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Video: Town Planning with Nathan Vincent from Lead Consultants

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James sits down with Nathan Vincent from Lead Consultants to talk all things town planning.

In this interview James and Nathan chat about:

  • What town planners do
  • Why a property owner might require a planner
  • Development applications and building approvals
  • The planning process from start to finish
  • Top 3 tips for choosing a planner
  • Plus so much more!

Read on below for the full transcription of our interview:

– G’day everybody, James from mrkts.com.au here. And today we are very lucky to have the director of planning from Lead Consultants with us, Mr. Nathan Vincent. Nathan, how are you?

– Good mate, nice to see you.

– Excellent, thank you for coming in. Nathan has a plethora of experience, up to 10 years now, in the planning and development sphere on the Gold Coast. And it’s a good way to start, we think, by getting a bit of your background, Nathan, so let’s start with your CV in under one minute if you can do it.

– Yep. Originally, after I finished uni, I went straight to the Gold Coast city council. I was there for about seven years. Had a brief stint in the UK for a year in between that time. Following that, I worked in a law firm in Brisbane for a year, and then I’ve been with Lead Consultants for the last three years. So project managers, town planners, landscape surveyors. And I’ve started up the planning arm of the business.

– Beautiful. So they’re covering sort of a whole plethora of the development-specific industry.

– Exactly, yep.

– Professionals.

– Our main sector’s probably age care residential, as well, but yeah, we’re tryin’ to be a sort one stop shop for multiple services in the development area.

– Excellent, okay. Well, that’s a very interesting place to be. It seems to be moving in that way, that more professionals are starting to work together to get an outcome for a client where they don’t have to go to multiple areas.

– That’s right, yeah. And especially I think when we’re doing the project management side of things, we can do DM and PM and sorta tie it all in together. And yeah, it’s a really good outcome. I think a lot of the times we can make some savings cost-wise as well.

– Yeah. All of these wonderful acronyms that we’ll get used to as we go in our travels.

– Yeah, sounds good.

– So at mrkts, most people are very new to the property industry, and they’re tryin’ to get their own form of education before they go and embark on their first property purchase and things like that. So we really appreciate your time today. And we’re gonna go through the basics of what it is you do. And I thought we’d start first with then, what is a planner, a town planner, an urban planner, all these terms for people here? What is a planner and what is it that you do?

– Okay. So I think, fundamentally, well, there is two different types of planning, really. And that’s, a lot of the time I get asked, well, what town have you planned?

– Okay.

– Which is really not anything to do with development planning. But I think that’s actually what strategic planning is. So strategic town planning is creating a, you know, a city plan or a planning scheme which is the base level of local government legislation that then the development planners or development assessment or statutory planners will then use to assess development applications against. So in, I’m actually what you call a development assessment planner, and I work on behalf of developers or mums and dads or business owners to submit development application reports to council. And then the council development assessors then comes back with an approval. So that’s, I guess, the gist of what I do. But there are definitely the two different types of planners.

– So you’re looking at the rules, essentially, that are laid down by the strategic side, which I’m assuming that you would’ve worked in when you were at the council.

– That’s right, yeah.

– So that was the strategic side of sort of the thought process, and then you move into the development side of this.

– Yeah, yeah, yep.

– Okay, very interesting. So your job, then, is to either in strategic, make the rules, and then in the development assessment is to try and follow the rules.

– Yeah, yeah, exactly. Enforce the rules.

– Or enforce the rules. So I guess–

– Or create your own rules. That’s right! That’s what I try and do. Council and planners are tryin’ to enforce them, so that’s right.

– We always try and make our own rules.

– That’s right, that’s right.

– But within reason. As long as you can argue a case that sort of, that has evidence, or you can sort of make the right case that it’s beneficial for the community, it’s sort of…

– That’s exactly what we try and do. Try not to bend the rules but to try and make the best possible outcome for the city and for the owner of the property or developer.

