Draft State Planning Policy 4.2 - Activity centres

The Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) sought comment on the new draft State Planning Policy 4.2 - Activity centres.
Last updated: 2 February 2022

Activity centres are a significant focus for economic development and future growth. They are thriving community hubs that provide a diverse range of homes, jobs close to where people live, retail and commercial opportunities and other activities easily accessible by walking, cycling and public transport. 

The Western Australian Planning Commission has collaborated with various key stakeholders to review State Planning Policy 4.2 Activity Centres for Perth and Peel. 

Draft documents for consultation

The Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) sought comment on the new draft State Planning Policy 4.2 - Activity centres.

Consultation closed 5pm, Friday 12 Feb 2021.

The draft policy aims to ensure planning and development adequately considers the distribution, function and broad land use options for activity centres to meet local community needs, and provide social, economic and environmental benefits to all Western Australians.

The draft policy now includes guidance on the preparation and assessment of Needs Assessment and Impact Tests (formerly Retail Sustainability Assessments). 


Draft SPP 4.2 will encourage development within activity centres to be well-designed, cohesive and functional, capitalising on the use of existing and planned infrastructure. 

It will also maximise access to and within activity centres by walking, cycling and public transport, reducing private vehicle trips and parking. 

SPP 4.2 and planning reform 

Draft SPP 4.2 aligns with planning reform by ensuring ‘land use and infrastructure planning is coordinated’ by providing an updated and expanded activity centre function and hierarchy (i.e. the inclusion of the Greater Bunbury Region Scheme). 

The review of SPP 4.2 also supports the delivery of good design and encouraging design excellence.

Defining the role of each type of activity centre will also help ensure the planning system is more consistent and strategically led. 

COVID-19 Planning Reforms

What are Activity Centres?

Activity centres are multi-functional community focal points that vary in size and function. They are generally well-serviced by transport networks with a focus on integrated pedestrian access and walkability, and may include land uses such as commercial, retail, food and hospitality, higher-density housing, entertainment, tourism, civic/community facilities, higher education, and medical services.

Activity centres for Perth and Peel

What are the different types of centres?

Activity centres are categorised under seven classifications within the activity centre hierarchy.

These include;

  • Capital City
  • Strategic Centre
  • Secondary Centres
  • District Centres
  • Specialised Centres
  • Neighbourhood Centres and
  • Local Centres.

The typical attributes of each activity centre can be found within Appendix 1 of SPP 4.2.

What aspects of planning does the revised policy cover?

Activity Centre Hierarchy – sets out the hierarchy and high-level function of activity centres in the Metropolitan (Perth), Peel and Bunbury regions.

Land uses – encourages the development of multi-functional activity centres with a wide range of different land uses and higher-density housing.

Employment – encourages employment-generating activities in activity centres and improved access to jobs for local communities.

Urban form – activity centres should be defined by pedestrian-dominated streetscapes and a compact urban form.

Movement and access – promotes a balanced movement network that prioritises walking, cycling and public transport over private vehicles, and supports better management of parking in activity centres.

Major and out-of-centre development – provides guidance and a methodology for assessing the impact and benefits of major development within and outside designated activity centres.

Why has the policy been reviewed?

SPP 4.2 aims to ensure planning and development adequately considers the distribution, function and broad land use options of activity centres.

It has been reviewed to address concerns by some stakeholders about implementation issues and to ensure the policy remains contemporary and responsive.

What are the main differences between the draft and existing policies?

The draft policy is more aligned with current State Planning Policies, particularly the Design WA policy suite. The Model Centre Framework at Appendix 2 of the current policy is to be replaced with the SPP 7.2 Precinct Design and Guidelines which is currently under development (2020).

The draft policy also expands the scope outside Perth and Peel to the Greater Bunbury region and provides guidance on retail planning and assessment.

Are activity centre plans still required?

Under draft SPP 7.2 Precinct Design, activity centres are a type of precinct, so activity centre plans will be replaced by precinct structure plans which must be prepared for strategic, secondary, district and specialised centres in accordance with the requirements of SPP 7.2 Precinct Design and Precinct Design Guidelines.

Just like activity centre plans, a precinct structure plan for an activity centre will outline land use, density and development, access arrangements, infrastructure, environmental assets and community facilities to facilitate future subdivision and development.

How does the draft policy relate to Design WA?

As part of its review, the draft policy has been aligned with Stage Two – SPP 7.2 Precinct Design and State Planning Policy 7.1 Neighbourhood Design (previously Liveable Neighbourhoods). 

It provides guidance on the identification, distribution, function and broad land use considerations for activity centres at the strategic level, while SPP 7.1 and SPP 7.2 provide guidance on the location, distribution and design of activity centres at the structure plan level. The Design WA policies effectively replace the Model Centre Framework in the 2010 gazetted version of SPP 4.2.

Design WA

How does the draft policy relate to planning reforms?

The review of SPP 4.2 is a key part of the legislative and planning reform agenda to create a more flexible, responsive and contemporary planning system. 

The draft policy will provide clear guidance to deliver contemporary outcomes when planning major centres with a mix of uses including retail, commercial and mixed-use developments. 

Are Needs Assessments still required?

Yes. A Needs Assessment may be prepared in support of a Local Planning Strategy, Local Planning Scheme/Scheme Amendment, Precinct Structure Plan and standard Structure Plan at the district or local level.

A Needs Assessment should be prepared where a major development is proposed for an activity centre.  

Are Retail Sustainability Assessments still required?

Yes. If a major development is proposed, the applicant is required to provide an Impact Test (previously known as a ‘Retail Sustainability Assessment’), prepared in accordance with the Implementation Guidelines (refer to Section 5).

The Impact Test ensures that major development proposals align with the objectives of SPP 4.2.