We help develop strategies, undertake reviews and manage projects to ensure greater efficiency and best value is achieved. We’re passionate about helping to build strong planning and development and application processing functions within your government organisation.


Why choose PlanDev?

PlanDev is an independent consulting organisation that works solely with Local, State and Federal Government agencies. We are ready and willing to help with any of your planning and development needs.


Recent Projects

The PlanDev team has been involved in a number of recent policy and process reform initiatives. Check out some of the latest projects we have been involved in across the country.


Enhancing Disaster Resilience

Plandev Business Solutions has developed a suite of documents for the National Review of Land Use Planning and Building Codes to ensure better outcomes in the built environment and land use planning.


Cultural Change Intrinsic to Development Assessment Reform

The Queensland planning system has undergone a number of legislative and operational reforms over the last 20 years. In this sense, the concept of ‘planning reform’ is not a new one for the state. Some of Queensland’s changes to the planning system have included transitions between the overarching legislative framework – from the Local Government (Planning and Environment) Act 1990 to the Integrated Planning Act 1997 and now the Sustainable Planning Act 2009. Other reform throughout Queensland has been occurring at a more regional or localised level, often responding to the changes at state level. Arguably, the most significant reform in planning has been undertaken in the development assessment space, particularly in South East Queensland led by the Council of Mayors (SEQ). The Development Assessment (DA) branches within local authorities have experienced significant pressure from the private sector and state agencies to change their business models and operational functions so that they better align with the state planning reform agenda they operate under. Reform in DA has largely comprised of process improvements in order to make it more efficient and cost effective. Some of the most noteworthy changes in the DA reform agenda have included the production of a number of tools, processes and operational reform programs, with an underlying focus on risk management. This focus on risk management has been at the heart of cultural change in local government, and remains at the forefront of DA reform. What has been done so far? There has been a team consistently working with local government through the business planning, process change and cultural shift since 2005.  The team, consisting of business planning experts, engineers, and town planners, has been able to provide an independent perspective on their work and draw on their collective private and public sector work experiences. The centre of the cultural change dimension has included collaboration, innovation and adoption of best practice. PD Online and RiskSmart were the first projects in the DA planning reform journey and represented the first major effort to create a regional solution to streamlining the development assessment process and integrate risk management philosophies throughout local governments. PD Online allowed paper-based maps, applications, and planning schemes to be viewed online, changing the way planners view strategic planning documents and track development applications. It also introduced a landmark opportunity for the community to easily and freely access the same information and be informed about development activity in their neighbourhoods and suburbs. RiskSmart has also had a major influence on the development industry, allowing some low-risk applications to be assessed and decided quickly. ULDA’s streamlined model was formed based on the RiskSmart setup, demonstrating the success of the project. Furthermore, the project team recognised the potential for this risk-based assessment methodology and secured funding through the Australian Government’s Housing Affordability Fund for the Target 5 Days (T5) initiative. T5’s purpose was to improve housing affordability through the implementation of process reform activities for low risk residential development applications in SEQ. Specifically, T5 aimed to deliver a 75 percent reduction in assessment timeframes for 95 percent of residential applications in the region. Working closely with councils and industry, the T5 project team implemented an assessment process and supporting tools that slashed assessment timeframes for low risk applications to just five days, and less than 20 days for more complex applications. The success of implementing this risk management framework was due to the fact that quantity was not a substitute for quality. Supporting risk frameworks were designed to identify what needed protecting for specific and common types of development, something which planning schemes struggle to achieve. The completion of the project coincided with the Queensland Government’s 2011 Building Revival Forum. RiskSmart and T5 delivered impressive results for low risk developments and offered huge economic and financial benefits to the struggling construction sector. The project team recognised that these streamlined and risk-based assessment principles could be applied to more complex residential development types and the Development Assessment Process Reform – Operational Works and Large Subdivisions (DAPR-OWLS) project was established. Led by the Council of Mayors (SEQ) and the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ), the aim of the project was to deliver a minimum 25 percent reduction in assessment timeframes for these application types whilst maintaining