Item 7.9 - Attachment 1

DA Governance Framework Review May 2011



Text Box:


DA Governance Framework Review

May 2011






In June 2010, the Council adopted amendments to the Delegations to the Chief Executive Officer to determine development applications.


It is timely to review those changes.  In addition, it is appropriate to consider some other components of the DA Assessment Governance Framework including

-     Site inspections;

-     Notifications of development applications over the Christmas period;

-     Council meeting cycle; and

-     Referral of development applications to external agencies.


This report makes a number of recommendations relating to these matters.





The State Government produces a yearly Performance Monitoring Report.  Parramatta City Council’s performance was reported as one of the most improved performances in terms of DA assessment times in the 2009/ 2010 period.  This was the last reporting period.


Parramatta City Council is classified as a Category 3 Council and generally its performance is reported on either a State-wide basis or as Category 3 Council.  In undertaking a broader and more appropriate benchmarking exercise, Council’s performance has been assessed against similar Councils in relation to the types of DAs that are likely to be assessed.


The Councils selected for this comparison were the Hills Shire, North Sydney, the City of Sydney, Willoughby Council and Ryde City Council.  In undertaking this comparison, the comparative data considered Parramatta’s performance in relation to each of those Councils as well as the average of those Councils.


There were five main areas of difference between Parramatta and the other Councils.  These were:


-     50% of DAs at PCC were subject to “stop the clock”, where as the average was 32%.

-     9% of DAs at Parramatta require an external referral, this compares to the average of the group at 3%.

-     percentage of DAs determined by the full Council was 9% compared to the average of the group of 7%.  However,  the North Sydney Council results skewed the average and Ryde, the Hills and City of Sydney have determinations by Council at less than 2%.

-     Parramatta City Council’s net approval times were slightly better than the average of the group while gross assessment times were slightly higher than the average.  This probably reflects the issues associated with the “stop the clock” and highlights the need to continue to improve the quality of the applications lodged.

-     the number of staff required to assess DAs at Parramatta was lower than the average and a fulltime equivalent employee (FTE) assesses more DAs than the average, suggesting efficiency in processes.




These observations are reflected in the following graphs.


 50% of DAs were subject to “stop the clock”, where as the average was 32%.





9% of DAs at Parramatta require an external referral, this compares to the average of the group at 3%.






% of DAs determined by the full Council was 9% compared to the average of the group of 7%. North Sydney Council results skewed the average and Ryde, the Hills and City of Sydney have determinations by Council at less than 2%.






Parramatta City Council’s net approval times were slightly better than the average of the group but gross assessment times were slightly higher than the average for the group.  This probably reflects the issues associated with the “stop the clock”  and highlights the need to continue to improve the quality of the applications lodged.





the number of staff required to assess DAs at Parramatta was lower than the average and fulltime equivalent employee (FTE) assesses more DAs than the average, suggesting efficiency in processes.






The delegation to staff to determine Development Applications is a key component of the governance framework.


How the delegation is provided to the CEO and the manner in which this delegation is used is essential to the efficient and effective operation of the Council. The authority to determine development applications must also be provided in a manner that:

    Provides appropriate oversight of decision making by staff

    Gives confidence to the Councillors and the community that the decisions being made are sound and reasonable, even if individual councillors may not agree with a decision.


In June 2010, the Council amended the delegations to the Chief Executive Officer for the determination of development applications. 


These delegations have resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of DAs being determined by the full Council (from 9% to 14%).  The State average for determination of DAs by the full Council is 4%, and as discussed earlier in the comparative data, other Councils, with exception of North Sydney, had delegations to staff where the full Council were determining less than 2% of DAs. 


At the Hills Shire, the full Council determined only 1 DA in the 1500 development applications determined by the Shire. 


The following graph shows the % of DAs determined by the full council since 2000/2001 for the City of Parramatta, City of Sydney, the State Average and the Group 3 Average.   This shows that at PCC the percentage of DAs being determined by the full Council is now the highest it has been in the last 11 years and that it is significantly higher than the State and Group 3 Averages.


















In the graph below, it is seen that DA assessment times have increased with the change to the delegations. 
























With the increase in the percentage of DAs determined by the full Council,  the percentage of DAs determined in less than 40 days has declined, and the improvement in the  gross assessment time has stalled.


There are other factors affecting the assessment times at the moment including resources associated with filling current vacancies with permanent staff. 


The consideration by the Council of DAs has an impact on assessment times for a number of reasons.  The first of these is that it takes longer and consumes more resources on average to assess a DA which is referred to Council for determination.  For example, from July 2010 until 14 April 2011 the Council determined 125 DAs. Mean gross assessment time for these DAs was 134 days.  For all DA determinations the mean gross assessment time was 80 days.


The other impact, however, relates to batching of work.  Batching of work is the anathema to smooth work flow which is essential for efficient and consistent work performance.   Batching causes backlogs and delays, affecting other DAs which are not referred to Council for determination.  After a Council meeting 15 to 20 DAs determinations will be processed.  Ideally, to maintain a smooth work flow, 5 DA would be processed each day. 


