What does a town planner do and where does he fit in the property development team?
In this series of articles I’m going to discuss the role of the various consultants that make up the development team and, in my mind, a town planner should be an integral part of your team.
These are professionals with a qualification in town planning or urban planning.
Those in private practice have usually been employed by local councils or planning organisations for a number of years.
This is useful because they know the process and understand how the process works from the other side of the counter.
If in the past they may have worked in the municipality in which you are planning to develop a project, they may also know some of the senior staff at the council as well as the elected Councillors.
They should know who is easy to get along with, who is going to be a problem and who is going to require special attention.
There are 4 main ways a town planning consultant will assist you with your project:
1. Give feedback during the design process
I like to get a town planner involved early in the process to view the plans and give an opinion as to their compliance with State Government regulations and local council regulation.
By getting involved early in the piece they will save you considerable cost in major redraws of plans and also considerable time in facilitating the process through the council maze.
2. Write the development application
The town planner will endeavour to pre-empt problems by addressing council’s expectations right from the start.
They will ensure that you lodge all the necessary documentation.
3. Handle further council requests and objections
Many developers choose to make the town planner the central point for all correspondence with council, its planning officers and any objectors.
Council always request further information and the town planner prepares appropriate responses and advise the architect how to redraft his plans in response to council’s request.
If there are objections your town-planning consultant may prepare appropriate responses and become your advocate arguing the case for your project.
Some councils hold mediation meeting with objectors, the developer and council officers to try and find an acceptable solution to objectors concerns.
The town planner may represent you.
By knowing the planning legislation and the rights of objectors and yourself as the applicant for the permit, they will handle your case on your behalf.
4. Handling your case in the appeals court
If your development hits a snag and ends up in the appeals court (in Victoria called VCAT and in NSW the Land and Environment Court), your planning consultant will become your expert witness.
How to pay your planning consultant
The planning consultant will work on either an hourly rate or a set fee negotiated in advance at the beginning of the project.
Usually they will work for a set fee for preparing the development application and lodging it including any written reports.
This could be in the order of $3,000 to $4,000.
They may then charge an hourly rate to be involved in further negotiations with the council or objectors.
The cost of appearance at an appeals hearing is in the order of $3,500 to $5,000.
Ten questions you should ask your town planner
- Which authority/council will make the decision regarding my proposed project?
- What is this council’s attitude towards development projects?
- What experience do you have with applications to this particular authority?
- Do you recommend a pre-application meeting with the council town planners? Why or why not?
- Do third parties (including neighbours) have a right to object to our proposal? If so do you recommend neighbourhood consultation?
- How long will the Development Application process take?
- Do I have a right of appeal to the council decision?
- Do third parties (including neighbours) have a right to appeal the council’s decision?
- In the event of an appeal, where are the likely costs?
- Will there be a need for additional applications to other authorities and at what cost?