Wingecarribee Shire Council says improving development application (DA) processing times will be a key priority for 2022.
“We fully acknowledge our DA processing times were below par last year,” admitted Council’s Director Communities and Place, Geoff King.
“However, we’re confident that the initiatives we’ve implemented over the past few months, and some changes planned for this year, will improve our response times.”
Mr King said several factors were responsible for last year’s delays.
“In many ways we saw a perfect storm of issues which led to previous extended processing times,” he said.
“Covid and the subsequent exodus from metropolitan areas saw our Shire attract an unprecedented volume of development applications.
“On top of that we’re still negotiating an industry shortage of planners and compliance officers and legacy issues from the previous Council.”
Mr King reminded applicants to treat staff with courtesy.
“Our staff aren’t just employees but people too,” he said. “Many of them are locals and they’re juggling additional stresses of working remotely as a result of COVID while assessing multiple applications.”
“While people are understandably frustrated, it’s important that requests for information are made respectfully.”
Mr King said several changes had already improved DA processing transparency.
“One significant change has been the introduction of an independent Planning Panel,” he said. “This has already removed the politics from planning decisions and ensured proposals received are based on their merits alone.”
Mr King said Council was also finalising the introduction of a online pre-development application booking system and upgrading Council’s website.
“We’re committed to undertaking a targeted recruitment campaign in the months ahead and filling vacancies in the interim with skilled contractors,” he added.
Mr King said the combination of initiatives would help expedite assessments and minimise the need for applicants to engage external consultants other than experienced planning and design firms when submitting comprehensive or complicated applications.
“We’re confident that all these processes will see DA assessment times noticeable improve in the coming months,” Mr King added.
“While we implement all these changes we apologise for the current delays and thank applicants for the patience they have shown thus far.”
Mr King said Council would be in contact with current applicants with updates as soon as changes had been implemented enabling staff to deal with existing applications.
“We’re committed to working with applicants in the months ahead and significantly improving our delivery and customer service over the coming year.”