DAs which are referred to the Council also experience significant queue time.  The graph below shows the queue time for applications considered by Council from October 2010 to April 2011.    
























While the average queue time is 26 days, the queue time for individual DAs varies significantly and one DA had a queue time of nearly 100 days. 


The most significant impact of overall queue time is on customers, where some minor applications, such as Section 96 applications and office fit-outs, are delayed due to the cycle of Council Meetings.  This queue time also adds to the batching problem.


An assessment has also been undertaken of the alignment of Council decisions in relation to Officers recommendations.  This was conducted prior to February and shows that 94% of DAs are determined  in accordance with Officers recommendations, often with little or no debate.




















The median value of DAs determined by the full Council is $26,000.  This reflects the number of Section 96 applications and relatively small developments that are now being considered by the Council.


The delegations from June 2010 also have some ambiguity in their current wording.  Therefore some amendment would assist for clarity.  Below is the resolution of Council from June 2010, and in bold are the areas where clarity could be improved.



a)            That Council re-affirm the decision of 9 March 2009 regarding                  the functions delegated to the Chief Executive Officer that relate to the determination of development applications, subject to the following changes, being:


(1)       Approve development applications (including section 96 applications)  


i.          There are not more than 5 objections to the development; or

ii.         The development application does not relate to land in which Council holds, or has recently held, a direct pecuniary interest; or

iii.        The development application is not known to have been made, or relate to a property owned by a member of staff or Councillor; or

iv.        The development application does not involve demolition or building works associated with a heritage item; or

v.         The development application does not relate to a brothel, massage parlour, sex service premises, restricted premises, tattoo parlour, place of public worship or boarding house; or

vi.        The application does not seek a review of determination under section 82A review; or

vii.       The application is lodged as a ‘Fast Track DA’ (i.e. swimming pool, garages, awnings, decks pergolas, change of use and similarly small scale DAs) even if 7 or more objections are received.     


With the following exceptions:

i.          section 96(1a), section 96(2) and section 96(AA) applications where the original development application was determined by the elected Council; and

ii.         where an application located on a heritage item, three (3) Councillors may request in writing that an application be ‘called’ to Council for determination. This written request is to be made no late than 1 week after the conclusion of the public notification/exhibition period.     

(b)            That all section 96 Development applications be presented to Council for resolution whereby their associated original development applications were not approved by Council but by an external authority.

(c)             That a mechanism be provided so that any 2 or more councillors can call up any development application under consideration for a Council resolution within 2 months, with the corresponding reports listing the development applications’ recommendations for approval or refusal, including associated conditions of consent.

(d)            That a monthly  report be provided to Councillors listing in summary all development applications which have any of the following characteristics:-

i. Still under consideration for 6 months or longer;

ii. more than $750,000 in value;

iii. have attracted any objections;

iv. have an impact or are in a heritage or conservation zone.





The current delegations require all DAs involving demolition or building works to a heritage item to be referred to the Council for determination.  There is also a provision providing for the call up by Councillors on the same type of DAs.  The call up provision is therefore redundant.


In addition, the call up provision for heritage item DAs requires 3 Councillors and must occur within a certain period of time. This is different to the call up provisions for other DAs.


The reference to “Fast Track” DAs refers to a process no longer in operation. The term “Fast Track DAs” is not defined and therefore is not applied. In addition, it allows for approval of a DA with 7 objections, but clause (a) (1) would not allow approval if there were 5 or 6 objectors.   For this reason this provision is not used by staff to approve DAs.


There is a requirement to refer Section 96 applications to Council for determination where the Council or another body (eg L&E Court) have determined the original DA.   Section 96(1a) applications by definition “have a minimal environmental impact”  It therefore seems unnecessary to have these applications referred to the Council, unless it relates to a condition of consent that the Council added in addition to the conditions recommended by the officer’s report.


Part B (reference to Section 96 applications) is covered by clause i in the resolution and therefore clause i is redundant.


The current delegation would allow staff to approve DAs with significant variation to policy.  Standard practice is to refer development applications involving DAs with variations to a Development Standard of greater than 10% to the Council, and for completeness this should be included in the limitations of the delegations.


With a general call up provision, combined with a requirement to refer matters to the Council which involves a variation to policy,  having a set number objections as trigger to refer matters to the Council seems unnecessary.  Currently if a DA receives more than 9 (ie. 10 or more) objections a site inspection is conducted, clearly these applications should be referred to the Council for determination.






It is recommended that the following changes be made to the Delegations.


·    That heritage matters involving the demolition of heritage items be referred to Council and the general a call up provision remain in the event that a Councillor is concerned about the nature of the building work associated with a heritage item.


·    That Section 96 applications of DAs originally considered by Council only be referred to Council when these are a Section 96(2) application or where it involves a condition which the Council added beyond the recommendation of the Council officers.


