Time to level application playing field

Central Coast Council’s Gosford Chambers

Central Coast is notorious for its slowness in dealing with development applications (“Developer lobby critical of council delays”, PP 027).

This slowness can’t have anything to do with aiming at a high quality of decisions, because the widespread dissatisfaction with development approvals, as evidenced in weekly letters to this paper, suggests that the delays don’t result in any greater acceptance of the result by the community.

We need more and/or better-trained staff to maintain a sensible rate of turnover in the system.

This might mean that application fees will have to go up to cover the cost.

Given how important the construction industry is to the regional economy, this can obviously be justified on a cost/benefit basis.

One of the probable reasons for slow processing of applications is that there is no negative impact on the Council if examination is delayed for months.

The applicant has no recourse which is a very unsatisfactory feature of the law.

There are some possible, simple remedies for this problem.

One might be to penalise the Council, if an application takes over a fixed period of time for consideration, by, for instance, requiring a percentage of the application fee to be returned, for each week of delay.

This kind of penalty arrangement often works well in contracts and would be easy to apply.

Another option would be to change the law so that, for certain classes of application at least, the development is deemed to be approved, if Council does not render a timely decision.

Obviously, the present system is not working satisfactorily.

No doubt, the Urban Development Institute is lobbying the Minister for changes to benefit developers, but it is not only developers who are affected.

Every small renovation or addition requires Council approval, and it is highly frustrating for a property owner to be kept waiting for agreement to what are usually very straightforward requests for small projects.

Some streamlining is called for to help ordinary ratepayers: obviously, developers already have insider benefits with pre-application conferences etc., so it’s time to level the application playing field.

Email, Sep 19
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy