A REPORT by the ACT Auditor-General, Maxine Cooper, has found the development application and approval system for high density residential and commercial developments should be improved to support a more transparent and timely process and to achieve more efficient and effective development outcomes.
The report, 'Development Application and Approval System for High Density Residential and Commercial Developments', was presented to the Speaker for tabling in the ACT Legislative Assembly last week.
According to the report, the objective of the Audit was to provide an independent opinion to the Legislative Assembly on the administrative effectiveness of the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate's delivery of the Territory's development application and approval system for high density residential and commercial developments.
While the Audit found that there has been considerable planning and development reform undertaken since the 2005 ACT Auditor-General's Office Development Application and Approval Process performance audit, it also identified a number of weaknesses.
The report states that the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate did not meet the statutory processing timeframes of 30 and 45 days for high density residential and commercial developments in the majority (85 per cent) of complex development applications reviewed by Audit.
It is argued that statutory timeframes could be reviewed: "…statutory timeframes for residential and commercial development applications [are] significantly shorter than what is actually being achieved… Existing timeframes may be aspirational, rather than pragmatic. More achievable timeframes will provide greater certainty for the community and developers."
The report says a 'one-government' approach is not well reflected in the current development application referral process for high density residential and commercial developments and that "coordination between the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate and referral entities in processing these development applications needs to be strengthened."
The report also concludes that the Directorate has not fully integrated environmentally sustainable development and urban design principles into development application processes, adding that this could be addressed through the provision of relevant information and guidance for developers, referral entities and Directorate Case Officers.
In total, the report makes six recommendations to address the Audit findings. The Director-General of the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate agreed with 3 of the recommendations and agreed in part with 3 recommendations.
The report, Development Application and Approval System for High Density Residential and Commercial Developments, is available from the Auditor-General's Office website at <http://www.audit.act.gov.au/>.