The Minister for Planning recently issued a media release that announced the Planning Permit Activity Report for 2010-11. The media release celebrated an increase in planning and development activity and the total number of planning permit decisions, including ‘highlights’ such as:
• 2.5 per cent increase in applications lodged;
• 29.4 per cent increase in the estimated cost of works;
• 9.8 per cent increase in the number of applications where public notice is required;
• 9.9 per cent increase in applications where further information is required;
• 9.2 per cent increase in applications being referred to a referral authority;
• 4.1 per cent increase in average time to make a decision.

It should also be noted that the average time it takes to make a decision is up to 76 days, this is 16 days longer than the prescribed time limit of 60 days (or 26.6 per cent longer than the prescribed time limit). It should also be mentioned that these figures come out at a time when it is taking around 9 months to get a standard hearing at VCAT (the major cases list aside).

We wouldn’t label these figures as ‘highlights’, more like ‘lowlights’! Shoudn’t we be encouraging, where appropriate, a reduction in the need for planning permits to try and make our planning system run more efficiently? Shouldn’t we be trying to make government more accountable for decisions within the prescribed time? We find it no surprise, with the increased number of application referrals and the lengthening wait for a VCAT hearing, that the average time limit for applications is now out to well beyond the prescribed time limit. Without some reform in this area, these time limits will only continue to increase.