Sunday Telegraph 21/10/2012
By Barclay Crawford, State Political Reporter
SHOPS and restaurants will be able to stay open 24 hours a day in the two weeks before Christmas as part of a plan to reinvigorate the state’s struggling retail economy.
While stores can already apply for special permission to extend their hours during the festive season, Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said the process could be costly and complicated.
He hoped introducing a streamlined rule for all businesses would give owners a much needed boost during the busy season and help them compete against the growing competition posed by online retailers, which were able to run 24-hour operations.
“Christmas is the busiest period so we want to try and move the system into the 21st century,” Mr Hazzard said. The plan is among sweeping changes Mr Hazzard is looking to make to planning laws. Under the proposed reforms, restaurants will also receive automatic approval for outdoor dining areas – of up to 20 square metres – without having to submit expensive and time-consuming applications to their local council.
With more people dining out than ever before, the community expected to be able to sit outside and enjoy the summer weather. But Mr Hazzard said under current laws, restaurants and cafes had to pay for a development application to put tables outside. This often led to approvals being bogged down for one to two years, he said.
Mr Hazzard also said he planned to allow factories and warehouses of up 20,000 square metres to be approved within 10 days if the developments are to be built on sites already zoned as “industrial”. Mr Hazzard said he expected this to be increased to up to 90,000 square metres if the changes proved successful.
Other proposed changes include allowing residents to get approval for standard granny flats in their backyards in 10 days and a 10-day approval for home owners who wanted to manufacture food at home.
Other standard home renovations will also be included in the 10-day approval list. Mr Hazzard said a condition of 10-day approvals would be that neighbours within 50 metres needed to be notified five days before the certifiers could approve the development. “If neighbours actually discuss the proposals, it will hopefully lead to better relations between them,” Mr Hazzard said.
“There are so many horror stories about dealing with development applications that sit on some councillor’s desk for months, if not years, that we’ve decided to act,” he said.
Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said the industry strongly supported the changes, provided retailers who didn’t want to open for extended hours during the Christmas shopping period were not forced to do so.