Report a ‘missed opportunity’ for planning improvements



The release of the Legislative Assembly’s Planning and Urban Renewal Committee report into planning and development in the ACT is a “poorly timed missed opportunity to improve the ACT’s planning system,” according to Master Builders ACT.

Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins said “the inquiry report makes a range of recommendations to add regulation to the Territory’s existing planning system, at a time when Canberra requires a new planning system based on a strategic approach which also recognises the local characteristics of every Canberra suburb”.

Mr Hopkins said the current ACT planning system was designed for last century and years of amendments and variations “have resulted in a complex planning system which no longer serves the community or industry”.

With the impact of COVID-19 placing pressure on the Territory’s property and construction sector, he said the planning system is “fundamental to transforming Canberra’s economy into an internationally competitive place to do business”.

“The MBA would like to see the ACT Government fast-track the ACT’s Planning Review and introduce measures which will promote economic growth and development to support employment in the construction sector.”

The Assembly’s Standing Committee on Planning and Urban Renewal tabled the report on its inquiry into Engagement with Development Application Processes in the ACT on Thursday 7 May.

Committee chair Caroline Le Couteur,who is also the ACT Greens Planning spokesperson, said the vast majority of the 66 recommendations are “in the bleedingly obvious (category) and we really should be doing them”.

This includes utilising social media avenues to notify the ACT community of Development Applications (DA) that are likely to be of wide community interest, and that more complex and higher-impact DAs are more widely notified and are given a longer notification period.

“I think everybody has an interest in having the development application system work better,” Ms Le Couteur said. “I don’t know why the government hasn’t made some of these changes themselves.”

One of the recommendations Ms Le Couteur would particularly like to see approved is making all DA documents, which are available during public consultation, available to the public and industry for a period of five years once complete.

However, she was surprised her recommendation to keeping shoddy builders in check failed to receive any support. Ms Le Couteur’s suggestion aimed to ensure those with a shoddy compliance record – especially repeat offenders – have their certifier appointed by the government.

“The idea is that if the government has reason to believe there are some issues with a builder, let’s make sure they are not going around it,” Ms Le Couteur said. “I was really surprised that one wasn’t supported.”

Overall, the inquiry has been a lengthy process with submissions first called for in March 2018. With a combination of COVID-19 and an ACT election due in October, Ms Le Couteur said the report is likely to be looked at during the next Assembly.

“I am very hopeful that whoever is in government after the next election recognises the development application process needs reform.”

The Report is available via the Inquiry webpage.

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