Comment

Editorial

Calls to increase transparency should be heard

The ACT government should be encouraged to investigate ways of improving the notification process for planning changes in the territory.

Community councils have again raised issue with a component of the planning system and it is a concern that holds some merit.

The holiday silly season in December and January is commonly a shutdown time for much of the territory and when the annual exodus to the south coast takes place.

The fact that several significant development applications have been notified during the quiet Christmas and New Year holiday period of past years shows the issue should be examined.

While the ACT Planning and Land Authority does halt public notifications between December 21 and January 1, it should consider extending this timeframe.

The community should be given a suitable opportunity to be made aware of significant changes to their street, suburb or town centre and notifications during this holiday period contradict this.

Having the opportunity to provide a submission during a proposal's notification process is a crucial part of the territory's planning system.

Once a development application is approved, the only avenue left is an appeal through the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal – a costly and oft unsuccessful option for the community.

The recent decision by the ACT government to publicly notify development applications online only and not in newspapers was met with concern by some community groups.

Active Planning's Jane Goffman said the move risked sacrificing transparency and disclosure about such applications – the North Canberra Community Council feels notifying during December and January to be the same.

It should be recognised that the government has made moves to do this in the launching of the DA finder app for phones and tablets, and the introduction of pre-DA lodgment consultation for larger projects.

But if the ACT is to have a robust planning system then the authorities should be willing to listen to the concerns of the community and increase transparency.