 – Apartments.

If an application has been submitted and might roll over past the gazettal date on 24 May 2019, it is best for the relevant local government and the applicant to start discussing this as soon as possible.

What happens to the current R-Codes on 24 May 2019?

As of 24 May 2019, SPP3.1 Residential Design Codes will be renamed State Planning Policy 7.3 Residential Design Codes Volume 1, with all existing content except for Part 6 to remain.

The new State Planning Policy 7.3 R-Codes Volume 2 – Apartments will replace the content of Part 6 of the R-Codes, focusing on improved design outcomes for apartments (multiple dwellings).

What happens to existing local planning policies that were properly adopted before gazettal of the new R-Codes?

This is covered in greater depth within section 1.2 of SPP7.3 R-Codes Volume 2 – Apartments. 

A properly-adopted local planning policy with provisions covering matters identified in clause 1.2.2 will continue to apply. However, SPP7.3 R-Codes Volume 2 – Apartments will prevail to the extent of any inconsistency over local planning policy provisions covering matters identified in clause 1.2.3.

What happens to existing local development plans, structure plans and activity centre plans that were approved before gazettal of the new R-Codes?

Local government will need to ensure that local development plans, structure plans and activity centre plans that amend or replace sections identified in clause 1.2.3 are appropriately adopted, current and consistent with the new R-Codes.  Amendment or replacement of the sections identified in clause 1.2.3 after gazettal can only occur in limited circumstances and subject to WAPC approval.

The reason for the difference is that instruments other than local planning policies –have an approval role for both local government and the WA Planning Commission, whereas local planning policies are approved by local government with no role for the WA Planning Commission (with limited exceptions). This strikes a balance between ongoing certainty for policies currently in operation whilst ensuring that provisions now dealt with in SPP7.3 R-Codes Volume 2 – Apartments are implemented as intended and consistent with clause 7.2 of the existing R-Codes.

When should local governments require advertising to adjoining owners and occupiers?

Part 4 of the current R-Codes sets out the consultation requirements for residential development and will apply to both volumes of the R-Codes (SPP 7.3 Volume 1 and Volume 2) upon gazettal of Design WA Stage 1 on 24 May 2019. The current R-Codes are definitive with regards to consultation not being required where a proposal is deemed-to-comply (refer to Part 4).

Whilst there is no deemed-to-comply pathway under SPP7.3 R-Codes Volume 2 – Apartments, performance-based design and assessment has similarities with the design principles of Part 6 under the current R-Codes.

Under SPP7.3 R-Codes Volume 2 – Apartments, there may be grounds for consultation where a proposal utilises the design guidance approach and there is a possible impact on the amenity of adjoining owners and occupiers.  

Consultation may also be specifically required by the applicable planning scheme or relevant local planning policy.   

It is recommended that local governments review their public consultation framework and procedures for alignment.

Is it mandatory for a local government to establish a Design Review Panel?

No. Design Review Panels are not mandatory but they are highly recommended. The Design Review Guide was prepared in close collaboration with the Office of the Government Architect and provides models in which local governments can set up Design Review Panels to provide expert design advice when considering development proposals.

We understand that many local governments already operate a Design Review Panel and it is anticipated that these will be reviewed to ensure consistency with the Design Review Guide. There are a few local governments where the local planning scheme provides for design review through provisions which may differ to the Design Review Guide. In these circumstances, the local planning scheme provisions will continue to determine the establishment and operation of the Design Review Panel.

Please contact the Office of the Government Architect if you are a local government seeking information on establishing a Design Review Panel, via

What are the next stages of Design WA?

Design WA will bring a new approach to the planning system and beneficial change to the built environment. While Stage One is focussed on Apartments, work continues on the next stages of Design WA:

Precinct Design:

Given the predictions of Perth and Peel @ 3.5 million, effective precinct design is integral to the future of our cities and towns. The Precinct Design policy will apply to areas that require a high-level of design focus due to their complexity, whether this is due to mixed use components, higher levels of density, an activity centre designation or character and/or heritage value. The policy will require a tailored, performance-based approach to precinct design, supported by design review and a high level of community participation. The 10 Principles of Good Design outlined in State Planning Policy 7.0 will apply. The draft Precinct Design policy is anticipated to be submitted to the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) for consideration in mid-2019, prior to being advertised for public comment.

Medium Density:

A scoping paper is currently being prepared on medium density – the so-called ‘Missing Middle’.
The paper is based on information from the development industry, practitioners and local governments as well as conversations with some smaller scale developers and builders who work in this space.  It is anticipated that this project will commence in late 2019, following WAPC endorsement.    

Who can I contact for further information?

Please contact the Design WA team at the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage via email to or (08) 6551 8002.

The Design WA brochure provides an at a glance guide to the new initatives propsed as part of Design WA Stage 1.  It is a summary of the key changes and 10 design principles.

Read the brochure

What to look for when choosing a well-designed house or apartmentis a complementary guide to help WA house hunters and renters choose a home that is liveable and has good design elements. It offers expert advice on what questions to ask when purchasing or renting a house or apartment.

Read the guide

For more information or assistance with a query, please contact the Design WA team at

Page last reviewed 18 April 2019
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