When the ACT Government introduced their new planning approval processes a few years ago, they promised a quicker, simpler and more efficient system, says Mr Tony Trobe, the President of the ACT Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects.
A notable part of this new streamlined system was to exempt any type of single residential projects from Development Approvals (DA) and neighbour consultation if they fully complied with the relevant planning codes. The codes were numerous, complex and contradictory but the attractive trade-off was to reduce the red tape experienced for a very large proportion of the Territory’s DAs, by giving certainty, speeding up the process and reducing fees.
However the ACT Chapter is now concerned that the Planning Minister’s announcement this week which states that neighbours will have to be informed before any work can commence, threatens the concept of a quicker, simpler and more efficient system. The new requirement was announced with immediate effect and was done without any consultation with those affected namely architects, builders and building certifiers.
Mr Trobe said that the requirement contradicts and weakens the principles of code exemption. It will take up unnecessary time and create more paper work to notify the designated neighbours, which could amount to eight properties. The cost of this requirement will have to be borne by the proponent and their building team.
Mr Trobe noted that the Institute is disappointed that the ACT Government chose not to consult with some key stakeholders in regard to this initiative. The Institute believes this lack of consultation leads to short term solutions which do not benefit the community and encourage the Government to consider industry engagement prior to implementing such policies in the future.
Neighbours will now have access to drawings but will not necessarily be informed about assessing these correctly against the planning codes. This task should fall to the planning Authority rather than the neighbours of any proposed development.
The Institute predicts that this new requirement will very likely lead to neighbours making uninformed complaints against the proponent, architect, building or certifier/builder resulting in recommendations that the works should not commence.
This process gives rise to the potential for neighbours to escalate their complaints to ACTPLA or the Minister once they receive notification that the drawings have been approved and that work can commence.
As these complaints are received, will the Minister and ACTPLA devise another rule to appease the neighbours, and risk further inconsistencies in the system?
The Institute proposes to hold a meeting with the community and development sectors to explore common ground with a view to developing an effective strategy to replace the current approval process.
President, ACT Chapter, Australian Institute of Architects
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