·    DAs that receive more than 9 (ie. 10 or more) objections be referred to the Council for determination.  This aligns to the Site Inspection requirements and if a Councillor has a concern about a DA for which there are fewer objections the call up provisions would enable the Councillor, with the support of a colleague, to “call up” that DA to the Council.


·    DAs that have a variation to a Development Standard of greater than 10% be referred to Council.







Currently, where an application receives more than 9 objections, a site inspection is conducted.  Two Councillors may also request that a site inspection be conducted. Council commissioned an independent report to investigate complaints alleging in appropriate behaviour of Council Officers.  The Consultant, Mr Jason Perica,  concluded that there was no inappropriate behaviour by any person but he also made 16 recommendations for improved work practices. 


One of these recommendations directly affects the Governance Framework (all other recommendations have now been implemented), this recommendation related to the site inspection process. 


He has recommended that this process not occur until after the officer’s report has been prepared so that there can be no suggestion that Councillors  attending site meetings  pre-determine the application or are directing staff on the recommendation they should make in the assessment of the report. 


It would be possible to conduct site inspections in the week before the Council meeting. There is a 13 day window of opportunity to arrange these meetings. Council reports are finalised on the Tuesday  and that will enable invitations to be sent to applicants and objectors on the Wednesday and Thursday, and for site meetings to be held the following week from Wednesday or the weekend prior to the Council Meeting.


Councillors may also wish to consider whether or not upon gazettal of the new LEP they wish to continue with site inspections.




The Site Inspection Process be modified, so that where a Site Inspection is required this occur in the week before the Council meeting, once the officer’s assessment report has been completed.









Council’s current notification policy states that DAs should not be on notification from16 December until 14 January of the following year.  This means that an application lodged in late November often does not commence notification until the 14 January, some 40 days after the application was lodged. 


The implication of Council’s policy is that, on 14 January this year, 150 DAs commenced notification period and 14 days later most of those completed their notification period.  As discussed earlier, a key issue for the smooth processing of development applications and an efficient use of resources is to create smoother work flows. 


The current policy creates a significant batching problem with the assessment of applications and also it creates an expectation for applicants that once their application is completed that notification period Officers will finalise the assessment.  Without a significant change to resources, it would simply not be possible to complete the assessment of 150 DAs quickly after that period. 


Batching of notifications is reflected throughout the first quarter of every year and the number of DAs determined in January and February is low, and then there are higher assessment times through to April.


A review of the Councils benchmarked as part of this review indicates that all of them continue notification through the Christmas period but allow for extended notification. 


With Council’s on-line DA tracking system, neighbours may become aware of applications and be concerned as to why Council has not commenced notification if there is a significant delay before notification commences.




 It is therefore recommended that a Christmas Notification period be established and during this period, notification does not commence and notification is extended beyond the period of the Christmas notification, by the period of the notification period, if the notification period would otherwise be completed in that period.  It is recommended that this Christmas Notification period be the 19 December to 5 January. 


To further assist members of the community who may receive notification of DAs before this period and which extend during this time, Council could send reminder letters during the period.


This change will require an amendment to the Notification DCP.









Parramatta City Council has a very high number of referrals to external agencies.  On average it takes 86 days for the external agency to respond. We have a large number of mandatory referrals which cannot be modified.  These include Rail Corp for development near rail corridors, and the RTA for development around significant road corridors.







However, an area where we have a number of “optional” referrals is the NSW Police Service.  This includes referrals to NSW Police Service for applications associated with massage parlours, brothels and other sex premises on the basis of Crime Prevention advice.  Council’s Community Crime Prevention Officer has a very good relationship with the NSW Police Service and he is in constant liaison with them to understand emerging issues and trends.


Referrals to the Police on average take 156 days on crime prevention matters and only 57 days for liquor establishments.  This demonstrates that despite various efforts to engage the police on these crime prevention matters their interest in these matters is reflected in the referral times for these DAs.   


It may be appropriate to only continue with the referrals on liquor licences issues associated with hotels and clubs including modifications to hotels and clubs, and then allow the Community Crime Prevention Officer, who also comments on applications to determine whether he should also seek advice from the NSW Police Service.  The Community Crime Prevention Officer also has a responsibility to monitor the activities associated with DAs to identify any matters that should be referred to him for comments or to be referred to the NSW Police Service and any change to the standard referrals would not alter that ongoing relationship.




That only DAs relating to liquor licence matters be for hotels and clubs referred the NSW Police Service.


That the Community Crime Prevention Officer liaise with the NSW Police Service on all crime prevention matters associated with Development Applications.






Council currently considers DAs only once a month.  This adds to the queue time for DA assessment, causes delays for customers and increases the impact on batching of work.


If DA matters were considered at both council meetings, and the level of officer delegation was increased, then at each council meeting 5 applications would be considered.  This would reduce work flow issues associated with batching.





That the Council Code of Meeting Practice be amended to allow consideration of DAs at both meetings.