THE State Government was accused of being in the hands of the development industry during yesterday’s monthly meeting of the Bellingen Shire Council.
The claim came from the Director of Environmental Health and Planning, Charlie Hannavy, during discussion about reducing the time it takes for the council to finalise development applications (DAs).
“The Department of Planning is being totally driven by the development lobby and so has put a focus on the time it takes to approve DAs and not on the type of environment we are creating,” Mr Hannavy said.
“My staff is more focussed on getting planning right rather than meeting time frames set down by the department.
“That said, we only need to improve our turnover by five days to get off the list of councils that take more than 100 gross days to approve DAs.”
Mr Hannavy had earlier said that his aim was to have no more than 25 per cent of DAs taking longer than three months to finalise.
His general manager, Mike Colreavy, said the delays in approving applications were due in part of the relaxed attitude of some local developers.
“The most significant contribution to the length of time it takes to process a DA is where applications are returned back to the applicants for more information,” Mr Colreavy said.
“It is part of our focus on providing good customer service but unfortunately it can take a lot of time for people to get the necessary information back to us, and so the DA ends up languishing for a long time without any action on it.
“Our practice of not forcing the issue is unusual and in turn has earned us a reputation for being slow and difficult to deal with.”