quality planning outcomes. The DAPR-OWLS project team was set an ambitious 12 month timeframe to work with fourteen high growth councils and the Queensland development industry to establish a new approval process for large residential subdivisions (greater than 20 lots) and the majority of operational works. After 12 months of effort, the team successfully delivered solutions that have seen three and 20-day timeframes (from an average of 365[1] business days) for at least two pilot subdivision projects in Townsville and the Gold Coast as well as a number of Operational Works applications approved in 2 days in Logan City Council. The principles of streamlining development applications are consistent across different development types: speeding up decisions, lowering holding and processing costs, and ensuring all relevant information and risks are captured and addressed. The process to achieve these goals varies depending on the size of the development. Unlike RiskSmart, which is modelled on checklists, streamlining complicated subdivision applications relies on a collaborative effort from all parties and early resolution of issues.  This is achieved by front-ending the application process and providing a formalised pre-application stage where all parties (applicant, council, internal and external referrals) sign an MOU to agree to the ground rules for collaboration.  They then set about systematically working through all the issues for the application before any hard and fast design decisions are locked in. By doing this early, Council and the applicant are able to solve issues early and with less difficulty than the traditional IDAS process. What is happening now? Capitalising on this previous reform activity, the Council of Mayors (SEQ) and LGAQ jointly funded a smaller team to continue the Planning Reform journey in Queensland Councils.  This team has worked with Industry and Councils to develop a Framework of Leading Practice which outlines an approach to describe and measure a leading practice Development Assessment business aimed at achieving outcomes that benefit Council, community and industry. The Framework provides a structure to describe the DA business along with criteria that helps profile what an essential, advanced and premium level of service looks like. With this framework the Councils are able to measure their current operations against these criteria to determine where they are now, where they want to be in the future (at a certain point in time) and how they will set about getting there through a business plan. The framework also helps normalise Councils of different sizes and complexity to provide a consistent view of different improvement approaches and solutions that can be shared across the state delivering efficiency and reducing the effort for Councils and industry to improve. Through the numerous improvement projects funded by Federal, State and Local government, the Planning Reform team are able to help Councils determine which of these improvements will advance the Council to their target in the Framework without having to reinvent the wheel. Outcomes of planning reform in Queensland Our planning system in Queensland has grown to have an adversarial dynamic between Council and Applicant. We have created a culture geared towards refusal and non-standard applications, which is not reflective of the vast majority of applications. In each of the projects above, the team has undertaken reviews of over two thousand development application files across Queensland. In a lot of cases, applications are straightforward and the vast majority are approved. With the facts, gathered through an evidence based approach of reading DA files cover to cover, we are able to determine where delays are, what causes them and how to remove them. Debunking the myths in the DA industry has provided sound basis for planning reform in Queensland. Much of this reform has been about changing the perspectives of DA Stakeholders, understanding the reality of the application journey, and understanding the level of risk for different applications. Above everything though, changing the culture of the industry has been at the fore. There is not a silver bullet solution for planning reform, but there are solutions.  Most solutions are process based, yet they only work if supported by the right culture.  Having a process to enable an applicant and Council to engage in a formalised Pre-Application stage (Development Partnership Process) works in theory, but if both parties are not willing to work collaboratively and share some level of trust and enthusiasm for the outcome then no amount of formality and process will help. Applicant and Council problem solving in a Development Partnership workshop The project team witnessed the attitudinal change between Councils, applicants and referral agencies in the pilot projects during DAPR-OWLS.  People became more positive and more engaged and a visible and mutual attachment to achieving a great outcome was evident. In the T5 project, many thought a five-day turnaround was impossible, but it is now a reality and some Councils have now reduced it further to 48 hours. So, while there is no doubt that these improvements have had a positive impact on timeframes and therefore more attractive for developers, the most significant outcome has been the fundamental change in the culture of all parties – Councils, Applicants and Referrals. There is a greater appreciation for the challenges faced by participants and a greater ability to deliver quality outcomes in an efficient and rewarding way. [1] This figure was calculated by averaging the assessment timeframe from properly made to decision from applications surveyed in participating Councils.

