Don’t get me wrong, councils and planning permits are important and there are some instances you cannot get around it, due to a certain overlay or because you are doing a subdivision.

But for many sites, if you follow all the regulations and guidelines you will not need a planning permit.

The question is, why should you try to avoid it?

It is not just enough to follow all the rules and regulations. There are many planning regulations that can be interpreted in different ways.

What one planner might approve his college might not.

And of course, a planning permit adds quite a bit of money to your project:

  • planning permit fee
  • town planning drawings
  • potentially; the fee for a private planner to private written reports for you
  • advertising
  • council may request an arborist report
  • you might need landscape design plans

You will also have to pay the council a fee if the design or some details change after a planning permit has been granted. And it is common for changes to occur while preparing the construction documentation for your project. For instance, due to some structural requirements or potentially by applying some suggestions to reduce the build cost by your builder.

On top of that, is the time delay. How long the process takes can vary significantly. Let’s say if you have a very straight forward application, with no major overlays and you have a pretty modest design, not pushing any boundaries (and if you don’t have to go through advertising), you might get through in 3 months.

Sadly, in reality, this often takes much, much longer. Even a simple application takes usually between 3-6 months. If your project requires advertising, you are instead, looking at 6-8 months. And when you are looking at a more complex project. Say you are doing a subdivision, or you are trying to push some boundaries, the process can take well over a year.


Let me tell you a bit about a current project we are working on in Ivanhoe.

The clients approached us in 2017, they own a block in Ivanhoe. The plan was to build 4 two bedroom units on it, one for their mum, one for the sister and one for the brother. With the idea to sell the 4th to finance the project. How good is this? Council should love this idea, right?

We came up with a design that all invested parties were happy with. We complied with all regulations (setback, site coverage, garden area, parking etc)

But yet, the council considered it an overdevelopment and requested we change it to 3 units.

Back to the drawing board we went and changed it to 3 units.

  • A 3-bedroom house with a double garage at the front
  • And two 2-bedroom units at the rear

Obviously, we were still complying with all regulations.

But the council was still not happy.

We had to change the front unit to a 2-bedroom unit and change it to a single garage. We had to separate the units, to create more articulation. *how I hate this term*

But the council is still not happy, and our private planner was in discussions with them for weeks.


So, you see even if you follow all the rules and play it by the book. A town planning permit is almost never straight forward, and the council may often ask for significant changes, just because… Therefore, if you can avoid the need for a planning permit my recommendation is:

Try to amend the design in order to avoid a planning permit altogether.

It will save you so much time, money, hassle and heartache. Of course, there are instances when it cannot be avoided, but if it can be avoided. it is worth, in my opinion, to try everything possible to avoid going to the council.

Read Part 2 to learn about a practical example of how you can avoid town planning in certain instances.