A vibrant new civic square in Merrylands is on its way courtesy of Cumberland City Council’s improved development application turnaround times.
The $11 million civic square will receive $5.5 million state funding from the NSW Public Spaces Legacy Program. It recognises Council’s efforts to reduce development application processing times from the third longest in the state to among the best in the state. Council agreed in March 2021 to sign the funding agreement for the design and delivery of the project.
The NSW Public Spaces Legacy Program incentivises local councils to accelerate their assessments of development applications (DAs) and rezonings to meet demand for housing and employment over the next decade.
“It’s a great achievement that we’ve been able to create efficiencies and improve processes to make sure development applications are properly assessed in a reasonable time frame,” Mayor Steve Christou said.
“After the council mergers, we inherited a significant backlog of development applications.
“However, we have an experienced and dedicated team that has been making improvements to our planning processes, systems and controls and it’s good to see that this is translating into results as the median processing time continues to decrease.
“I have made it a priority to speed up development applications and I am happy that the team’s hard work is starting to show.”
He said the new civic square will create an open and green meeting place in the heart of Merrylands.
“It will connect Merrylands Road through to McFarlane Street to create a focal point and sense of community in the town centre,” Mayor Christou said.
Planning and design work is progressing for the civic square. The square is also part of broader infrastructure upgrades in the Merrylands Town Centre, including better stormwater systems to reduce flooding and upgraded high voltage electricity to cater for future development.
Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes said the funding being delivered to councils was reliant on them meeting agreed targets to speed up local development applications.
“This program is the first of its kind in NSW and demonstrates state and local government working together to create a legacy of beautiful public spaces that communities, for decades, can be proud of,” Mr Stokes said.
“In exchange for legacy funding, councils participating in the program need to speed up their assessment times. They have until June 30 to keep hitting their targets but, so far, the program has seen a 20 per cent improvement.
“It’s been great to see the unclogging of the planning system as part of this program – 42 of 53 planning proposals that had been stuck in the planning system for more than four years have been resolved and 163 of 168 regionally significant development applications have been cleared.”
Between July 2020 and January 2021, Council achieved a median DA processing time of 78 days, beating a target of 86 days.