– Beautiful. Okay, so then why would a property owner require a planner?

– The way I always look at it is anything over a single residential house, you should probably check with a town planner. Simply because I’ve had a lot of experience with people who, whether it’s opening up a gym in an industrial area or going to construct something on their site that they’re not quite sure about, it’s best to probably double check. But that would be the general rule of thumb. Anything over a single residential house on a residential block, I’d double check. Just because, again, I’ve had people being called out in the past, and then signed up to leases on properties. And it’s sort of, either stung them in the way of costs or they’ve just got in trouble with council. But that would probably be my 101, as just anything over that, double check with a planner.

– Excellent. Okay. And we’ll get into some case studies at the end of this conversation so we can get a little bit more real-world on that. But that’s a very good way for people to sort of cap it. So now they know, anything below that, then we’ll talk about that, but anything above that, that’s a good way to then consult a planner. Relevant legislature, understanding that each area, each state, each city has their own sort of idea. But I assume that the thought process is all basically the same, the process is pretty much the same.

– It is, yeah.

– So what is the relevant legislushuh, legislature, what a tough word.

– That planners have to adhere to.

– Sure. So the legislation, I’d probably look at it all, say on the Gold Coast, in three tiers. So you’ve got the state legislation, which is the Planning Act of 2016. And then, as part of that act, it gives powers to the Southeast Queensland Regional Plan. And that, then, I guess the Planning Act is all of Queensland. The Southeast Queensland Regional Plan, in its name, is for southeast Queensland. Determines which areas of the southeast Queensland is able to be developed and not developed. And then you’ve obviously got the step down, which is the local framework, or the planning scheme or city plan, as for the Gold Coast. And that’s your local government legislation.

– So mums and dads would only generally have to confront that local.

– That’s right. Yeah. So the powers which are, I guess given to the southeast Queensland framework come from the state legislation. And similarly, the process for development is as outlined in the state framework. And then that sort of pushes down to the local legislation. But the local government planning scheme is really based on, you know, what zones are supposed to be for industrial, what’s supposed to be for residential, what are those uses defined as. But then again, there is a format for all of the state as part of the SPP, that is the state definitions that everything is now defined, or should be. Most councils are now defined. Everything is one definition of the use. So a duplex is the same definition as it is here or in Cairns Council or as in Brisbane. There are some councils which are lacking behind. I think Ipswich is still running an older scheme. But most of them have caught up now with that standard set of definitions.

– Which, I think, must be very beneficial for people on your side so you can have some flexibility in moving around, and clients can be sort of anywhere and you have a basic framework.

– That’s right. I think probably, you know, six or so years ago it was very difficult, probably, for people on the, planners working on the outside to then have to go between multiple councils and have to think as to what different rules apply. So now it’s generally under the one format, which is really useful.

– So local plan for people that, say, have a block that they can subdivide. And once again, we’ll get into that. But if they’ve got a family farm that’s been in their family for generations and it’s on a large piece of land that’s near a main road, you’d probably start to infringe on the Southeast Queensland, if it’s down here or on that state plan.

– That’s what you check.

– And it pushes down, like a waterfall, right?

– That’s right.

– So can the state overrule the local?

– There, if it’s an impact application. Certain applications can get called up by the minister depending if it is so high-impact. There’s been recent applications in Brisbane which have had to go through that path. But it is a very rare process. If you are applying for applications which are outside of the urban footprint, which is outlined within the Southeast Queensland Regional Plan, then that has to be referred to the state. So there are a couple of ways that the state can assess applications. And again, if, you know, you’re within, say 25 meters of a state-controlled road, then you have to do a referral to the state. But it’s usually, for your general duplexes or mum and dad developers, you probably wouldn’t even have to deal with that process. The only time that you may would be if you’re, say, doing a duplex down near the Gold Coast highway or something like that, which is obviously a state-controlled road and they just have to have their say.

