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East Gippsland Council moves to streamline planning approvals to reduce the overall processing time
A review of East Gippsland Shire Council's Planning Permit Application Delegations Policy has identified opportunities to streamline decision-making and improve the timeliness of decisions.
Many planning permit applications are decided by Planning officers under delegation, while others are decided by council at open council meetings. The policy outlines the triggers that would see a permit application decided under delegation or by council. The review presented an opportunity to streamline the permit process, while ensuring that planning matters of significant public interest are decided in public by the full council.
The revised Planning Permit Application Delegations Policy was adopted at the council meeting on September 20 2022
Reinforce the key role
The revised Planning Permit Application Delegations Policy was adopted at the council meeting on September 20. Mayor Cr Mark Reeves said one of the aims of the updated policy was to reinforce the key role of councillors in determining the strategic direction of the municipality and the role of officers in implementing strategic direction and policy.
The policy will help to reduce the overall processing time for planning permit applications, by enabling more efficient processes for decision making.
"It is important for the community to know this policy ensures matters of significant public interest, or involving possible conflicts of interest, are dealt with by council," Cr Reeves said.
Opportunities for applicants
Cr Reeves also said, "The revised policy also removes processes that do not contribute to improved decision-making and covers additional items including the determination of planning permits. It did not provide guidance on other planning matters such as ending or amending Section 173 Agreements, representation at VCAT, amendments to Development Plans, or steps in the Planning Scheme Amendment process."
From July 2020 to June 2022, council issued 1053 planning permits (not including VicSmart permits). Of these permits, 31 of these decisions were made by council. Only twice were the planning officer's recommendations not supported. The policy continues to provide an opportunity for councillors to 'call-up' applications where required.
During the same period, 26 matters relating to Section 173 Agreements were also referred to council. All officer's recommendations were adopted. Improving the timeliness of planning decisions is expected to be a significant benefit of greater delegation. "Planning Consultation Meetings (PCM) and mediation sessions are formal opportunities for applicants and objectors to talk about contentious applications and discuss their concerns," Cr Reeves said.
Cr Reeves added, "A PCM involves the applicant, objectors and councillors and allows councillors to hear objectors' views. Mediation sessions aim to find common ground and resolve issues. Unfortunately, our experience is that agreement is rarely reached."
Under the updated Planning Delegations Policy, PCMs will continue to be held for applications receiving 10 or more objections. The process has been changed to allow these applications to then be determined under delegation, unless councillors 'call-up' the application.
Mediation sessions will no longer be held; however, council officers can set up opportunities for objectors and applicants to meet informally to seek common ground or compromise where there is a willingness for parties to reach an agreed outcome. "Council is excited to take another step in strengthening the planning arrangements in East Gippsland to ensure they meet the needs of our community," Cr Reeves said.
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