Embedding a culture of continuous improvement
To reduce assessment wait times for development applications (DAs), the City of Canterbury Bankstown:
- made approval times a key performance indicator for council managers
- mapped the assessment process to help planners work more closely with other parts of the business (for example, with engineers and tree-management officers)
- provided additional training opportunities for staff, particularly in urban design
- gave individual planners personal responsibility for approving plans, backed by regular peer review and quality audits
- encouraged planners to communicate with the customer earlier in the assessment process so they can quickly act on any issues
- instituted monthly reporting of assessment times to improve performance
- introduced awards and recognition of individual and team achievements.
- The council’s development assessment team has improved relationships with customers, the community and other areas of the council.
- The knowledge of individual planners has improved, enhancing their professional judgement and decision-making.
- Tracking data and communicating results monthly has improved performance, reducing processing times.
- More consistent timeframes for processing assessments has made it easier to track and plan work.
- The customer receives time and support at the pre-lodgement stage to make sure the application is as complete as possible, and any potential issues are identified and flagged early.
Starting a free project-meeting service for developers
Blacktown City Council has introduced a free project-meeting service for developers delivering large projects in urban release areas to boost housing supply in the fast-growing region.
The previous pre-lodgement meeting process only catered for single development proposals and did not allow for a holistic consideration of longer-term projects requiring more than one development application (DA).
The key aspects of the new process are as follows:
- The nature and scale of a proposal will determine the frequency of meetings. At the initial meeting, a schedule for gatherings is agreed and tailored to the developer’s timeframe.
- At the meetings, the council’s key stakeholders are brought together with the developers to discuss potential issues and opportunities.
- The council’s Development Services Manager attends meetings to ensure that, where possible, decisions are made immediately.
- Specialists are brought in from both sides to resolve issues as they arise.
- The meetings result in faster solutions and ensure all parties leave with a better understanding of what stakeholders hope to achieve.
- Problems are resolved early, or strategies to resolve issues are mutually agreed at the start.
- Discussions are robust and productive.
Creating a team to explain the development application process – before the application is lodged
Blacktown City Council’s Gateway Team helps applicants understand planning controls and processes, and how to prepare a development application ((DA) by:
- providing guidelines for developments of all sizes
- identifying state environmental planning policies that may apply
- nominating service authorities that should be contacted
- highlighting potential issues with developments (for example, flooding, salinity or bushfire), and issues that must be investigated by a technical specialist
- identifying service authorities that should be consulted
- calculating section 7.11 Local Infrastructure contributions
- providing free pre-lodgement meetings with council specialists
- reviewing each DA on lodgement.
This approach frees up assessment officers so they can focus on processing DAs.
- The permissibility and feasibility of projects can be considered at the outset, before an applicant spends time and money preparing a development application (DA).
- Issues are identified and addressed early in the process, resulting in cost savings.
- Identifying and addressing all issues at pre-lodgement speeds up assessment .
- The quality of DAs has improved and determination times have been reduced.
- Assessment planners can now focus on assessments.
- As more research time is dedicated to general enquiries, the council provides more accurate and in-depth advice to the public.
- Staff turnover has fallen.
Fast-tracking low-risk applications using a digital platform
Liverpool City’s FastTrack digital platform makes it easier to lodge a development application (DA) and transfer documents, and quicker to conduct assessments. Turnaround times have been reduced to 3 to 10 days for low-risk DAs, and some are assessed in as little as 24 hours.
To implement the FastTrack system, the council:
- identified the assessment framework and planning controls necessary to deliver good outcomes, and developed new assessment processes more suitable for less complex developments
- began with a soft launch of the tool and framework to specific project -home builders before the formal launch to the wider community in mid-2016
- included performance monitoring of FastTrack as a key performance indicator in its Community Strategic Program.
While moving aspects of the development application (DA) process online streamlined lodgement and document transfers but reworking the approvals process led to substantial improvements.
- FastTrack is now available for a range of development types on around 44,000 properties across the city.
- Development consents and construction certificates are being issued within an average of 3 days, a 96% improvement compared to previous approval times.
- Council staff can focus on larger, more complex DAs and applicants can start construction sooner.
- User-friendly tools that identify permissibility and (limited) planning controls for new buildings enable dwelling approvals to be issued quickly with minimal impact on the local area.
- A digital interface facilitates clear advice and consistent messaging.
- Online lodgement ensures all necessary documentation is received before a DA progresses.
Note: Councils should ensure their assessment and notification requirements suit the risks associated with individual DAs.
Using checklists to identify non-complying projects before a development application is lodged
To improve development application (DA) assessment times, the City of Parramatta introduced lodgement and preliminary assessment practices that have improved the quality of applications.
The new system has sped up assessment times by:
- introducing checklists (for example, stormwater ) to be completed by the applicant’s engineer, to standardise and increase the quality of information submitted – this has also helped the council to cull non-complying schemes before lodgement
- checking DAs for engineering compliance immediately after lodgement
- implementing stricter deadlines for site inspections
- introducing targets to improve forecasting.
- Development application (DA) issues are typically identified within 10 days of an application.
- Engineering referrals typically meet the council’s 14-day target.
- The quality of engineering information with lodgement has improved and applicants understand it better.