Processing At Planning Decreases To 4.9 Weeks

July 26, 2013

The average time taken to process all building permits – minor works, residential and commercial – has decreased to 4.9 weeks in the first six months of this year from 6.7 weeks in 2012, Environment & Planning Minister Sylvan Richards today [July 26] in the House of Assembly.

“In these challenging times, the Department is taking steps to review its practices so as to assure prompt action on applications for planning permission and building permit approval and a quick response to building inspection requests,” said Minister Richards.

“In the first six months of this year, 44% of planning applications were determined within 12 weeks. That’s up from 40% in 12 weeks in 2012. The average time taken to process planning applications has dropped to 10.2 weeks so far in 2013 from 12.7 weeks in 2012.

“The more straightforward applications or minor works projects are ‘fast-tracked’ through the system as Permitted Development Permits, and in the first half of 2013 29% of these were dealt with within 18 days.

“Last year only 24% of the minor works projects were determined within 18 days. Overall, the average time taken to process all building permits – minor works, residential and commercial – has decreased to 4.9 weeks in the first six months of this year from 6.7 weeks in 2012.”

Minister Richards’s full statement follows below:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker

Mr. Speaker

I rise today to inform this Honourable House of the contributions being made by the Department of Planning to assist with our economic recovery. In these challenging times, the Department is taking steps to review its practices so as to assure prompt action on applications for planning permission and building permit approval and a quick response to building inspection requests.

Mr. Speaker
The mission of the Department of Planning is to responsibly serve the people of Bermuda to ensure the sustainable management of the natural and built environment. This means balancing development needs with conservation and, when it’s time to build, securing the safety and welfare of the public.

In the first six months of this year, 44% of planning applications were determined within 12 weeks. That’s up from 40% in 12 weeks in 2012. The average time taken to process planning applications has dropped to 10.2 weeks so far in 2013 from 12.7 weeks in 2012.

The more straightforward applications or minor works projects are ‘fast-tracked’ through the system as Permitted Development Permits, and in the first half of 2013 29% of these were dealt with within 18 days. Last year only 24% of the minor works projects were determined within 18 days. Overall, the average time taken to process all building permits – minor works, residential and commercial – has decreased to 4.9 weeks in the first six months of this year from 6.7 weeks in 2012.

Our average response time to building and electrical inspection requests remains an impressive 0.5 days.

For the larger projects of national interest, such as the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, the Department takes a team approach. Technical officers gather together all the relevant government agencies for regular meetings with project architects to enable stakeholders to pro-actively address issues. This has worked very well and resulted in the swift resolution of a major development that allowed project managers to plan a reliable construction timetable.

Mr. Speaker
There is always room for improvement and right now the new Director of Planning, Aideen Ratteray Pryse, who has been in post since 3 June, is working with her teams internally to review the Department’s practices. Regular meetings with the Institute of Bermuda Architects will re-commence in August,and we look forward to an open dialogue on enhancements all parties can bring to the table to ensure homeowners and developers deservedly receive good service.

Mr. Speaker
There are initiatives in the pipeline, which the Director is concluding for the November session, that I believe will greatly assist the Department of Planning in shortening its response times.

First, I will introducean amendment to the Development and Planning Act 1974 that will delegate limited powers to the Director of Planning to approve straightforward, compliant applications. The key word here is “compliance”. This is a power we view as appropriate to exercise by the Director only where an application meets the requirements of the development plan of the day.

Second, I will introduce a new General Development Order that will expand the scope of work to be considered as a Permitted Development Permit.

Both of these steps will do much to modernise our planning legislation and pave the way for faster service to the public.

Mr. Speaker
Finally, towards the end of this year, the Department’s Forward Planning team will introduce the new draft plan for the City of Hamilton. The current plan dates back to 2001 and is in need of an update. Hamilton, as Bermuda’s business, cultural and entertainment hub, is the focal point for visitors and residents alike. A lot of background research and consultation with stakeholders has taken place over the past couple of years but, as the details of policy are formulated over the summer and into the fall, the Department will actively engage the community to make sure we get it right. I hope that everyone will be open to providing feedback and offering suggestions.

In the short-term, I encourage the community to go on Facebook and ‘like’ the page Department of Planning – Government of Bermuda. There you will find the most up-to-date information on Planning’s programmes, applications being advertised, public meetings, etc., as well as articles on planning and design. ‘Like’ us and stay in touch.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker

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