– Okay, excellent. Well, let’s move then, before we keep going and getting into the technical part, I think we’ll move to types of assessment actually. So what are the types of assessment that you must apply for?

– Yeah, sure. So there’s accepted development, or it used to be called self-assessable development, which would, say, an example of it would just be a single residential house on a residential block. It’s basically, you know, it should be a given that you’re allowed to do that. You probably don’t need to see a town planner, you just go through a private certifier or a builder, and they would sort that out for you.

– Okay, very interesting.

– That’s just your sorta baseline application. So there are a few uses which are considered self-assessable. Similarly, say, it might be, I’m just trying to think of in a different zone, say in a mixed-use zone, it might be that an office is self-assessable. So you can just go and open an office. Or similarly, in the center zone, a shop is self-assessable, or a restaurant. You can just go and do that. You don’t need to get DA approval.

– So you get your building certifier to come in, and then he’ll say, okay, you’re following the correct fire rules and the right materials, if that’s something that is relevant. And they sign it off. And then if council come and audit or have a look and say, what’s going on here, you say, well, it’s been certified, and everybody’s happy.

– That’s right. And a lot of the time, certifiers will always be, do a double check on town planning. And if there is something which they don’t think that they can sign off with, they’ll refer it back to a town planner. But I guess, they run under different legislation. But I think we’ll probably talk about that a little later.

– Okay. So then, self-assessable, what’s the next step up in terms of difficulty?

– Yep, next step up would be code assessment, which is, I guess it’s basically envisaged development in areas. So within the mixed-use zone, we might talk about a gym as an example of something which would be envisaged, or a duplex in the medium density res zone. So they’re envisaged uses. But a lot of the time, you possibly could go through what’s called a RiskSmart application, which is quick turnaround with council. Most councils do those sorta 10 day turnarounds, if you can generally comply with anything but you might not comply with a setback here or a setback there. But that’s sort of an envisaged use that the council says, all right, we think that this should be here, but there might be a case where we want to have some kind of impact, some kind of assessment on that. So whether it be, you know, flood mitigation or storm management plans or whatever it is, that still has to be some kind of assessment to council. So you’re probably talking about three to four month turnaround at the moment. That’s probably the general rule of thumb.

– But the code assessment is following the rules, seeing what you’re able to do, making a case, and showing why you want to do it and what it would look like and then getting it signed off. Okay, then where do we go?

– So after that, we’re talking about impact applications. I consider this two sorts of impact. There’s listed impact applications, which under the table of assessment is a listed use. So we’re probably saying, as an example, in the low impact industry zone, having a gym there. So council still envisages it there, they list it on their table of assessment, that can go there. But they sorta say, well, it is a high impact use. They probably have a lot of car parks required for the site. So you have to go through a full notification period where you physically have to put up a sign at the front of your property and notify people that this development is going on on the site. And then there’s also unlisted impacts. So we’re sorta thinking that if it was, an example of that would be maybe a bar in a residential area. Council does not wanna see that. There’s no way that that’s sort of envisaged under the city plan, and therefore it would, it’s not listed in the table of assessment. And it’s sort of, as soon as someone would come to me and ask about that, it’s a massive no-no. You wouldn’t even wanna try.

– Because you’ll get asked to leave the room anyway before you even, you won’t be invited in to talk about it.

– That’s exactly right.

– Understood. That’s fantastic, really comprehensive. So there’s sort of code assessment and impact assessment, and then they range down into different categories. But self-assessable is an interesting one that I think we’ll touch on a little bit later. So what would then be, if we wanna break ’em into just code and impact, what would be the benefits and drawbacks of each of those? It’s a tougher one, but let’s try it.

– Yeah. So I guess code assessment was always gonna be an easier process. I guess it’s generally, there’s less cost and time involved in going through the application process because council’s already envisaging, they’re determining that when they’re creating the city plan that that’s a use that should be going there. But obviously, impact is, got the other element which can be the public notification, and then it can sometimes become a political element. Obviously, there has been instances in the past, if there’s enough community support or objection to a use, the local council will then sometimes have their say.

