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No more dropping in on planning department

April 12th, 2022No more dropping in on planning department

HEPBURN Shire Council is actively looking for new planners, CEO Bradley Thomas says. The statement comes after a number of people contacted The Local to say the planning department was either understaffed or had no staff remaining after a number of resignations.

HEPBURN Shire Council is actively looking for new planners, CEO Bradley Thomas says.
The statement comes after a number of people contacted The Local to say the planning department was either understaffed or had no staff remaining after a number of resignations.
But Mr Thomas said staff movements were common in any organisation.
“We have staff, including planners, who have moved on or moved to other areas, while new staff are joining the organisation filling vacancies.


“With regards to land use planners, there has been a well-documented shortage of qualified and experienced planners across the state for some time. Planners are also moving around and taking up opportunities to expand their exposure to different types of planning issues and challenges in different settings across the state.
“This has been made more possible with working from home arrangements since the beginning of Covid. The movement of planners at Hepburn Shire has occurred for similar reasons.
Mr Thomas said the council was “actively recruiting” for new planners and other positions within the organisation.
“When any vacancy occurs in the organisation we often second staff from other areas of the organisation, or contractors into the roles during the recruitment process to ensure continuity of services – we can confirm that this has occurred in relation to planning staff.
“We acknowledge that there are delays in a number of service areas of council at the moment, including planning, however, I can assure you that we are looking at all solutions to combat the national shortage of employees and significant growth within the Hepburn Shire area.”
On February 17, the council posted on its Facebook page asking: “Do you need to speak with a Planner?”
“Going through the planning process can be complicated. If you would like to discuss a planning matter you are welcome to make an appointment to meet with one of our Planners.
“You can make an appointment to meet with a Planner or drop in during the following times: 8:30am to 12noon on Mondays, 9:30am to 12noon on Wednesdays, 8:30am to 12noon on Fridays. To make an appointment call council on 5348 2306.
“Catch ups can be over the phone or in person. If a Planner is not available when you call we will give you a customer service request number for reference.
“We’ve found that most people like to catch up early in the day, but the team can accommodate appointments outside of these times, as required.”
Earlier last week, on April 5, a new Facebook post went up.
“The Hepburn Shire planning team is committed to providing the community and applicants with timely and accurate planning advice to facilitate a smooth and efficient planning application process. We want your interaction with Council and our planning team to be a positive and productive experience.
“As part of this commitment, we have initiated an online booking appointment system to provide comprehensive and quality pre-application advice.
“This means from Monday 11 April 2022, for all pre-application advice you are required to book an appointment online by clicking the Planning button on the Council website and following the link to ‘Pre-application Service’ or send an email to shire@hepburn.vic.gov.au.
“For all other planning enquiries, you can call to speak with a planner from 1pm to 4pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays) on (03) 5348 2306.”
The Local submitted a further query on whether planning permits which have not been started, needed to be reapplied for after changes to the council’s planning scheme.
The council replied: “Planning permits have an expiry date for any permitted development which includes a date by which to start and complete works.
“If these dates are not complied with the application will expire. Applicants can apply to extend the start date before the permit expires or within six months of the expiry.
“Similarly, they can apply to extend the completion date before the expiry or within 12 months of the expiry of the completion date.”

Words: Donna Kelly



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