AFTER years of languishing in the doldrums, infuriating anyone – developers or small landholders – who needed a planning permit in a reasonable period of time, South Gippsland Shire Council’s planning service has improved out of sight.
In 2011 council committed to delivering a number of improvements to its planning service. Additional resources, in particular a full quota of qualified staff, were directed at the planning department to improve consistency and reduce the time taken to process planning permit applications. Council also committed to undertake a suite of strategic planning work that would support the future development and vision for local townships.
As a result, in recent times the planning teams have received a good deal of positive feedback from the community. The Statutory team was recently ranked equal third among rural/regional councils for the management of subdivision applications in a 2013 survey conducted by the Association of Consulting Surveyors Victoria. In recognition of the improved service, South Gippsland has been invited to present at the Municipal Association Victoria 2013 planning improvement conference.
At a recent briefing to council, Acting Director of Development Services Bryan Sword ran through some of the highlights in the improved planning performance. They include:
Applications completed within the statutory timeframe of 60 days rose from 49 per cent in 2010/11 to 73 per cent in 2012/13;
The number of planning permit applications refused has decreased from 4.7 per cent in 2010/11 to 1.9 per cent in 2012/13, demonstrating a willingness to achieve agreeable outcomes.
The number of decisions overturned at VCAT has decreased from eight in 2011/12 to three in 2012/13.
Despite an increase in State planning controls and referral requirements, e.g. Bushfire Management Overlays and potable water catchments, council has reduced the gross time to determine planning applications by 14 days (12 per cent reduction) from 2010/11 to 2012/13.
During the 2012/13 financial year the planning department responded to over 4000 customer enquiries.
Developments approved in recent years include:
- Aldi Supermarket at Leongatha;
- Leongatha South quarry extension;
- Leongatha Hospital extension;
- Prom Country Aged Care rebuild at Foster;
- Toora milk factory;
- Burra Foods expansion;
- Korumburra Medical Centre Expansion.
- The manager of strategic planning and development, Paul Stampton, listed strategic planning highlights of the past couple of years as:
- Eastern District Urban Design Frameworks
- SP AusNet rezoning
- Leongatha Industrial Land Use Strategy
- Housing and Settlement Strategy
- Rezoning 77ha of residential land in Korumburra
- Foster Rural Living Zone
- Foster and Leongatha Helipad Amendment
- Simons Land LDRZ Rezoning
- Implementation of the Rural Land Use Strategy
- Prom Gate development
- Southern Leongatha Outline Development Plan
- Loch/Nyora and Poowong Structure Plans
- Korumburra Structure Plan
- Successful negotiation of developer contributions;
- Leongatha CBD Parking Strategy;
- Leongatha Traffic and Drainage Study;
- Loch/Poowong & Nyora Sewerage Scheme advocacy.
Mr Sword said that far from resting on its laurels, the planning department will continue to strive for improvement. A major opportunity will be the implementation of the on-line SPEAR system for all development applications.