Online tool: The NSW Government's new website is designed to make it easier to get the go-ahead for compliant home improvements. Photo: PlanningHub
DIY home improvers are set to save time and money – and countless headaches – following the launch of an one-stop online planning shop on Saturday.
The NSW Government's new PlanningHub aims to slash red tape and make it much easier, and quicker, to get the go-ahead for safe and compliant home improvements such as adding or extending decks, car ports, garages, granny flats, detached studios and swimming pools.
Planning Minister Pru Goward said that she was often told that the NSW planning system was difficult to navigate and too complicated.
Sunny outlook: A screen grab from the NSW Government's new PlanningHub. Photo: Supplied
"That's why we created the PlanningHub, to make using the system easier," she revealed to Domain.
"Adding straightforward features to your home through 'complying' development takes an average of 18 days to receive approval – a much quicker option than the average of 70 days it takes to receive a development approval from council."
Already the expansion of "exempt" and "complying" categories of home improvements that can be undertaken without a formal development application has led to a jump in the number of home renovators. More than 60,000 have now been determined over the past four years without a DA.
People wanting to put up a deck, for instance, can go on to the website and see if the deck's height, size and placing will mean it's an exempt development and therefore won't need planning or building approval, in which case, they can go ahead. Someone proposing a granny flat, meanwhile, can work out if they just need to engage a certifier to check the plans, rather than submitting a DA – or find out if they need to go the DA route.
The new website has been tested by a group of volunteers, including people like Vicki Walker, of the development assessment office at Lismore Council.
"I think it's great," she said. "It's so easy to use for mums and dads who are trying to make improvements on their homes but who find the Government legislation so confusing. It's really understandable and interactive too, which really helps."
The Shadow Minister for Planning Jodi McKay is also in favour of making the planning laws more accessible. "We must ensure e-Planning reforms don't sacrifice transparency and accountability in the pursuit of efficiency," she said. "E-Planning must facilitate engagement with all stakeholders – most importantly, the community – in the planning process."
The aim of the new site is to make the planning system much more understandable and accessible. Alison Frame, deputy secretary, policy and strategy, Department of Planning and Environment said the Government has already invested $22 million this financial year in opening up the planning system.
"Demystifying the system can only help people, and save councils money in the long term too," she said.