Developing can be a profitable venture. It can also be a quite frustrating one – even if you’re familiar with the process.

Ask any experienced property investor and they’ll tell you that you earn those profits. To help your development go more smoothly it’s smart to hire professionals who are experienced with the development process. One such professional is a town or urban planner. The expense is well worth it, especially for more complex deals.

A town planner can:

1. Prepare the development application (DA)
The town planner will prepare the development application (DA) and submit any required documentation such as environmental impact reports.

2. Give feedback while project is in the design stage
Urban planners are familiar with the entire development process. They can pre-empt any issues council may have with your particular design and ensure that all appropriate documentation is provided for and done correctly.

Involve the planner early in the process. Their knowledge of what council requires can help shape your plans and avoid any major plan redrafts.

3. Act as a single point of contact with council and other individuals involved in the project
You never realise the benefit of a single point of contact until you attempt a large project without one. It’s not recommended.
When all parties contact a single individual there’s a much less chance of miscommunication.
You can choose to make yourself that person, however some investors like to have the town planner handle that responsibility. It’s all up to you.

4. Handle your case, if needed, in an Appeals Court
If you run into trouble with your development and you face the Appeals Court, your planner will provide invaluable assistance as an expert witness.

Before hiring a town planner

  • Familiarise yourself with the stipulations of the council managing your neighbourhood.
  • Begin by paying a visit to the council website to look at the local environment plan. This document will set out the land zones and acceptable land uses for the area.
  • Check to see if a draft LEP is in process to ensure you’ve got the most up to date document available.

Other documents to look for include:

The Development Control Plan (DCP)

You’ll see more detailed information that includes geographic zones (eg. flood zones) or approved types of development.

Regional strategy report

This report will provide information about population projections, employment outlook, land releases, re-zoning and planned growth locations.

Council meeting notes

Look through other development applications that have been presented to the council taking note of the comments and meeting notes to get an idea of what you might face when you present your application.

Arm yourself with answers to the following questions before asking them!

Questions to ask your town planner:

  • Which council or local authority has the final say in approval of my project?
  • How does my project fit with council’s vision for the area?
  • Do you anticipate this project will cause any problems with the neighbourhood and/or council?
  • How familiar are you with this particular authority?
  • How long should the project take?
  • Do I have a right of appeal?
  • Will I need to apply to other authorities?
  • What is the minimum lot size?

Planning meetings
It’s smart to have one or more meetings before officially submitting your DA. This is where you’ll iron out any expected problems beforehand. Typically an architect, and for more complicated projects the town planner, should be present at these meetings.

Bring your planning certificate from the contract of sale along with a survey and sewer diagram (which are typically part of the contract) to the meeting.