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Ipswich City Council makes changes to how development applications are handled

A new and improved framework for development applications will be implemented by Ipswich City Council.

The Growth and Infrastructure Committee passed 10 recommendations, which will see changes to council delegations, policies and procedures.

Acting City Planner Brett Davey said changes are proposed to existing delegations to replace existing councillor consultation requirements with an established framework of development applications to be reviewed by committee and decided by council, and those that will be decided under delegation with no direct consultation with councillors on a proposed development decisions.

“The framework includes a repeal of a number of existing policies, a new policy, and a number of draft new and changed procedures,” he said.

“The new framework is substantially more transparent and efficient for processing the majority of applications, and will redirect resources which are currently dedicated to administering the current consultation processes into a more transparent governance system whereby the right types of development applications and matters are reviewed by committee and decided by council.

“Appropriate information will be provided to guide this process, including, in some instances, a prior review of recommended decisions by an Independent Decision Review Panel.”

The proposed framework will commence on 1 July 2019, with the new Independent Decision Review Panel planned to commence from 2 September.

Ipswich is a significant growth area in the South East Queensland region, with our population of almost 220,000 expected to more than double by 2041.

The Ipswich Planning Scheme and development applications are the legislative vehicle through which this growth is managed. The development of land in Ipswich is regulated and influenced by various pieces of Commonwealth, State and Local Government legislation, and these legislative provisions define a strict framework prescribing what can and cannot be required by council.

Mr Davey said council did not have an overarching policy setting out a specific framework and core principles for processing development applications, while the current operating framework was unreliable and can cause inconsistencies and stakeholder confusion.

He outlined a previous system where each development application could be sent to up to multiple councillors – including the mayor, committee chair, divisional councillor and adjoining divisional councillors – who could impact a decision on the DA.

The new system is designed to improve transparency, and focus on decisions being made either by officers or at full council.

The following risks are considered to be significantly mitigated via adoption of the new proposed operating framework:

  • The  risk of councillor influence on decision making ‘behind closed doors’, by providing mechanisms for council decisions on particular development applications at committee and council meetings rather than via internal emails or other forms of communication.
  • The risk of influence on decision making via a poorly managed conflict of interest, by putting in place measures to better manage conflicts of interest, and establishing the Independent Decision Review Panel for particularly sensitive conflicts.
  • A potential decrease in appeal costs in relation to decisions on sensitive development matters, via up front comprehensive technical expert information through the operation of the proposed new Independent Decision Review Panel.

The details of the framework, including the operation of the decision review panel, will continue to be refined up until the 1 July 2019 commencement, which will provide adequate lead time to ensure that existing development applications and ones lodged between now and 1 July can be appropriately managed.

Mr Davey said this is a major business improvement and innovation which will have a significant improvement on the governance and processes surrounding the development assessment system in Ipswich.  Improvements will continue to be made to the system.

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