– As representatives of the people.

– Exactly, exactly. And so then, that sort brings a whole other element into it where it can, you know, there are certain applications which get managerial delegation, so they get decided by the manager. And if it goes outside of that where there’s too many submissions, it may then have to go to a full planning committee, which is, it opens up a whole, I guess, kettle of worms, fish, for other people and for the applicant. So not the way that you wanna go down. If you can always avoid going through an impact application, I would always advise against it. So always, I guess, that’s the massive drawback of an impact application.

– Okay. ‘Cause yeah, putting our development hat on, we look at it like, code assessment is ideally what you want. So it’s easier up front, less cost, and then you can get into the development. But you may have a smaller amount of profit or a lower uplift at the long run because you can’t get the extra units. Whereas impact is a massive hassle up front. It may not even get out of the line. But if you can get it out of the line, then there are likely to be, yeah, a better benefit, a bigger benefit. Okay, excellent, thank you very much. That makes a lot of sense. So then, looking at the types of applications, I’m sure that when people are looking at different listings online, they might see a block of land that has something called a DA on it. So I thought, let’s get the basic definition. What is a development application, or a DA, that people see?

– So development application is actually the physical report that you submit to council as part of, like, as a town planner, I would submit. And that was basically the justification as to why I consider this use, these set of plans, are in accordance with the city plan. Then from there, you get a development approval or development permit. And usually, that’s when someone says, there’s a DA on this block, meaning there’s a development approval, not a development application. That’s probably the more common terminology for that. But in, being a little bit different, sorry, it’s given its power under the Planning Act, which is a little different to, then, a BA where we’re talking about a private certifier gives a building permit or building approval.

– Approval.

– Exactly. And then, again, their powers are under the Building Act. So they’re completely different things where we’re talking about, the development approval, I guess, is more looking at the design and the use and a bit of more of an architectural side of things, whereas your building approval’s actually looking at the structural capability of the site.

– The nuts and bolts.

– That it’s actually all there correctly, yeah.

– Okay, understood. So if you can find a site with a BA on it, then that would be really interesting, but I would make sure that you get a professional look at it ’cause you may not know what is actually there. Excellent, okay. So there are some solid differences between them. Now onto the advisory stuff. So this is where you can be a little bit more flexible in what you’re saying.

– Because we’re out of the definitions. I think people now have a brief understanding of what it is that you do and the definitions in which you’re acting. So at what stage of the property process should somebody consult with a planner?

– Not being biased, but I think it really should be first stop, because it is, it sorta layers into the design, a lot of the time. So a lot of people will go see a draftsman or an architect first. Most architects will be all over a planning scheme, but a lot of the time, they would rather take the input from the town planner into whether, say again, we’re talking about duplex, your setbacks, your site coverage, all those really basic details which need to go into the plans before they go off to council. So it’s best, probably, to liaise between a town planner and a draftsman or a building designer or architect pretty much at the same time. And then get those plans created for whatever it is you’re using. It might not necessarily be something that you’re looking at needing to get plans done up for. Say, if it’s a gym with an existing building, it’s probably best to, once you’re talking to, say, a real estate agent as you first point of contact, then talking to a town planner to double check, can I actually do this use in this site?

– So very early in the cycle.

– Definitely.

– Because you’re pretty much the guys or girls that are reading through the rulebook going, well, there’s no point in even trying that. If you own a fruit business and you’re trying to open in an area that only allows for gyms or something like that, or those uses, then it’s not really the ideal outcome.

– And at no point, spending money on signing up for a lease, especially long term leases, which I’ve had to deal with in the past, and not having your approval, and then getting stuck having to fork out, not knowing that you have to fork out $10000 plus in council fees and town planning fees and all the rest. So it can just be, you really just need to maybe do it as part of your due diligence at the very start.

