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Frequently Asked Questions
Site information obtained. Design of project including concept design sketches.
Preparation of full planning documentation.
Lodgement to council.
Initial council confirmation.
Initial council response (Request for further information (RFI) including initial council concerns).
Response to council concerns (Time will depend on extent of request, and whether the information required is internal or external).
Advertising commences for a 14 day period (longer if over new year holiday period).
Advertising is completed.
Extent of neighbours objections obtained.
Response to objections &/or further council concerns may be required.
Neighbours forum may be held between relevant council, applicant and objectors to negotiate the design.
Council planner prepares report / assessment for internal council decision making process.
Council makes final decision and issues either 'Permit' or 'Notice of Decision' depending on whether objections have been received or not. These will have conditions that the applicant will either have to comply with, or appealed against at VCAT.
'Condition 1' amendments are made to drawings & re-lodged to council (Or appealed against at VCAT).
Council endorses (stamps) final drawings if conditions (on drawings) have been met.
Final endorsed drawings obtained in mail.
Endorsed drawings provided to client.
End of planning application process.
Building permit drawings (if building) commenced including Structural engineering, Soil report, 6-star energy report etc.
- Times will vary depending on the complexity of the site, size of the project, client decisions made and the number of objections received.
- Subdividing the site ('use' permit) before the 'development' permit is issued will vary the process noted above.
- The above process makes no allowance for appeals at VCAT (Victorian Civil & Appeals Tribunal).
There are two physical sections to a town planning permit:
The written permit which consists of a number of A4 pages containing all the permit conditions and;
The endorsed (stamped) drawings that consist of the architectural design and layout of the development, plus any other reports such as (but not limited to) Arboriculture, Waste management & Traffic assessment reports etc.
Whilst state government regulations stipulates that a planning permit should be granted within 60 statutory days from lodgement, this is uncommon due to the general practices and procedures of local government. From the moment a client authorises a project, up until receiving all parts of the official planning documentation, you should generally allow approximately 9 months in elapsed time if no (or only minor objections) are received. This assumes around 5-6 months that an application is commonly 'in' with the local council for assessment.
The '60 statutory day' period is a state government timeframe at which if the local council has not issued a decision within that time, then the applicant may lodge an appeal at VCAT against the relevant councils 'Failure to make a decision' with the statutory time frame. This timeframe (in calendar days) commences at lodgement of the application, and is reset back to zero if the local council requests further information within 28 days of lodgement of the application and after all the requested information has been supplied (and registered) back to council. It is not uncommon for local councils to request further information as a general tactic to have it appear that they are not greatly outside the state government statutory time frames. The clock then stops again during the 14 day advertising period and then restarts at the completion of the advertising period. Generally, 60 statutory days equates to around 120 actual days after lodgement.
My application has taken longer than the 60 statutory day period and a decision has not yet been made by council, what approach should I take with my application?
As there is generally a wait of around 4-5 months for an appeal hearing (sometimes longer), lodging an appeal at VCAT would generally only be an option or tactical move if:
It were clear that the relevant council was not going to support the application, and the owner does not wish to amend the design consistent with council concerns (i.e. taking the view that the design is appropriate to the site and their own requirements, and they are prepared to gamble on a successful appeal outcome) and/or;
There is potential for the relevant council to refuse the application where such a decision was likely to take significant time to be issued (i.e. the relevant council is experiencing delays or is getting weighed down by objectors & design concerns etc). This tactic keeps the project moving forward without extended delays by allowing the design to be amended during the '4-5 month 'appeal waiting period' thus by-passing the council process by handing over the decision making responsibilities to VCAT and/or;
It is probable that the owners/clients requirements will not be supported by the relevant council (i.e. the project is an over development of the site where the owner/client does not wish reduce the extent of works due to market requirements etc) and the owner/client wishes to expedite an outcome as fast as possible. This tactic should only be attempted by experienced developers & those who understand the associated risks and potential re-application costs involved in unsuccessful appeals.
Individual/tactical Approach/tactics of an application will be determined by the owners/clients own individual yield/market requirements, attitudes and opinions to local planning and neighbouring properties, individual preferred risk levels and current financial situation. A site density of 1 dwelling per 350 square metres is recommended as this generally allows all local council preferences to be met. A 'Less is more' approach is recommended early in the design stage to:
Avoid lengthy council applications due to increased design & consultation throughout the process
Avoid significant objections leading to increased delays and increased council consultation
Avoid potential refusals leading the VCAT appeals
Avoid potential refusals at VCAT leading to secondary applications.
Have councils 'On-side' where a neighbour lodges an appeal against a council decision to grant a permit.
Avoid increased land holding costs due to application delays.
