DAs to be fast-tracked if significant trees retained

29 March 2022

The City of Stirling will implement a priority assessment process for ‘standard’ development applications (DAs) that retain significant trees, in the latest action by the City to improve the overall tree canopy.

The City aims to plant one million trees and shrubs over a 17-year period to 2025. Since the initiative began 13 years ago, the City has planted 802,616 trees and shrubs, and in 2020/21 the City spent $892,449 on working towards this target.

In the 2020/21 planting season, the City planted 9,040 trees and 58,724 shrubs, meaning that the City is on track to meet its target.

In 2020/21, the Community Tree Planting Program involved 216 volunteers in residential street tree-planting events and 115 school students and scouts assisted in planting trees on school verges and in reserves. This resulted in a total of 331 volunteers contributing 1,236 hours, planting 1,230 street trees across the City.

Council unanimously endorsed a review of Local Planning Policy 6.11 – Trees and Development, as well as the creation of a register for significant trees that are required to be retained as part of a development. Under Clause 5.5.5 of the City’s Local Planning Scheme (LPS3) variations to development standards are possible where a significant tree is retained on site as part of a development.

Mayor Mark Irwin said today that Council was committed to doing more to increase tree canopy coverage across the City.

“The City of Stirling is one of the most advanced local governments in Western Australia in monitoring tree canopy, and due to developments on private land this canopy coverage is falling,” he said.

“Our Urban Forest Plan 2019 sets out an ambitious target of increasing the 12.6 per cent coverage in 2018 to 18 per cent in 2040. However, the latest analysis conducted by the City shows that the coverage fell to 12.2 per cent in 2020-21.

“The City is currently developing further plans and programs for the financial year 2022/23 budget that will bring Policy 6.11 up to a sector-leading position, and these new incentives to retain significant trees are an important step in that direction.

“Having your DA brought to the front of the queue because you’ve retained a significant tree is a massive incentive, because time is money. As we review our Trees and Development Policy, we will be looking for other, stronger actions Council can take.”

Director Planning and Development Stevan Rodic stated today that tree canopy loss was an issue for the whole Perth metropolitan region, and that the City endorsed calls for a consistent mechanism to further incentivise the retention of mature trees on private land.

“Planting trees as part of a development has become widely accepted by the community and the development industry,” he said.

“However, two-thirds of all tree canopy cover loss in the City has been on private land – both via development of residential properties and significant tree pruning – and so planting alone will not adequately replace the tree canopy loss.

“In October 2017, Council adopted Local Planning Policy 6.11 - Trees and Development (the Trees and Development Policy) and changes to LPS3 to require the provision of trees (either through retention or planting) in developments.

“Additional controls have also has been introduced by Council into LPS3 that allow scheme requirements to be varied where a significant tree is retained on private land.”

The WA Local Government Association (WALGA) has previously stated in a submission to the State Government’s proposed planning reform that Local Governments understand the loss of mature trees in urban areas. Combined with the impacts of climate change, this is contributing to creating hotter cities, suburbs and regional centres.

As well as lessening the impact of the urban heat island effect and increasing resilience to a changing climate, improving tree canopy cover increases neighbourhood liveability and amenity, improves air quality, assists to conserve biodiversity and contributes positively to psychological and emotional wellbeing.

WALGA has proposed – and the City of Stirling is supportive of this position – that a collaboration between the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) and the sector be formed to develop a consistent and effective mechanism within the planning system to protect mature urban trees on private land.

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