Blog - Commercial

01 June 2018


When you decide to develop a property, the architectural or design firm you hire may argue that you will be able to save thousands of dollars on your development application by excluding a town planner from the team. They may suggest that they, or even you, can navigate a municipality’s planning rules to get your proposal across the line.

Ignore this advice unless you are an expert in planning matters.

For a development to seamlessly navigate council laws, a town planner’s expertise is crucial.

Looking up at buildings in the middle of the busy CBD
Town planners understand the ins and outs of council regulations. Their role is to familiarise themselves with those rules and specifically with individual councils’ regulations and policies. Plus, nuanced ideological positions taken on certain types of developments by individual councils are another sphere that a good town planner will be across.

Here are three reasons why it’s essential to involve a town planner on your next commercial property development project.

Improve Compliance

Without town planning expertise, your proposal may overlook specific conditions that should be addressed in the suburb where you wish to develop. And the cost of a project will be amplified if council rejects your non-compliant application, forcing you and your team to spend more time and money to adhere to requirements.

Having a town planner on board from the beginning will give your application the best shot at getting approved, saving you money and (potentially) fast-tracking the development.

According to the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), town planners work closely with architects in the design phase of a project to ensure it meets all the relevant planning controls. They also take care of justifying to the council why a requirement or code has not been met.

Non-compliance issues that a planner can help negotiate with council officers may include limited car parking or failing to include the correct boundary setback to the building.

An architect going over plans for a new building

Avoid delays

Builders and architects are often far removed from the approval process, specialising, instead, in understanding the impact of different building regulations.

Town planners, on the other hand, are attuned to how to negotiate with councils to achieve high-quality outcomes. They review relevant planning controls associated with sewer pipes, trees, slopes, encroachment on neighbour’s privacy, heritage overlays and more.

Such issues are not normally considered by designers or architects, yet are crucial to the success of a development is if it is to pass muster with the council. What’s more, these types of constraints can significantly impact the overall design of a project, which is why planners address them early on.

“While architects are fantastic at designing beautiful homes, they can sometimes miss reading the finer details of the relevant planning controls,” the PIA says.

“If an architect lodges a development application without considering some important controls, it can lead to delays in the council assessment processes, additional costs to the client and could even lead to a refusal.”

By-pass tribunal

Another common challenge regarding development applications that the neighbours are given the opportunity to object to the proposal.

Objections can significantly increase the time and cost of an application.

Councils which take objections into account can draw out project timelines significantly,  driving up costs. Objections may also lead to design changes and, in some cases, complete rejection of a proposal.

If you can’t afford to risk a cost blow out for your development, don’t scrimp on the cost of a town planner.

Many developers who avoid paying a couple of thousand dollars upfront for town planning advice end up at the appeals tribunal.

The legal and town planning costs that come about once an application reaches the tribunal could be many multiples more than if a professional planner had been brought on board from the beginning.

How to choose a town planner

People shaking hands after choosing a town planner

To find a planner to help you with your application, visit the Planning Institute of Australia website and search its database.

Key in the suburb where your development will take place and a search of the PIA directory of consultants should yield a list of all the town planning firms that operate near the location. Select a short list of firms and get in touch with them with a few questions to narrow your choice.

Remember to ask them for details of some recent developments that they have worked on in the municipality where your project is based. Also, inquire about whether they have connections or a good rapport with the council officers in the planning department. If they do, they should be able to name them.

As the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine. That, of course, applies to managing a property development project, and a carefully crafted application from the start will save you money in the long run.

About TGC

TGC is a Sydney-based commercial real estate agency that has serviced the CBD and greater metropolitan commercial property market for over 25 years. We’re committed to assisting you with your property needs. Whether you’re buying, selling or leasing, we bring the expertise to get results. Contact us today!


Date: 01 June 2018 Author: TGC Writer
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About the author:

TGC Writer

TGC is the largest privately owned commercial real estate agency in the Sydney CBD, with over 20 years experience servicing the CBD, City Fringe and greater Metropolitan property market. We’re committed to assisting you with your total property needs, including buying, selling, leasing and property management.

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