Roadmap cuts red tape

Colac Otway Shire Council has developed a new roadmap for a faster, more agile and responsive planning department.

Central to the plan will be cutting red tape through a targeted review of the planning scheme to clear out unnecessary regulations.

The employment of a fast track planner will aim to speed up processing times to 10 days for ‘mum and dad’ projects such as building front fences, constructing sheds or repainting heritage buildings.

Meanwhile, service targets for planning staff will provide clear expectations around communication with customers to ensure applicants are kept informed at key stages throughout the planning process.

Chief Executive Officer Sue Wilkinson said an expert independent consultant had been used to conduct the review to address clear feedback from the community that planning services needed improvement.

“We now have a roadmap for impactful and lasting improvements to our planning department.

“Our planning team is already working hard to improve its service delivery, and is committed to implementing all 28 of the report’s recommendations.”

The planning department slashed 33 days from its average processing time for planning applications between May 2014 and May 2015.

The new roadmap recommends that further reductions could be achieved in processing times by enforcing a response time of 10 business days for internal referrals on matters such as drainage, traffic management, vegetation or public open space.

Ms Wilkinson said Council’s planning department regularly received applications that were of poor quality, and had significant information gaps.

She said Council’s planning team would update and improve its checklists, fact sheets and web materials to help applicants better understand what was required of them.

“All 28 of the recommendations in our road map will be implemented during the next 12 months and we will report back to our community regularly on how our planning team is performing.

“While the report is going before next week’s Council meeting for noting, our team has already made a strong start on making long-term changes to the way it operates.

“We know that amidst rate capping, declining government grants and cost shifting, a business as usual approach will not be enough for us to maintain our service levels to the community.

“A comprehensive staged review of all Council services is occurring to ensure we’re in a strong position to address the new challenges faced by the local government sector.”