Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Council has launched a pioneering online application allowing ratepayers to follow local developments in real time.
What’s believed to be the first council in Australia to allow ratepayers to track development applications on their mobile, Sunshine Coast says it also hopes to achieve efficiencies and operational savings through the tool.
The application, dubbed Development.i, allows users to navigate, visualise, track and be alerted to development applications in their suburb and the surrounding areas dating back to 2007.
James Ruprai, Sunshine Coast Council’s group executive of customer engagement and planning services, said the council is the first in Australia to present development application data in this way.
“Development.i is a new and exciting way of providing public access to development information. Members of the community – from residents’ groups, developers, and consultants to investors – now have simpler and easier access to building and development applications and property information,” he told Government News.
“Development.i will be a game changer for access to development information, providing the opportunity for our residents to be engaged in the planning process and empowering them to be informed.”
Users now have access to advanced search capabilities including the ability to navigate a map to find an area or site of interest, with the option to pin this location.
Residents can also identify developments being proposed both for a property and in surrounding buildings through an “around me” feature.
The tool also allows users to save results, receive alerts when new applications are lodged and track the status of applications including when a response is received and a decision notice has been sent.
“If users create a MyCouncil account or log in with their existing one, they can save map searches or favourite properties and applications and then set alerts when new applications are lodged and as they progress through assessment stages,” Mr Ruprai said.
The app also allows users to visualise results, both locally and regionally – for example, by using filters to look for specific proposals such as childcare centres or solely Impact Assessable Applications.
The application replaces the council’s PD Online development application racking system, providing the same information but in a more accessible way for residents.
Mr Ruprai said:
“Sunshine Coast Council receives about 40,000 development inquires per year, many of which could be answered by accessing PD Online and connected online tools at the convenience of the customer. However, users often found the previous system a challenge and found it easier to phone, putting pressure on staff answering simple questions rather than being able to dedicate resources to more complex inquiries.”
With the council’s former PD development tracking system receiving 150,000 sessions and 950,000 site visits a year, improving the capabilities of this development technology was critical to manage the 40,000 development enquiries it received annually, he said.
Development.i will enable the council to improve efficiencies by reducing the number of simple inquiries and reinvesting in the business and customer service, Mr Ruprai says.
“As people become more accustomed to finding what they are looking for online, and discover it is simpler and quicker than previously, planning staff will then be able to spend more time on other high-value functions,” he said.
“For example, 50 per cent of inquiries into council’s planning department are for simple zoning or application status inquiries.”
Watch a video about the new app:
The council’s project, which was funded by a $150,000 grant from the Queensland Government’s Innovation and Improvement Fund, could also be helpful for other public sector agencies that “currently provide public access to planning and development information that could benefit from the enhanced features of Development.i.,” Mr Ruprai says.
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