22/04/2010 - 00:00

Cambridge slashes approval time

22/04/2010 - 00:00


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THE Town of Cambridge has introduced a priority building approvals process, which will allow residential applications to be assessed within five days.

Cambridge slashes approval time

THE Town of Cambridge has introduced a priority building approvals process, which will allow residential applications to be assessed within five days.

The process, known as FastTrack, will give priority to residential developments that are designed according to a pre-approved building envelope under the metropolitan area’s residential design guidelines (R-Codes).

Under the R-Codes system a home can gain planning approval either by meeting pre-approved design criteria, or pass a subjective test where the applicant must meet performance criteria spelled out in the codes.

According to Town of Cambridge Mayor Simon Withers, applicants who design their homes under pre-approved guidelines will be given priority and a commitment of approval within five working days.

Town of Cambridge chief executive Jason Buckley said an application seeking variation to the pre-approved R-Codes takes six weeks on average, depending on its complexity and its impact on surrounding properties.

The Town of Cambridge dealt with 596 applications last year, averaging 50 each month.

“There has been a lot of criticism around the time its takes local governments to process planning approvals and this is our response to that, because at our council, we don’t take a lot of time to process planning approvals,” Mr Withers told WA Business News.

“We’re doing two things, one is we’re responding to various developer groups who say councils take too long to do approvals and we’re saying ‘no we’re not, if you want to build your houses inside the envelope we can give you very quick approvals.

“But what we’re also trying to do is encourage people to design inside the envelope because it will save a lot of council time and will save a lot of elected members’ time.”

Mr Withers said approvals under the pre-approved building envelope were significantly less time consuming than those that needed a check of performance criteria, so it was logical for those projects to gain priority.

“What happens is that people who want to build outside the envelope and rely on performance criteria, they take up an awful lot of time, because it’s a very subjective form of analysis, whereas people who conform their designs to the building envelope don’t take up much time at all,” Mr Withers said.

“There is not really any change in the amount of work that we do, all we’re doing is giving priority to approvals that meet the pre-approved guidelines and we’re committing to process them in a very quick period.

“One of the key things about it is both the owner and the designer have to certify that the plans are 100 per cent within the envelope and if they’re not, they get kicked to the bottom of the pile.”

Mr Withers said he hoped other councils would adopt the FastTrack approvals process, which could give extra certainty for developers wanting timely planning permission.

“The big timewaster for local government is people submitting incomplete or incorrect applications, because then they either get rejected or there is a lot of correspondence that goes on trying to get them into shape.

“That takes up a huge amount of time, so we’re putting the ball back in the planners court, saying ‘if you want things to move quickly it’s up to you to submit plans that are 100 per cent in order.

The Cambridge reforms come at the same time the state government has introduced a bill to state parliament discussing improvements to the planning process.

The bill, discussing the introduction of development assessment panels for large development applications, is expected to ease development blockages that have caused major project delays.



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