Slow DA processing sparks reform debate

By staff writer

After a comparative council report revealed many NSW councils are taking longer than the stipulated 40 days to process development applications, debate rages over how to speed up the process.

A recent comparative council report card from the NSW Department of Local Government found the average processing time for a NSW development application was 54 days, with two in five councils taking longer than the 40-day limit set out in the Local Government Act.

The NSW Urban Taskforce, a group representing the development industry, suggested the process was hamstrung by bureaucracy, with most developments required to go through the public exhibition process.

According to Taskforce CEO Terry Barnes, many smaller residential projects, such as new homes which complied with regulations and extensions or alterations to existing dwellings, could be exempt from the exhibition process.

Local Government and Shires Association president, Genia McCaffery, has expressed concern that removing the consultation process could leave communities feeling left out.

"You do have to strike a balance. If the first you hear of your neighbour’s development is when the bulldozers arrive in the backyard that’s not a good process," told ALGA News

The approvals process was last reformed in April last year to allow for the implementation of independent hearing and assessment panels.

A spokeswoman for Planning Minister Frank Sartor said the panels would only target councils with systemic development problems.

She said the planning department was closely examining the figures, and collecting other data, to identify the bottlenecks.

Many councils had taken action to improve their processing times since the 2004-05 reporting period, and the government was working to attract more planners to NSW and assist with major redevelopment projects, the spokeswoman says.

One of the highest achievers in the report was Blacktown City Council, processing the greatest number of DAs, 3690 in an average 45 days per application.

“Blacktown City Council has a high level of delegated authority to council officers, which has a significant impact on reducing processing times,” says Blacktown City Council mayor, Leo Kelly.

“Where delegated authority is limited, processing times will always be high due to the need to report applications to Council meetings which may only be held once or twice a month.”

For more see the story Comparative council report criticised in the February edition of Government News magazine.

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