Avoid costly redesigns and re-draws of plans during the process by appropriate decisions earlier rather than later (i.e. do not wait for council to raise a concern – listen to your experienced building designer/town planner to determine your own strategy or tactical approach consistent with your own needs.
Any person can object to an application at any stage during an application right up until the relevant council has issued a decision. Objections are not required to be lodged during the 14 day public advertising period. A small number of objections (less than five) will generally have minimal impact on the councils views, however having any number of objections adds a minimum 30 days to an application due to the system providing an objector 21 days to appeal a council decision before the final permit is issued. Greater than 5 objections may slow the process further due to the local council requiring a ' public forum' between all parties to negotiate a possible outcome.
Greater than 12 objections will again slow the process further due to the application generally having to be decided at the relevant councils monthly general meeting in which all councillors will take a position on (albeit political or regulation based).
As neighbours are becoming increasingly more knowledgeable about the planning process, increased numbers of objections can be expected in which increase the percentage of refusals at council level.
No. However, should a particular neighbour encourage other neighbours to object, these additional objections can slow the process down, potentially alter the councils view of the proposal, &/or potentially force the applicant to reduce the extent of the proposal to assist the application process.
In most cases, No. Where the client takes a responsible approach to the project / design, generally only two minor changes are required during an application which is included in your quotation. Additional costs could be expected in situations where:
The site has an increased number of constraints (i.e. slope, size, orientation, overlays etc) and the clients preferred layout requires significant change through the application to get the relevant council / objectors on side and/or;
The clients requested yield / layout is pushing the limits/boundaries with general views of the local council (i.e. The clients design requirements are excessive in relation to the constraints of the site (i.e. increased density and/or visual bulk etc) and/or;
The client chooses not to follow the advice of the senior building designer at the initial design stage.
In all of these cases significant design and drafting changes occur 'later' in the application process during the preparation of the CAD drawings. To avoid this, we recommend these design amendments be made very early in the sketch design stage which minimises the potential for costly drafting amendments to the Auto Cad drawings. Listening to the initial advice of your experienced building designer or town planning consultant in relation to the constraints of your site will help avoid or minimise this.
It is a common request to lodge drawings into council 'to see what the council wants'. This is not an appropriate approach to a planning application as all local council's do not see their role to be advisory. Their role is simply to assess the application as it is put to them. For this reason, every client should seek advice from a design professional experienced in planning issues, and whom is familiar with relevant local guidelines and planning attitudes.
No. Local government will want to remain neutral and will not want to be seen to be providing biased advice. The local council's role is purely to assess an application that is put to them. As they are not an advisory body, appropriate advice should be sought from a professional consultant experienced in development & planning issues, and can advise a property owner as to how council is likely to view their intentions for the project. The applicant/property owner should then choose an approach that best suits their individual requirements/risk level (i.e. either take a conservative approach which provides more certainty through the process but with less investment yield, or attempt a higher yield design at the risk of refusal and associated time delays & costs etc).
If this should happen, a number of options are available to you depending on the reasons for refusal. They are:
Appeal the decision at VCAT (Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal). This will add about 4-5 months to your project with drawing amendments & representation being recommended. We will invite you to a free no-obligation meeting with our preferred private town planning consultant where options, tactics and costs are discussed to help determine an appropriate appeal or;.
Re-design & lodge a second council application.
If the council has issued the permit (that had no objections), the planning drawings will be amended to reflect any conditions placed on the permit, and re-submitted for endorsement. This should take around 2-4 weeks and upon receiving the endorsed drawings, signifies the end of the planning process. The next stage (Building permit) documentation which consists working drawings, soil report, structural & civil engineering computations and 6 star energy rating can be commenced.
If the council has issued a 'Notice of Decision' due to there being objections to the proposal, a 28-30 day wait period exists due to the neighbours having 21 days to lodge an appeal at VCAT. If no appeals are lodged, the council will issue the final permit with conditions, where the planning drawings will be amended to reflect any conditions placed on the permit, and re-submitted for endorsement. This should take around 2-4 weeks and upon receiving the endorsed drawings, signifies the end of the planning process. The next stage (Building permit) documentation which consists working drawings, soil report, structural & civil engineering computations and 6 star energy rating can then be commenced.
What happens if council approves my application, but I don't like the conditions they have imposed on the permit?
A number of options are available to you when a council decision with conditions has been issued:
Amend the drawings in line with all item 1 conditions on the permit and re-submit for council endorsement. This should take around two weeks depending on council delays, or;
Appeal the particular condition at VCAT (Victorian & Administrative Tribunal). This will add about 4-5 months to your project with representation being recommended by a private town-planning consultant.
