void TP - 2

In my last blog, I wrote about how challenging it can be when you need to get a planning permit.

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

What one planner might approve his college might not.

Especially when you are planning to build an energy efficient home, council planner might throw you a few curveballs.

For instance. If you are building a double storey home, first floor and ground floor walls should sit on top of each other. For one reason, as this simplifies the structure, but also minimises the surface area and hence less potential area for heat loss.

Sadly, councils are quite fond of what they call articulation. Typically, they DO NOT like it when walls sit on top of each other, creating sheer double storey walls. This results in what is often referred to as a wedding cake style. When you have a look at typical unit developments, this is usually what is done, first floor walls step back, in order to align with councils’ preferences.

Although this is not a law, the council will often force you to step in walls, or they won’t grant a permit. Specifically, they will request to recess first-floor walls to reduce bulk.

The problem is that if the first-floor wall is stepped back, and does not sit on a wall below, you will most likely need a steel beam, to support the upper storey, which means added cost. You will also need more construction materials; you are introducing another little roof and by doing all that the energy efficiency of your home decreases.

With our projects, we usually try to create interest and introduce some sort of articulation by using different materials and textures for the ground floor and first-floor walls. Sometimes the council might be happy with this, but in most cases, they will insist on reducing the size of the first floor, to create a more obvious articulation.

So how can you avoid going to council for a planning permit?

Like I mentioned before, in some instances, there is no way around it. For example, if you are doing a subdivision, or if you have a heritage overlay or a Bushfire Management Overlay. In these instances, you will have to go to council.

But, if you have a Vegetation Protection Overlay or a Significant Landscape Overlay. You will often have some guidelines and restrictions. And as long you can comply with those, you will not need a planning permit. There might be restrictions when it comes to the height of your building, how far you must be away from any significant trees, that you cannot remove any significant tree. There might be restrictions on how much you can excavate and so on.

It is important before you start with the design to investigate any restrictions on your site and try to come up with a design that fits within the parameters. I would even argue to rather compromise on the ideal design, in order to avoid a planning permit if needed.

Once you have come up with a design I would highly recommend going to the council and try to get a written confirmation that no permit is needed. Never just rely on a verbal confirmation, that no permit is needed. We had it happen many times in the past where clients had met with the council, showed them the plans. And all was good. And later, when the construction drawings, the builder and everyone was ready to start with the build, the council would turn around and ask for a planning permit.

And you don’t want this to happen, right?

In the next post, I am going to talk about the process on getting a written confirmation that no permit is needed and will explain how we have managed this with one of our projects, where council originally said we would need a planning permit. But just with a few tweaks to the plans, we were able to go straight to the building permit.