MORE than 21,000 businesses in the City of Stirling are set to have wait times for planning approvals slashed.
The City’s small business friendly approvals project action plan, created in collaboration with the Small Business Development Corporation and adopted by the council at its December 3 meeting, identified issues hampering the approvals process and said reviewing internal work flows could reduce the timeframe for small businesses applying for development applications by up to 30 days.
The plan comprises 32 recommendations that aim to make it easier for small businesses, which account for 98 per cent of the 22,000 businesses in the City.
Stirling Mayor Mark Irwin said it was part of the corporation’s pilot small business friendly approvals project to streamline approvals processes for businesses.
“It is vital that we make it as easy as possible to start, run and grow a business and that’s why we’re committed to reducing approval times across planning, building and health,” he said.
“This is a game-changer for those businesses looking to expand or invest.”
The plan found the average turnaround time for development applications made to the City in the 2018-19 financial year was 64.25 working days, more than 12 weeks, and the figure grew to 93 days for business-related applications where staff requested more information.
Building permits were far quicker, taking on average five working days for certified applications, and health-related approvals took three days.
The report said issues included repeated requests for more information, delays in work allocation and internal referrals, double-handling of applications and lack of internal co-ordination.
Other recommendations were to provide a simple online lodgement service, enhance website functionality, earlier allocation and referral of applications after lodgement, removing the need for minor development approval and for clear guidance on effectively managing complaints.
Mr Irwin said changes would be implemented immediately and the City would reposition its focus as “a facilitator rather than a regulator” to increase efficiency and effectiveness to benefit small businesses.
The City recently made other changes to reduce red tape, including exempting development approval for street trading and alfresco dining, and certain change of use applications in local centres and activity corridors.