Page 71 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 9 December 2008

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unprecedented number of development applications lodged with the ACT Planning and Land Authority. Many developers sought to fast-track their particular development applications to get in under the new system because there are a variety of protections that are in place for the community under the new planning and development system that perhaps, and most particularly in the case of residential development zones, have been seen by the development lobby as hindering their capacity to stack multiple multiunit developments into areas like cul-de-sacs. Through the development of the new planning system, the government was able to crack down a little on what really was inappropriate development in suburban areas. That meant there was a significant bringing forward of development applications.

My advice from the Planning and Land Authority is that all of that backlog has been dealt with through the addition of some extra development staff over the past four or five months. I now am advised that the economic slow down, combined with the new planning system, have seen the number of development applications fall considerably.

There have, however, as Ms Le Couteur has identified, been some issues with development applications being lodged in the wrong assessment track. That largely has to do with the need for further industry education, particularly in relation to the difference between the code and merit tracks. That work has been underway for some time in partnership with the MBA and HIA, who have been very constructive in working with the Planning and Land Authority and with their members, on educating their members about the new system and the advantages that are there in lodging more applications in the code track. Following the roundtable that was held last week with industry, we have been able to further identify areas where industry representatives can take advantage of the new planning and development system to see even more development applications.

The advice from the chief planning executive is somewhere between a further 20 and 30 per cent of DAs could in fact move into either the code or exempt tracks, thereby freeing up time within the planning authority to assess the more complex development applications that come through the merit and impact tracks.

I am confident that, following the extensive consultation with industry in the development of the legislation and the initial teething problems, most particularly around that first set of development applications that were put through prior to the changeover to the new system, the Planning and Land Authority, with additional staff in that development assessment area—and the chief planning executive indicated, I think, last week, a further five staff were going to be seconded into that area for the rest of this calendar year to deal with those issues—we should emerge in 2009 with a more streamlined planning system.

I thank all those in the industry who have been very patient in the implementation of the new system. As members would be aware, making a change of this nature, a fundamental reform of the way planning and development is undertaken in the territory, was always going to be a complex exercise and there would be a period of transition. We are emerging from that period and I think we are well placed now to have a very smooth planning system into the future.

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