– Okay, excellent. So this gets into, then, the planning process from start to finish. So essentially, once someone’s come to you, and hopefully they followed the rules as stated, what is your process from start to finish?

– Sure. So as soon as I would be engaged and have all my associated reports, finalized my town planning report, once, the process under the legislation is once we submit the application, council has then 10 days to provide action notice, to make sure you’ve got all the details, and then another 10 days to provide a confirmation notice, to say, once you provide owner’s consent, you’ve paid the fee, everything’s hunky-dory, ready to rock and roll. And then you will get your confirmation notice. Following that, council’s got 10 days to make an information request. So the first stage I guess, is your confirmation. Second stage is information request where, if council makes an information request, they need further details about your proposal or they wanna amend certain things of your proposal, then you have three months to reply back to them. Following that, if you’re an impact application you have to then go through public notification. Before we talked about, you have to put your sign up in front of the property. If you don’t, and you’re doing a code application, you go straight to decision once you submit your information response. And then council has three to five business days to respond to that. Which, by agreement between the two parties, any of those periods can be extended out or paused, which is what council’s doing at the moment.

– Okay. And so, once the person, or once you’ve acted for your client, to use legal terminology, but once you’ve done that particular part of your job, is the planner following it all the way

– Definitely.

– Through to completion, or is that sort as you move away?

– Yeah, yeah. Usually, my last action is checking draft conditions. So once council’s sort of given you the informal yes, we’re gonna approve the application, they’ll send out a set of draft conditions. As a planner, that’s the last thing you really need to double check to make sure, all right, is these conditions, then, gonna impend, um, imp, impede.

– That’s all right.

– Impede on the development, and how is that gonna affect their operation, running day to day. A lot of the applications that I’ve done recently have been for sorta F45-style gyms. And they’re changing the times that they’re allowed to operate has then impacted on the operation of the business.

– That’s a really good example.

– Making sure you double check that is really, like, the last action from a town planner. And then once the decision notice is issued, then you forward that on to them. A lot of the time, some planners do sort of a development manager role after that where they then help the clients go through the compliance conditions. It depends what the development is, really, if you need to do that or, a lot of the time, a builder and a certifier will do those conditions or compliance of conditions.

– So very important early.

– Definitely.

– You guys are essential to the early stage of the process, and then obviously you keep an eye on it. End up at the Christmas party.

– Hopefully.

– Behave yourself.

– Okay, excellent. So then, what are some common pitfalls confronted by property owners when you’re dealing with them? So what are the things that you see a lot of that may be able to be avoided if people are ready and planning?

– I think probably the main thing is understanding the process and timeframes that are involved in that. A lot of people might sorta think that they can knock over these applications within a month or two months. If we’re looking at an impact application, it’s no crazy thought to be over 12 months before you get an approval from council. And it’s not necessarily just the council who’s bogged down in a lot of work, it can be having to amend the plans and going back to different consultants. It can be a very time-staking process. I think that’s probably a massive one because a lot of people then also, if you’re wanting to operate a business and you haven’t set up shop yet and you’re waiting and you’re paying rent at the same time, it can be very costly.

– So doing your homework up front and understanding that am I able, if I embark on this procedure, say I wanna buy this property and I wanna split it into two, am I able to wait until I have approval to get started? You can’t just–

– What’s your holding cost in there?

– Exactly. You can’t just put a shovel in the ground and get started as soon as you’re settled.

– Yeah, exactly. So that’s probably one of the main ones. I guess misinformation maybe, from other industries. I’ve had to, not bagging out real estate agents here, but a lot of the time I think I’ve had people be told that they can do things when they can’t necessarily. So I think it’s one thing to definitely check with either council or a town planner, can I do this on my site? I hate to see people sorta get taken down a route where they end up signing a lease or looking to purchase a property and they end up finding out that they can’t do what they hoped that they could do. Again, it just becomes a costly exercise.

