The council says building activity continues to rise in Newcastle, though its website shows a 12 per cent dip in development applications this year. Picture: Simon McCarthy
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Newcastle City Council has apologised for taking longer to process development applications after what it says is a continued rise in building activity.

The council said on its website last week that the “current high volume of development applications is causing determination times to be longer than usual”, though a NewcastleHerald analysis shows the number of applications on the council’s online DA tracker fell 12 per cent in the first 11 months of thisyear.

The DA tracker shows 1547applications this year up to November 22, compared with 1761in the corresponding period last year and 1631in 2016.

A spokesperson said the council had determined 1300 DAs in 2015-16 with a combined value of $700 million, 1400 ($1 billion) in 2016-17 and 1400 ($1.1 billion) in 2017-18.

“So far, in the 2018-19 financial year, we have determined more than 500 DAs worth about $300 millionand are well on track to break last year’s record value,” the spokesperson said.

“We are currently processing more than 500 DAs worth more than $1 billion, and the size and complexity of the DAs coming in means they take longer to process.”

The online tracker contains 736 DAs lodged this financial year.

Market indicators showa sharp decline in building activity across since June, but council chief executive Jeremy Bath saidNewcastle was destined to“enjoy yet another record year for development”.

“In fact, this year we are expecting a 25 per cent increase in applications,” he said. “This sort of activity makes us the envy of not just the Hunter but the rest of the country.

“It’s inevitable with this sort of historic increase in workload that approval times will also increase.

“We believe it’s better to be up front with applicants about this workload rather than say nothing and create unrealistic expectations.”

The council website says:“Some timelines are outside of our control, such as waiting for additional information from applicants and referrals to third parties (such as State Government agencies).

“The existing DAs (500+) we currently have will take time to process. Many will not be finalised until 2019. Any new DAs lodged between now and Christmas are also unlikely to be processed until 2019.

“We apologise for any inconvenience and commit to the development of a more customer centric approach to applicants over the new year period.”

Lake Macquarie City Council said it had approved a record $1.16 billion in development last financial year.

“So far in 2018council has approved 2154 development applications with a total value just under $1 billion,” a spokesperson said.

“As at 26 November 2018, council is currently assessing a further 729 applications worth more than $706 million.”