Ministry Implementing Measures Curve Delays And Frustrations In Development Applications
The current town planning laws are often regarded as out-dated, negatively affecting expected turn-around-times on town planning applications or development permits says Parveen Kumar.
The Minister for Local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Transport made these comments at the review of the Town Planning Laws and Application Compliance workshop in Suva yesterday.
He said the out-dated planning laws created frustrations to not only the local investors, developers but more so to the international investment groups who work within targeted timelines.
“The Town Planning Act Cap 139 and the Subdivision of Land Act Cap 140 workshop discuss the proposed amendments to the town planning act and highlights the importance of the compliance when making development applications,” Mr Kumar said.
He highlighted that in 2012, of the 1762 building applications processed, 1103 or 68 per cent were consented to and a notable 502 or 28 per cent were returned for further work, information or compliance.
Similar trends occurred in 2013 with 485 or 28 per cent of the 1747 processed were returned.
By 2014, this rate decreased to 23 per cent where 417 of the 1219 applications processed.
“Whilst the change is noted, it was less than expected. A point to note- this does not include those that were not received as they were incomplete,” Mr Kumar said.
He stated for the subdivision, in 2012, 151 or 67 per cent of the 225 applications received were refused, 25 per cent were returned for further work.
In 2013, the refusal had dropped to 36 per cent whilst returned application remained at 25 per cent.
It is encouraging to note that by 2014, those figures have dropped to seven per cent on refusals and 18 per cent returned applications.
For rezoning, whilst the number of applications increased throughout the years from 74 in 2012, 123 in 2013 to 220 in 2014, the numbers of refusals have declined from 35 per cent to 31 per cent to 16 per cent.
“These are critical statistics reflecting a trend where, whilst declining, applications returned remained consistently high, close to a third of applications processed, as we note in both building and subdivision,” Mr Kumar said.
“It is a reflection of some major gaps in submissions of applications for development to the Department of Town and Country Planning.
“It is a bitter pill to swallow however these are hard statistics showing applications that are either refused or sent for further information are the major causes of delays and frustrations in the industry.
“You may have also heard me comment in Parliament that my Ministry is committed to reducing the causes of delays and frustrations.
“We are implementing measures to address the above and one of them is to reduce the timeline for processing of applications.
“The one thing that is very obvious to me from the above figures and the comments of the public is that few of the consultants are not fully aware of the rules and regulations of the planning process.
“Simple misinformation wills, for example, incorrect fees will see that your application is returned.
“This causes delays and frustrations not only to your clients but to you as the consultant in that the payment due to you will also be delayed or if there may be a default clause in your contact.
“If affects your income and most importantly your reputation as a reliable consultant,” Mr Kumar said.
He said earlier this year, the fee schedules for both the town planning applications and the subdivision of land applications were revised in line with the six per cent vat reduction.
“The public were notified through advertisements in the newspapers, yet the ministry still receives application fees based on the old fees.
“Applications were inevitably returned and add to the statistics for further information; therefore, it is important for the practitioners in the planning profession to be fully informed on any changes in the industry.”
Mr Kumar said in their consultations with the public one of the issues that was brought to us was the conduct of the consultants.
“Many time the blame has been put on the planning department as being inefficient requiring additional information, causing delays etc.; rather than the consultant admitting that it was because of the lack of information the applications were delayed.
“Not all the blame is being put on the consultants, the staffs in the department are also being held responsible for the inefficient delivery of our service.
“The intention of the proposed changes is to bring about a reduction in timelines, efficiency in processes, strengthening, coordination and enforcement mechanisms,” Mr Kumar said.
Edited by Maraia Vula