– Or even if it’s next to a building that’s, say, seven stories and you bought a house. It does not mean that you will get seven stories.

– Exactly. And I’ve had that a lot happen. After the new city plan came in, a lot of people out in the rural residential zone were allowed to have a secondary dwelling, which they could then split through a community title subdivision. The new city plan completely changed that, and you can only have, like, a granny flat now. And a lot of people, as approval the last four years, six years, they can actually see people building these houses around them. Say, well why can’t I do that? You have to explain, well, new piece of legislation’s come in, it’s completely changed the ground rules.

– The landscape.

– Yeah, the landscape.

– Okay, very interesting. So then, if somebody is purchasing that property, are there services available or do people, do planners make services available where they can check what is happening on that side, or what they can and can’t do before they act?

– So there’s a couple of different ways you can look into it. A lot of the time, the first option is to call the town planning advice section of council.

– Of council, that’s great advice.

– They can literally look up on their system if there’s an approval on your site. But if you wanna be a bit more savvy, there’s a couple of programs on the council’s website under the development assessment tabs. Just specifically talking about the Gold Coast here, but every council has something similar, whether it be, like, an interactive mapping program which shows the zones, and then also like, a PD online, which gives you the development approvals.

– Property development online, PD online.

– That’s it, yeah.

– That’s the best way to, okay. That’s fantastic.

– So between those two things, and then obviously consulting with a private town planner after that as it gets more serious.

– Excellent. So do your research and do your homework.

– We really harp on that with our members because it’s vital. If you want outcomes that are in your best interest, you gotta really do your best to understand the area in which you’re operating. Okay, so what information, then, is required before approaching you? I know that we might’ve covered it, but it’s more if there’s anything you need to make the process move along, what is that information?

– I would always say, if you’re looking at building something plans is gonna be the first thing. Because, but as I sorta mentioned before, it’s really good to consult with the town planner and architect or a designer at the same time. So you can see that.

– It would have to be parallel.

– Exactly. But that’s probably, usually the first thing. Plans is always gonna be the one thing that you can then go to council and show as an example, hey, we’re looking at doing this, what’s your thoughts? Or if it’s, you know, it’d be the same situation if it was a gym or a shop or anything, the real estate agent should have some set of plans that are historical. And then that will just allow you to move forward pretty quickly.

– And the benefit of consulting a town planner is this is somebody who’s always in and out of council during the week. So they have relationships already established, and they can have conversations with people that you wouldn’t be able to have, and in a way that cuts through a lot of crap and gets to the detail really quickly. So another thing that we like to harp on about for mrkts is building relationships. So if you can find a planner and build a relationship with them, then there may be the opportunity in which they will give you some advice for no fee up front, as long as there’s a benefit towards the back. But that’s up to your negotiation skills, obviously. Okay, excellent. So should property buyers look at approvals in their area? When I ask that question I mean, if they’re looking to purchase, should they be looking around at what’s happening in their area before they buy?

– Definitely. And I think that, you know, a lot of people, when I was just mentioning before in the rural res zone where a lot of people are building second houses, it’s not a crazy thing to then think, why can’t I do that? Similarly, if you’re living somewhere where there’s a lot of townhouses going up, you probably should be able to then do that. But there are, you know, very defined areas as to where you can and can’t do things. So I think that while having a look on, you know, just driving around your local area is one thing, you’re probably best to do some more research online as to what approvals are allowed and what areas are allowed to do certain things. It can be quite daunting going through that process and understanding what certain zones are allowed to do certain things. It’s probably best then, in that instance, to just give council a call because they’ll be able to tell you very quickly if you can or can’t do what you’re looking at.

– That is excellent advice. And it’s great that, we are lucky that council’s very forward-thinking on the Coast in terms of their operations. I would say that the city plan leaves a lot to be desired.

