The Planning Process

The town planning or development assessment process can be confusing. The role of town planners in the statutory or development assessment side of planning is generally to obtain a development permit or approval from the assessment manager. In most instances the assessment manager is the local council, however if your site is in a designated Priority Development Area (PDA) then it will be assessed by the state government. It is not necessary for a town planner to prepare a development application. The planning framework is designed so that any person can lodge a development application. It is necessary that the application meet all the minimum requirements for information, forms and plans to allow the assessment manager to assess the application. 

The development assessment process generally occurs as follows:

1. Due Diligence
This stage occurs prior to the purchase of a property. The town planner will review the council and/or state mapping to confirm the constraints of the property. In particular they will identify the zone and relevant overlays. The town planner will then review the planning documents (planning scheme) including relevant codes to determine what development is able to occur on the site. 

Depending on the type of development, a town planner will likely also recommend speaking with a civil engineer to determine the services (sewer, stormwater, water) available to the site and what implications that may have on the development potential. 

2. Prelodgement
Many council’s offer a prelodgement process. This is an opportunity to speak with council prior to lodging a development application. It is not always necessary to have a prelodgement meeting with council, but it is a good opportunity to discuss the particulars of a development if it does not strictly meet the criteria in the codes, or to introduce a unique project to council to obtain their initial feedback. It is useful to provide council with proposed plans even if only initial concepts to facilitate an informed discussion. 

The feedback obtained from council is then used to inform the development application, including any additional technical reporting that may be required to support the development.  If the feedback is unfavourable, it may be necessary to make changes to the development to address council’s concerns. 

3. Development Assessment
This is the formal assessment process of a development application. The town planner will respond to council’s planning codes, and prepare a town planning report explaining the development. They will liaise with council on behalf of the landowner. If the council requires more information, the town planner will consider this request and provide a response. In some instances amended plans will be required if the council does not support a component of the development. 

4. Decision & Conditions
Once council has made a decision, if the decision is an approval, the council will issue an approval package including conditions. The town planner will conduct an initial review of these conditions and provide them to the landowner for their review and consideration of the implications on the development. 

If there is an issue with the conditions, representations can be made to council via a formal process.  If the application was required to be publicly notified and there were submissions received during the public notification period, these submitters have an opportunity to appeal the development application to the Planning and Environment Court. The approval does not take effect until the appeal is resolved. 

If the decision is a refusal, council will issue a notice of refusal which will include the reasons why the application was refused. There is an opportunity for the decision to be appealed. This appeal is usually to the Planning and Environment Court.