Group workshops faster DAs
KEEN to streamline development application processes, Lismore City Council has initiated a group of local industry representatives to brainstorm solutions.
The council's manager of development and compliance Peter Jeuken said the Development Assessment Focus Group has resulted in a raft of measures aimed at streamlining development applications.
As one participant commented, it was a chance for the council to "tape your mouth shut and listen".
"And we did," Mr Jeuken said.
"Staff have taken action on a whole range of issues, big and small. A report by independent consultant Pamela Westing made it abundantly clear we needed an internal review of our processes. We have done that concurrently with this Development Assessment Focus Group to get outcomes that will benefit anyone doing a DA."
Mr Jeuken said changes include having a single point of contact for specific enquiries, pre-lodgement meetings so developers know what's expected of them and a future plan to introduce an online fee calculator.
Neil Priestley from building company NE&A Priestley thought the focus group was a good idea and could be expanded across other areas of council to facilitate service improvements.
"As with any council there's quite a lot of paperwork and red tape but this is helping to condense that and make it easier to deal with … there's a lot of streamlining," Neil said.
"It's been a very good exercise; very interesting."
Bennett Constructions Managing Director Darryl Piper felt Council had listened and taken on board concerns.
"It may mean we can make a phone call and have something resolved in a week rather than a tennis match of letters," he said.
"Communication is getting better."
Damian Chapelle from Newton Denny Chapelle said it showed Council's commitment to encouraging business and growth within the electorate.
"It's great to see Council being proactive with its customers and putting systems in place that will benefit council and users of its development section," Damian said.
"Sometimes it's just a case of tweaking small things to make it easier for both parties and results in more efficient assessments."
There's also a draft set of policy provisions now on exhibition to simplify the council's DA notification process and staff are developing an electronic newsletter with information about changes to building requirements and council regulations.
"Over the last three years we have made some major structural and systemic changes to our DA planning area as a result of the independent review," explained executive director of sustainable development, Brent McAlister.
"I initiated the focus group to get first-hand feedback on fine tuning our service from regular customers. As a result of meeting we are making over a dozen small changes such as reducing the length of our application form through to booking specific inspection times. We are constantly looking for improvements," he said