SARA wins State-wide Planning Awards

The Department of State Development Infrastructure and Planning’s (DSDIP) State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA) has claimed the Overall Winner Award in the Queensland-wide Planning Institute of Australia’s (PIA) 2013 Awards for Planning Excellence. At a ceremony held in Mackay on Friday 8 November, DSDIP’s Regional Services and Planning groups were honoured for delivering the new state referral and development assessment regime, developed to streamline the development application process. The Department and SARA were also awarded the 2013 Improving Planning Processes and Practices Award. Planning Institute of Australia state president Kate Isles said they were very pleased with the calibre of entries in this year’s awards. “Each year we are inspired by the entries we receive for projects which are helping to shape our state, and this year’s recipients prove that the future of Queensland is in good hands,” Ms Isles said.” “SARA is an excellent response to repeated calls from industry to address timing and cost inefficiencies caused by having multiple referral triggers for development applications to multiple State agencies. “SARA represents a significant step forward in centralising State referrals and provides stakeholders with more certainty, transparency and consistency in relation to the assessment of applications referred to the State. “Congratulations go to all of the commendations and award recipients this year as they continue to set the standard for planning excellence in Queensland.” This year marks the 27th annual Awards for Planning Excellence in Queensland, with 15 awards presented and more than 60 entries received from across the state. The Planning Institute of Australia is the national body representing the planning profession. Through education, communication and professional development, PIA is the pivotal organisation serving and guiding thousands of planning professionals in their role to create better communities. For more information visit www.planning.org.au/qld.

ePlanning Services in Toowoomba

Early in 2013, PlanDev Business Solutions were engaged by Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) to develop a Council-based ePlanning Strategy focused on enhancing the access to information across Council and to support easier participation in planning and development processes. PlanDev Business Solutions worked closely with key stakeholders from across TRC to develop two (2) documents, being the TRC ePlanning Project – Vision and Current State Review along with the TRC ePlanning Project – Gap Analysis and Roadmap.  These two (2) documents form part of the Technical Specification document for this Project. We have now been engaged to deliver project management services for TRC to assist in implementing the Action Plan and Next Steps components of their ePlanning Project’s Gap Analysis and Roadmap document which provides an extensive level of detail on the Project’s scope. This will include developing a project management plan, a supporting business case and assistance in the ongoing delivery of the program during 2014.  Assistance will also be provided by Brendan Nelson from MWH to provide quality review and assist in project implementation activities. This engagement demonstrates the important experience of the PlanDev Business Solutions team members in developing the National ePlanning Strategy and more importantly, the ability to assist Local and State Governments localise and implement the required services.

New Risk Framwork for SARA Processes

PlanDev Business Solutions are currently finalising the development of a 'Risk Framework' for transport-related triggers for Queensland's new State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA). Launched on 1 July 2013, the State Government launched SARA to improve the coordination and responsiveness of the Queensland Government in dealing with development assessment. The development and implementation of SARA is being led by the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDIP). The PlanDev team undertook an analysis of Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) involvement in development assessment has been undertaken to investigate ways to streamline the lodgement and processing of applications through SARA using a risk framework.  The framework will be used by SARA and DTMR when undertaking assessment of development applications that trigger transport-related matters for consideration. An integral part of streamlining the assessment process within the SARA is the creation of a sound and effective risk framework to ensure that development applications can be assigned to a specific risk track of assessment (i.e. lower risk—shorter approval track, higher risk—longer, more detailed approval track) and assessed accordingly. Soon to be released, the process changes will have significant improvements on the existing 'award winning' development approval processes across the State. We are very excited to have been involved in such an important project and look forward to seeing it fully implemented over the next few months.

