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.

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 8 march 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.

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 three-month delay for the policies to be gazetted?

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.

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

Do any checklists/templates exist to help proponents and assessors?

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 on the DPLH website so that they can be customised where required (‘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.
Will the department be offering any training on the Design WA policies?

The department is working closely with industry groups to deliver Design WA information sessions as needed. We are also currently developing a series of industry videos to assist stakeholders such as proponents, assessors, decision makers and the general community in understanding the changes as a result of Design WA Stage One.

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.

What happens to the current R-Codes?

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).

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 22 March 2019
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