Clearly every project must meet market requirements to be profitable, however on too many occasions we see the client intending to push the boundaries too far which ends up in avoidable lengthy delays and additional costs during the application. This can be greatly reduced by listening to your designer & understanding the maximum potential of your site before you start, and thus designing to expected outcomes very early in the design process rather than making expensive changes during the later stages of the application. An experienced building designer &/or town planning consultant can advise you on expected council attitudes and concerns regarding your site, enabling you to choose what extent of risk you wish to take and thus estimate potential problems during the application.
VCAT is the tribunal that hears all Victorian planning appeals. They are located at 55 King Street, Melbourne.
Hearings are generally in 2hr, 3hr or full day sessions and currently have an approximate wait time of 4-5 months to obtain.
A decision made by VCAT is final.
VCAT can be a useful tactic on a proposal where extensive objection from council, neighbours (or both) is likely to greatly slow & risk the success of the application, and the client wishes to both;
Keep the application moving by lodging an appeal at VCAT against 'Councils failure to decide', thus taking the decision making process away from the local council. This appeal can only be lodged approximately 120 - 150 calendar (60 statutory days) days after original council lodgement.
Take their chances at VCAT.
VCAT can initially be avoided by designing to the site's constraints, and to council concerns &/or preferred council guidelines / character notes etc (i.e. taking a 'less is more approach'). In some instances, the risk of this however is creating a project that has a reduced yield or market value, and in some cases this may not be an appropriate outcome for the clients requirements.
However, a positive council decision in favour of the proposal can be appealed by an objector and thus cause the applicant to end up at VCAT anyway. We therefore recommend that each project be designed with general council and VCAT attitudes in mind, and in conjunction with relevant character notes and overlay information. Doing this will generally get the project on track early, keep drafting costs to a minimum, and have a greater chance of success at both council & VCAT levels.
We recommend that each project be designed with general council and VCAT attitudes in mind, and in conjunction with relevant character notes and overlay information. Doing this will generally get the project on track early, avoid timely amendments throughout the application, keep drafting & design costs to a minimum, and have a greater chance of success at both council & VCAT levels (if required).
Understanding appropriate yields for the site (i.e. 1 dwelling per 350 square metres (approx) of land for non-apartment style dwellings), limiting upper floor areas to approximately 65% of ground floor areas, using a mix of both single & double storey dwellings, private open spaces areas well above ResCode minimums, providing adequate areas for the re-vegetation of canopy trees, ensuring minimal removal of significant trees, increased side, rear & front setbacks for landscaping, reducing visual bulk & hard paved surfacing, and building site coverage of approximately 40-45% are all ways to ensure a planning application decision is favourable.
What are some of the points that local councils view negatively in a proposal, and how can I avoid these?
Whilst all councils have individual requirements, we find the overall core views of each council to be generally consistent with each other. The following points are considered quite significant in a design/planning application and should be avoided where possible.
Excessive built form. This is considered 'overdevelopment of the site' and can come in varying forms such as horizontally where too many dwellings along the site create visual bulk due to minimal gaps between dwellings, or vertically where upper floor areas are too great in size and number creating facades that are extensive when viewed from neighbouring properties.
Excessive visual bulk. Is a result of two storey sheer walls, lack of building articulation, dwellings being too large, minimal boundary setbacks etc. Can be mainly avoided by reducing the size and number of upper floor areas, and designing above minimal boundary setbacks.
Minimal private open space areas. Small open space areas reduce areas for new canopy trees and contribute to overdevelopment of the site. ResCode minimums are not acceptable to most local council's except the more inner city municipalities.
Increased site coverage. Densities of approximately less than 1 dwelling per 350sq. metres provide only minimal compliance with state regulations and council guidelines, and thus reflect negatively on council views to a development. Where increased densities cannot be avoided, upper floors should be kept to a minimum in size and number, and a mix of dwelling sizes is encouraged to assist other significant design point compliance. Generally around 40-45% building site coverage combined to achieve approximately 55% hard paved coverage is usually acceptable in most cases. Areas of significant landscaping will require smaller coverages than those stated.
Site slope & size. Sites with significant slope will create increased visual bulk, with increased excavation leading to reduced usable private open space areas for vegetation etc. These sites require smaller dwellings to satisfy council concerns. This is particularly the case on smaller sloping sites.
Significant trees. Removal of significant native trees is seen as a negative by all local councils in all areas. Choosing a site that is not associated with a vegetation protection or significant landscape overlay will assist but will not alleviate this common problem.
Streetscape. Regulations generally do not allow for vehicle parking or secluded private open space within the frontages of new or existing dwellings unless setback significantly from the front boundary. Front yards areas are generally preferred by local councils to be open and well vegetated to provide a sense of connectivity and cohesion with the street and community.