Tweed Shire Council has taken the first steps towards a gradual move to ‘e planning’ with the launch of a new Development Application (DA) Preparation Kit and major improvements to Council’s website to streamline the DA lodgement and assessment process.

By assisting applicants with preparing better quality development applications and reducing the times spent requesting further information, Council hopes to speed up DA processing times by several weeks.

The kit contains updated Development Applications and Construction Certificate forms; a step-by-step guide to the sequence of development and building assessment processes; a comprehensive guide to preparing a development application and checklists for the 12 common development types to assist applicants and staff in making sure a DA has all the right information for lodgement.

Mayor of Tweed Shire Joan van Lieshout officially launched the new DA kit at a function at the Murwillumbah Civic Centre Auditorium yesterday.

The event was attended by representatives from local planning and building consultancies, resident and ratepayers groups and Council staff.

“The Tweed community wants greater transparency and accountability in Council’s decision-making processes,” Cr van Lieshout said.

“In recognition of this, over the last 18 months, Council has undertaken major organisational reviews, to critically analyse its strengths and weaknesses and implement organisational improvements.

“I strongly believe that by providing a clearer explanation of Council’s development assessment processes and DA submission requirements through this kit, the quality of DAs lodged in the Tweed Shire will be greatly improved.

“It will make it easier for applicants knowing exactly what information is required at the time of DA lodgement.”

Tweed Heads planning and development consultant Darryl Anderson welcomed Council’s move towards DA checklists and more use of online lodgement and assessment.

“From what I can see so far from a consultant’s point of view, any improvement which provides more efficiency, improved processes, greater certainty and better outcomes would be welcomed by the industry,” he said.

“And by better outcomes of course I mean reduced processing times but also fewer appeals and better acceptance of Council’s planning decisions by members of the community.”

Mr Anderson was particularly looking forward to the upcoming release of detailed mapping information for use by consultants such as himself and the general public.

“There will be greater cost-effectiveness if mapping can be accessed online – it’s critical information in the planning process,” Mr Anderson said.

The secretary of the Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association, Julie Murray, also applauded Council’s new kit.

“We’re extremely pleased Tweed Shire Council has listened to the community’s concerns and put out an easy-to-read document which will enable prospective developers to have their DAs processed more efficiently and thoroughly because of the step-by-step process provided by Council,” Ms Murray said.

Council’s Director of Planning and Regulation, Vince Connell, said the planning and building sections of Council’s website had also been greatly improved to provide a stronger customer focus.

“We encourage interested members of the community and the industry to go online at www.tweed.nsw.gov.au to view the new information and provide us with feedback on any suggested improvements,” Mr Connell said.

The next stage of the planning improvement project is scheduled for August 2009, with new online functionality including property inquiries, DA tracking, automation of internal Council processes and greatly improved mapping.

Council will move towards the introduction of further e planning services in 2010/11.