Planning departments across the Local Government sector have adapted to COVID-19 conditions to ensure that planning, development and building functions continue as usual for developers, landholders and communities.  

A recent survey of Local Government planning departments indicates a number of adjustments to procedures and work practices have been made, including use of digital and online resources for assessment processes, lodgement systems, provision of customer resources and customer service functions.

Further changes implemented to assist planning and development functions include streamlining assessment processes and identification and processing of applications that can be fast-tracked.

WALGA President, Mayor Tracey Roberts said Local Governments were doing all they can to keep projects moving forward in a difficult economic climate.

“Local Governments continue to demonstrate they are efficient and adaptable organisations that are able to provide critical services to the community in the face of emergency situations,” Mayor Roberts said.

“Along with other Local Government operational areas, planning departments have been quick to adapt to circumstances brought about by this pandemic.

“If you are looking to submit a development application or a building permit application, our members are ready and prepared to process them.”

Mayor Roberts highlighted that assessment times would not be a concern, with Local Government performance monitoring data from the past three years showing more than 90% of all applications are processed within statutory time-frames, and approval given for 98% of all applications submitted.

Through the survey, Local Government planning departments also indicated that, should the number of applications decrease during the pandemic, staff will be redeployed to activities that help ensure a quicker return to business as usual once the pandemic passes. Activities include reviewing local planning policies; modifying local planning strategies and planning schemes; and exploring improvements to assessment and approval processes.  

“I am confident that Local Governments will continue to assist applicants through the development process while ensuring that residents are not negatively impacted during this period,” Mayor Roberts said. 

“In challenging times, Local Government planning departments have adapted extremely well and I’m confident that the planning and development functions of the sector are well equipped for the economic recovery that will occur after COVID-19”.