The NSW Government has announced a $4.8 million investment into a digital platform that will allow regional councils to lodge and assess planning applications.

The funding is designed to include the councils in a state-wide transition into digital planning, with the grant made available through the Regional Digital Planning Program.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes says the decision is a practical one due to the sheer amount of development proposals lodged digitally since 2018.

“We’ve seen more than 55,000 development applications submitted through the e-planning system since councils started coming online in December 2018 which represents more than $82 billion worth of potential investment value for NSW,” he says.

“This real-time reporting is also significantly boosting transparency and accountability in the planning system, allowing everyone to know what’s been lodged and why a decision was made.”

Councils will need to submit all developments via the platform come July. Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock says the funding is available to help all regional councils better support their communities.

“We’ve listened to regional councils who need some support implementing the e-planning platform which will ultimately make for a more simplified and transparent planning system right across the State,” Mrs Hancock said.

“Some regional councils are still completely paper-based, while others would like to provide better support for residents who may have limited digital literacy or access to the internet. This grant program was designed to help out in these situations.”

Each of the 95 regional councils and the Lord Howe Island Board have the opportunity to receive a grant of $50,000 to assist with their transition to the Planning Portal. The funding will help regional councils acquire new or upgrade existing IT systems, software and infrastructure and provide council staff the resources and knowledge needed to use the system.

All NSW councils need to be using the Planning Portal to lodge all development applications and complying development certificates by 1 July 2021.