Property developing can be very rewarding and can also be overwhelming, especially if you are building in an area that you are unfamiliar with for your first development. The best way to become familiar with your choice of location is to find out how the local council work and what they would like to see built in their area. Developing relationships with the local town planner could save you a lot of time and money and help make the difference between a frustrating development and a fabulous development.

To get off on the right foot, do some research on the type of new development you see driving around the town and what you would like to build.  Then call the council and organise a meeting with a town planner. Sit down with them to discuss your ideas and plans and find out what will help your development to get across the line with minimal stress.  You’ll also need to do some ‘light’ reading so you have the heads up on what is and isn’t permitted in the area. This way you won’t be wasting the town planners time asking questions that have been answered in their plans and you can go in with questions relating to your particular development. 

Some documents to read include...
Local Environmental Plan (LEP). You will find this on the council's website.  An LEP defines the land zones and outlines permissible land uses within these zones. You will need to be familiar with this as this will determine what type of building you can put on the land, low, medium or high density. Right now, a number of councils in NSW are preparing Draft LEPs so ensure you check to see if your council is working on a new LEP as when processing your DA, they will take the Draft LEP into consideration, even if it has not yet been gazetted.  

Development Control Plan (DCP). This document contains more detailed provision than those in an LEP. Its information is specific to geographic zones or development types. It will give you a thorough understanding of the guidelines to follow when developing in your chosen area.

Regional Strategy Report (if the council has one), is used to locate areas with the greatest potential for development. The document will outline plans for land releases land rezoning, population and employment projections and will pinpoint specific areas that have been earmarked for future growth.

When you meet with a council planner, come prepared with the 149 Planning Certificate from the contract of sale of the property or land you are looking to buy. The 149 will inform you about things such as whether the land is in a bushfire or flood zone or if the land may be considered for complying development and it will tell you what may be prohibited on the site, whether it is heritage listed etc. If you are not sure about some of the information in the 149, then the planner can explain it to you.  Also bring with you a survey and sewer diagram, also found in the sales contract.

Council Meeting Minutes will sometimes give you valuable information on other DAs that have gone to a council meeting and comments made about the developments. You can also read other DA Consents to get an insight into the type of Conditions that council may include in your consent.

Some questions you can ask the duty planner:

What kind of development is council wanting to see in the area?
It’s important you work with your council rather than against it if you want a smooth process. You want to align your project with council’s vision for the community.

Can they see any problems in developing this particular site?
They may see a problem such as access onto the road if it is perhaps a major road or they may be privy to information on neighbouring properties for instance. 

Is the land in a flood zone?
Although this will be included in the 149 Planning Certificate, it is really important to ask this question.  The planning certificate you have may be out of date or lacking in information. For example, the council might be working on a new flood study, but this won’t be reflected in the planning certificate. By the time a DA is lodged, the property's flood zone may have changed and it could be rejected. The council will have a flood and/or drainage manager who can give you up-to-date information over the phone. If the land is in a bushfire-prone area, be aware that you’ll need to comply with current fire-safety regulations, which will add to your building costs.

What is the minimum lot size? 
This will be specified in the DCP r Subdivision Guidelines, however, sometimes council may be a little flexible on this, so it is an important question that will help narrow down your search for properties. If you are looking for land to subdivide, you will need to look for land more than twice the size of the minimum lot size. 

Are there any issues that may arise in developing in this area?
This is a good question to ask a town planner, who will be aware of social issues outside the constraints of the DCP. For example I developed in an area where the local neighbourhood fought any DA that had been lodged for more than one dwelling on a title. I soon learned that the deputy mayor lived there and was rallying neighbours to fight these DA’s. I sought legal advice and was able to negotiate with council and gain consent as my DA met all the requirements of the DCP.

Once you have secured your development site, have your draftsman or architect put a concept plan together. You can use this to go back to council to show them your design and get valuable feedback from them at this stage.  Also check if there are any specific reports that may be required to be included in your development application. These may include acoustic reports or traffic reports for instance. You can easily make changes at this stage and ensure that your DA is processed as quickly as possible. 

After your DA has been lodged, check to see if your council has a DA tracker on their website that you can follow the progress on.  If you see it is not progressing as forecast on the tracker, then certainly make a call to the planner assigned to your DA to find out what the hold up is.  If there is no online tracker then make regular calls to your planner to keep on top of the progress. 
All councils work to different timeframes according to their resources. Sometimes I am surprised at the speed of council, but mostly we find the process does take too long. So staying in close communication with your council can help fast track the process.  Enjoy this important part of your development journey; you will learn so much from going through the planning process. 

There are many more things to consider for your development, so it’s important you study what is required. Or engage other professionals to do this important work for you. A development project manager will be able to assist you with every stage of the process. If you are interested to learn more about what I do, please go to the Property Bloom website or give me a call on 0418 293 575