ePlanning empowering councils to remove housing development complexity and delays
Australian local governments that have implemented sophisticated planning systems have seen an immediate improvement in community sentiment, by simplifying the often daunting task of preparing and lodging a development application.
Currently anyone wishing to submit a development application in New South Wales, for example, is met with layers of complex rules and red tape. Applicants must have a good understanding of what they are looking for to effectively navigate regulations. On top of this, the development application process can take up to 12 months, adding to the complexity of planning and development. This is the case not only a local level, but also at a regional and state level.
Community feedback clearly articulates concerns with the existing process, saying the systems are difficult to use and it takes too much time for an application to be processed. This complexity creates undue delays, uncertainties and inconsistencies, often putting applicants off from proceeding with an application.
Impact of development delays on our economy
Not undertaking development has a flow on effect to the building industry - projects slow down, project pipelines don't occur and the whole ecosystem of suppliers, subcontractors and third parties is affected.
Planning holdups mean housing construction holdups, which leads to a reduction in housing stock and a slowdown in the economy. In fact, in Australia there is already a considerable housing shortage issue.
Australia is the world's 10th most socially advanced nation but a lack of housing is holding it back, according to a survey by US not-for-profit group Social Progress Imperative. Australia only ranks 19th in the world when it comes to shelter and 51st in terms of housing affordability.
While state planning reforms across the nation are currently putting a spotlight on planning processes, council’s can’t afford to wait until these reforms are in place to make improvements. Reforms are often lengthy to implement, and can be uncertain as changes in government impair rollout.
How can ePlanning reduce complexity?
ePlanning systems can transform the planning process, by taking a templated, streamlined approach to managing all types of development applications. This approach is a significant departure from the traditional method of creating a different, highly customised process for each application type.
By introducing consistent processes, an ePlanning solution eliminates inefficiencies and delays in the development process by ensuring development applications are accurately managed. It also enables councils to meet digital government requirements, converting hard copy planning schemes into a single online source that is easy for the community to use.
A templated approach ensures all the right information is collected at the right time, reducing the workload for back office staff who currently spend their time fielding questions about how to submit an application, or chasing up applications that are submitted incomplete or incorrectly.
For the community, it is a much more consumer-friendly way of undertaking an application, offering 24/7 access to information about the progress of an application online, without needing to go into a physical office.
Forward-thinking councils benefiting from ePlanning
After implementing an ePlanning solution, Liverpool Council in NSW sped up its development application processing times to just four days, from an average of 104 days.
The council likened the introduction of ePlanning to “the planning equivalent of an express checkout lane”, enabling it to fast-track the construction of new houses in a high growth area. The self-service functionality puts the onus on developers to submit high-quality applications, with Council claiming the system will save home buyers money by increasing supply and reducing planning costs.
Meanwhile, NSW’s Warringah Council was in 2013 rated one of the best performing councils in NSW, after its implementation of an ePlanning solution.
Over a two year period, the council improved its overall community satisfaction by 22 percent, with ePlanning simplifying and streamlining the community’s interactions with the council. Warringah transformed its image from one of the most complained about councils in NSW, to one of the state’s highest performers.
Why is ePlanning important?
With housing development critical to the health of the Australian economy, local government planning departments should already be exploring better planning systems that address current economic challenges, enable responsible development and deliver sustainability.
Council planning systems should be seen as an avenue to improve housing development and availability for the community, rather than an obstacle or hindrance. As the community increasingly expects all services to be delivered efficiently and digitally, an ePlanning solution is the only way forward for local governments.
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By Peter Suchting
Peter Suchting is the Group General Manager for local government at TechnologyOne, with 30 years experience in the enterprise software industry. A qualified accountant, Peter has held a variety of senior management roles in software development, product management, industry marketing and executive management.
At TechnologyOne, Peter has overall responsibility for the strategy and direction of TechnologyOne’s software for local government.
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