THE PLANNING authorities have introduced a new mechanism aimed at speeding up the process of approvals, referred to as a Universal Application Number.
"As part of the continuing mission to improve customer services, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is rationalising its applications process," the agency said via release this week.
Introduced by NEPA, the UAN system is to be used by the state environment and planning regulator, Parish Councils and all agencies involved in processing development applications.
The system took effect January 2, following what NEPA says was months of collaboration and consultation with the Ministry of Local Government, which has oversight responsibility for the parish councils.
Under the current planning laws, developers and builders must get local approval from respective councils as well as NEPA, which falls under the central Government system.
"Applications can now be tracked by name, reference number and date submitted," says Marc Rammelaere, director of the NEPA information technology division. "It affords an application's questions to be answered promptly."
According to Rammelaere, the categories and numbers used to file applications have now been refined to allow data to be entered from anywhere in the government sector.
"This promotes greater accountability and transparency in the system," he said, and would assist NEPA meet its commitment to a 90-turnaround time for processing applications, as required by law.
COMPUTERISED TRACKING SYSTEM
The UAN is designed to support a computerised tracking system, which is currently in place. This system was set up to track development and sub-division applications; however it is being expanded to include the environmental permit and licensing applications, says NEPA.
Beach licensing, which is covered under the Beach Control Authority (Licensing Regulations, 1956) will also be targeted.
The planning authority is also attempting to make the system available to the public on-line, via the Internet by year end. The on-line system will also allow members of the public to view and comment on proposed developments; and access information or verify which types of developments have been approved and the conditions under which approvals were granted.
Conversely, having access to approved developments will help the public identify those that are not, and can therefore assist NEPA in "monitoring unauthorised and improper developments across the island."
The UAN falls under the umbrella of the National Tracking System (NTS), which is an initiative of the Ministries of Local Government and Land and Environment and the Local Planning Authority. The NTS will take into account all applications including planning, building, subdivisions, enquiries, environmental licences and permits and beach licences.
NEPA is also improving the physical facilities of its Applications Secretariat branch by remodelling the customer service area in keeping with an environmental theme.