A lot of people get annoyed by the length of time it takes for Council to assess a development application. When people ask me "how long will it take for Council to assess my DA?" - it is impossible to give a firm answer - but however simple or straightforward your DA is - dont expect anything out of Council in less than 2 months. Wha?? Why?? What did you say?? Well it takes a while - not because Council staff are lazy or neglectful; but because there are a lot of processes required in the assessment of a DA . Here is a quick run down of what happens to a DA once its been pushed over the counter:
1. registration - the paperwork needs to be logged into the central records base.. scanned and assigned to the right department - 2 -3 days.
2. assigning the DA - the file sits on a supervisors desk - awaits a preliminary review - maybe goes to a meeting to work out any issues - then gets assigned to an assessing officer - 3- 7 days.
3. referrals - to specialists - engineers, building specialists, health officers, environmental scientists, external authorities - minimum 14 days.
4. notification - if required - the DA is notified to surrounding property owners and advertised in the local paper - minimum 21 days (thank you Australia Post) .
5. assessment - the assessing officer sits down with the responses from all the referrals and any public submissions and assesses the proposal against the Section 79C of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. This bit can be quick if everything comes up hunky dory but if there are any issues that require further explanation or information then a letter goes back out to the applicant and the process is stalled until further information comes in. After that there may be a bit more referring that goes on and then a decision. Most decisions are made under delegated authority meaning that the assessing officer can make the decision - but in order to ensure probity another officer or supervisor usually reviews the assessment and draft determination before the decision goes out. If however the proposal needs to go to a Council meeting or to a regional planning panel - then youre looking at much longer delays (like an extra 2 months perhaps!) - 14 days to ...... however long it takes.
6. notifying the decision - even this process can take a few days as plans have to be stamped (digitally these days) and all the relevant stakeholders/ interested parties also need to be advised - 3-4 days.
Steps 3 and 4 can run concurrently - but you can see that we are looking at an absolute bare minimum of 6 weeks here. Throw into that mix the potential for people to be on leave or sick, or public holidays and the whole thing gets extended again. These processes are often required by State legislation and sometimes by Council policy - but they are in place in order to ensure a reasonable and fair assessment of your application.
The real delays emerge when there is a need for additional information from the applicant at step 5 - this can be identified at step 2 also - and is a result of matters not satisfactorily addressed in the development application. So it pays to make sure that your application is as comprehensive as possible in order to avoid delays.
And it is important to factor the DA assessment process into your project planning in the first place. Many people are not even aware that getting approval for a development is a 'thing'. So stay informed people and enjoy the bonuses of a society based on the rule of law!
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