THE Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) has whittled down its applications backlog from thousands to about fewer than one hundred. It has also introduced new systems to bring about efficiency and faster processing of applications.
Speaking at a news conference hosted by the TCPD at Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain yesterday, Acting Assistant Director Stara Ramlogan said over a six-year period, 2006-2012, approximately 52,600 applications were received. And for 2009-2012, 5,024 other applications were received. She said many complaints and enforcement matters also had to be processed simultaneously with regular applications. The division has been under-resourced, its personnel overworked and there was a large backlog of planning and other applications accumulated. Ramlogan said the result was that officers were unable to concentrate on current demands of new applications entering the system.
In addition, there was a marked increase in applications for “Status of lands” for stamp duty purposes and doing business with financial institutions. There were also requests from State agencies for land use planning. TCPD personnel also served on 30 committees.
With an establishment staffed at 50 percent of the required level and technical and professional staffed at 25 percent, the TCPD last September “took up the challenge” to clear the backlog of 3,710 applications.
Commenting on changes to improve the system she said the TCPD had replaced the once per week “public day” at its regional offices. Ramlogan said technical advisory desks were established at all regional offices to serve the public daily and provide pre-application advice and provide information on the status of applications. This had reduced the long waiting times.
An internal review system was introduced in which applications which were recommended for refusals were reviewed and the TCPD met with applicants to see if a compromise could be reached.
A “Complex Application Facilitation Committee” comprising public and private sector personnel was introduced to guide and advise on applications. Ramlogan said the TCPD hoped to reduce the number of applications that were undetermined, returned refused or “bogged down in the system.”
Ramlogan disclosed the TCPD had launched a pilot project in the city of Port-of-Spain aimed at expediting planning and building applications for “simple applications.” Based on information gained from applications received, Ramlogan said much of the delay in the system was caused by persons submitting incomplete applications and defective drawings. Despite this she said citizens “expect a response in quick time.”
To deal with these issues a check list was created and TCPD personnel worked with applicants to “change culture” and get people to understand that they needed to assist the TCPD by submitting “complete applications” which can be processed and a decision given.
“Incomplete applications will not be accepted to block up the system; deficient submissions will be returned immediately,” Ramlogan said.
Ramlogan said while the TCPD was trying to clear the backlog of applications, more applications continued to be received. The San Fernando office received approximately 800. She said an attempt was made to begin processing these applications. Thirty-five percent of the applications have been processed and 25 percent were recently processed. The TCPD has put systems in place to deal with 2013 applications. Ramlogan announced the division was aiming to have single development applications, single family applications, multiple family unit applications (fewer than four units) and sub division applications (comprising fewer than two plots) processed within 30 days. The TCPD was proposing to process major applications in 60 days in keeping with the “statutory time frame” of the current legislation.