Logan Planning Director survey reveals COVID-19 “state of play”

COVID-19 had resulted in rapid change in planning departments across the State.

Early analysis of interviews conducted by the Institute on 7 and 8 April 2020 with Planning Directors in both metropolitan and regional locations throughout the State shows planning teams are quickly moving to remote working and are cognisant of their critical role in saving industry jobs by getting on with core business on their side of the fence.

Logan City Council

Interviewee: David Hansen, Director of Strategy and Sustainability.

What changes have you made to your department to ensure business continuity?

  • 95 percent of staff working from home
  • Council still providing the full suite of services excepting the close down of a public counter
  • The volume of applications is continuing but with an increased emphasis on smaller applications.

What has been the greatest challenge or obstacle you have run into?

  • There were some concerns, around access to our property system while working from home but this is was resolved, and concerns around wider connectivity. We have however been able to maintain good connectivity with staff and interaction with the development industry, albeit virtually
  • There is some need to look at water connection stoppage arrangements to ensure water supply continues, Environment and Protection Act noise limits, and to look at titles office arrangements.

What is the next change you think you will need to put in place to respond?

  • Council has put in place a stage one package of incentives mainly around fee reductions and are now working on a round two of responses.
  • Currently assessing options including those in the Institute’s Project Bounce Back: COVID-19 Industry Action Plan.

How can the Institute be included in the development of your recovery plan?

  • Open to ideas from the Institute and understand the critical importance of keeping construction jobs going Logan
  • Institute leadership in interactions with all those involved will continue to be important.

Have you implemented any of these proposals?

Focussing resourcing on avoiding delays to plan sealing processes
Yes, the council has been putting additional resources is in this area in recent times.

Investing more resourcing in avoiding delays to existing Development Applications (DAs)
Processing flow for DAs is being monitored and is all okay at this time.

Establishing a Low Risk Team to process
Currently have a team in place and the risk smart process considers a wide range of applications including all code development.

Pre-emptively establishing outsourcing arrangements or a pre-qualified suppliers panel for planning, engineering, and other relevant professions
Currently engineering matters can be outsourced to a panel and regarding planning, the council uses a central recruiter that is very effective at getting new staff in place very quickly.

Relaxing restrictions on on-site work work hours
Further thought is being given to this issue and for the moment compliance is undertaken sensitively and can allow some discretion for some work taking place.

Providing a new home builder’s grant (like Rockhampton Regioanl Council)
This is a matter under consideration but could have too significant a cost on council.

Providing immediate offset refunds for LGIP trunk infrastructure
The infrastructure charging team is quite busy at present and use their discretion to allow infrastructure charge payment plans for developers.