Better planning outcomes for local councils

Local councils will now have a simpler planning scheme to work with following the release today of the Queensland Planning Provisions version 3.0. Delivering a new framework for councils to use to develop their local planning schemes is just one of many planning reforms the Newman Government has introduced to cut red-tape and deliver better planning. Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said the Queensland Planning Provisions version 3.0. was the result of extensive consultation with local governments and key industry groups. “What we have now is a flexible and robust framework to assist local governments when preparing planning schemes that is standardised across the state,” Mr Seeney said. “First and foremost the Queensland Planning Provisions 3.0. (QPP) has provided a standard, clearly drafted template for councils to use when they are preparing their local planning schemes. “The QPP also allows local government the flexibility to address planning matters specific to their individual local government area and includes provisions for those local governments currently undergoing de-amalgamation.” The release of the QPP today means local governments preparing their planning schemes now have simpler planning tools and certainty in the standard template. A copy of the QPP is available at www.dsdip.qld.gov.au/statewide-planning/queensland-planning-provisions.html

Best practice the key to streamlined development approvals

The State Government and local government groups are working together on a new program aimed at discovering the best ways of assessing and approving construction projects and applying them across the state. The new partnership, involving the Government, high growth councils, the Local Government Association of Queensland and the Council of Mayors (SEQ), will help ensure new housing and commercial development is completed and ready for sale as quickly and efficiently as possible. Dubbed “Concept to Construction – Development Assessment Innovation Project”, the new program will enable local councils to adapt for their own use the systems and practices that have achieved best outcomes in terms of effective and accountable development assessment. LGAQ president Margaret de Wit said 20 of Queensland’s highest growth councils had committed to take part in the project. “That means the benefits will be very broad, and ensure that there are streamlined, consistent and cost effective assessment services for most development applications in areas it matters most to adopt  efficient ways of bringing building projects to market quickly,’’ she said. “This project will promote increased development activity and support jobs and economic growth  through increased industry certainty and efficient assessment and approval processes.’’ The project also recognises the construction industry as a major contributor to rebuilding the Queensland economy. Council of Mayors (SEQ) Chairman Graham Quirk said the project leverages off improvement work undertaken by the Council of Mayors (SEQ) over the past few years. “The project is about taking best practice and sharing it with other Councils for the benefit of the State,” Councillor Quirk said. The Government is contributing $200,000 to the project, while participating councils will contribute an additional $250,000. “We believe this project will help forge strong and genuinely collaborative partnerships between the public and private sectors to bring real and permanent improvement to the development industry and contribute to the economic growth of local communities,’’ Cr de Wit said. Local Government, Community Recovery and Resilience Minister David Crisafulli said the LGAQ and the Council of Mayors (SEQ) deserved kudos for helping councils to cut through process-driven approvals. “Local governments can be the real engines for growth in Queensland’s economy if we help them overcome pointless red tape and paperwork just for the sake of it,” he said. “Streamlining development processes will streamline job creation.”

Continuing Planning Reform in Qld

Nine high-growth councils across Queensland have joined with South East Queensland Councils to commit to improving development assessment process, commencing the Concept to Construction Development Assessment Innovation project. The project, a partnership between the Council of Mayors (SEQ), the Local Government Association of Queensland and the Queensland Government, will offer improved certainty for the development industry and help to stimulate jobs and economic growth. Council of Mayors (SEQ) Chairman Councillor Graham Quirk says the project will leverage off best practice solutions and ideas to create efficient assessment and approval processes, at the same time ensuring good-quality and long term outcomes for communities. "The Concept to Construction project is the largest and most comprehensive reform of development assessment process that any state has undertaken and it is fitting that it is led by local government – the level of government that is closest to the community" said Cr Quirk. “The project focuses on stimulating economic development, building confidence in DA process, cutting red tape and bringing a renewed focus on risk management. “The Concept to Construction project will discover the best ways of assessing and approving new developments and apply these across the state to help ensure new housing and commercial development is completed and ready for sale as quickly and efficiently as possible.” The first phase of the project is underway with councils benchmarking their DA services against the Council of Mayors (SEQ) Development Assessment Framework of Leading Practice, a document that aims to bring a world leading standard to DA in Queensland. Ten SEQ Councils, including Brisbane, Redland, Ipswich, and Logan City Councils and Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay, Somerset, Scenic Rim, Lockyer Valley and Toowoomba Regional Councils, along with Cairns, Tablelands, Townsville, Whitsundays, Mackay, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Gympie and Southern Downs Councils are involved in the project. The Queensland government has contributed $200,000 to the project while participating councils will contribute an additional $250,000. The project will run over the next 12 months

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