NSW rushes through 10-day planning approvals

By Angela Dorizas

Fast-tracked planning approvals for businesses in New South Wales will come into effect next month, with the launch of the Commercial and Industrial Code.

Planning Minister Kristina Keneally said 10-day planning approvals would assist businesses through the global financial crisis. 

“At the moment many businesses, including small retailers, have been required to lodge a development application (DA) with council when moving into, and fitting out, a new shop,” she said.

“For example, a retailer may have to lodge a DA when changing the use of an existing shopfront from a shoe shop to a book store, where the only physical changes required are new shelving and signage.

“Now this book store retailer would be able to use the Commercial Code, which is a 10 day “checklist style” approval, instead of going through a development application process.”

The 10-day approval will also apply to businesses pursuing “minor improvements” to existing buildings.

The Property Council of Australia backed the 10-day approval system, claiming that it would save retailers up to $4500 in rent.

According to the Code, fast-tracked approvals are capable of delivering savings of up to $3400 for commercial offices and $74,000 for industrial facilities.

 “If just 10 per cent of the State’s retail tenancies use the Code each year, between them they would potentially save $40 million dollars per year,” Keneally said.

“This does not include savings for commercial office or industrial businesses, which could add up to tens of millions of dollars more.”

Shires Association president Bruce Miller was generally supportive of the changes, but had some reservations.

“We have been working with the Department of Planning to develop this Code and improve its content and workability, and we certainly support streamlining of DA requirements for small and low impact developments,” Cr Miller told GovernmentNews.

“However it’s important to remember many councils already have streamlined processes in place to deal with office and shop fit-outs in a fast and efficient manner.”

Cr Miller said the speedy implementation of the Code did not give local government sufficient time to adjust to the changes.

“As with the housing code, we are concerned that the Department of Planning is implementing these changes is a fairly rushed manner, and councils only have one month to put the new Code into effect,” he said.

“This includes amending their business processes, training staff, altering advisory material for applicants and making adjustments to their IT systems – it’s simply not enough time.”

The Department of Planning will conduct implementation workshops for planning practitioners and council staff throughout August. The Code will come into effect on September 7, 2009.

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