– But that’s ’cause I, once again, am a developer and will always want more from everybody. So that’s fantastic advice. And we mentioned this before, but one of my questions was going to be, does the public get a say in development applications or approvals? And if so, how?

– Yeah. So I mean, anyone can make a submission against a development application, whether it be code or impact. It doesn’t give the same amount of weight, though, if it’s code or impact. Under the planning legislation, only impact-assessable, properly made submissions within the public notification period, which they have to have all the specific details, are then given appeal rights. So as you probably would know, once an impact application goes, is finalized and is approved, a person who’s made a properly made submission can then go to the courts, the planning environment court and make an appeal against that development. So depending on what the application’s for and what the use is, council may not have weighting for it if it’s a code application. But you can definitely email them and say, look, I’ve got major issues with this, this is why. Again, if it’s code they may or may not have weighting to ’em.

– Yeah. And you can do your best. Understanding that council, once again, are representing the majority. So they have to do what’s in everybody’s best interest, not one or two individuals. It does not mean that you shouldn’t, if you don’t agree with something, let people know that you don’t agree with it because it’s the area you’re in. Okay, excellent. So top three tips.

– We do a couple of these top threes in our interviews. So for choosing a planner, what would be your top three tips that people should be thinking about when interviewing planners?

– Sure. I think probably the first one would be just ring around, get a couple of quotes. A lot of planners will, in prices, can be very different. Maybe, I guess it’s sorta hard to tell, but maybe understand what applications they’ve done in their history. Get an understanding for similar projects that you might be doing and that they’ve done. Because then, obviously, they’re already gonna be all over the major issues and will probably then save you time and money going through the process. And the third one, I’d probably say, it is always, I dunno if I’m gonna shoot myself in the foot here, but it’s always gonna be easier to work with a planner who has possibly worked in that council or is from that area. So you know, working from someone on the Gold Coast who’s previously had experience with Gold Coast planners, they know people within the council. As you sorta mentioned before, it can be a really easy way to divert around going through proper process and submitting an inquiry and then having to wait weeks to get a response. You should usually be able to have a quick turnaround with some advice.

– That is good advice though. I mean, if you can find, ’cause I think the majority of people in private practice have been through council or worked there at some point.

– Generally, yeah.

– Generally. You’re a good example, but I know there are several people that have moved into other planning firms that were at council and rose up through those ranks.

– Yeah, yeah, it’s a pretty standard process.

– Yeah. So if you can find that, ask that question. It’s a very good question to ask. All right, now case studies. This one is new for me, so please excuse me as I stumble along. I’ll be the member and then you just answer the question to the best of your ability. So if I want to build a carport for my home, what do I need to do?

– So you basically would need to submit what’s called a referral agency assessment application.

– Okay, wow.

– So that, that’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s basically to assess the amenity and aesthetics of the design of the carport. So say you’re wanting, it’s gonna be probably within the front six meter setback. Council wants to assess that.

– A setback is sort of the limit in which your block can be built on, correct?

– That’s right. So your general rule of thumb is six meters from the boundary line.

– From the front.

– Front boundary line.

– And four from the back.

– 1.5 from your front, from a standard block, yep.

– Okay. We’ll get into that another time.

– All right, yeah.

– Um, so yeah, you would have to assess, submit that application. It can be submitted by a town planner. I would probably, some patio companies or building certifiers also do submit them, but it really would be, the 101 is you need to set a plan to be exactly what you’re gonna be proposing, and then you would possibly do a mini report. I would generally go to a town planner because they’re looking at the design elements and how that’s gonna impact on the street character.

– Which council is thinking about.

– That’s exactly it. And that’s the one thing that they’re really looking at. So I would always go to a town planner for that. Depending on, a lot of people though, aren’t wanting to spend as much money on those sorts of applications, and a lot of the time they will either try and do it themselves. That’s not to say you can’t do those sorts of applications yourself, they’re fairly straightforward. But I would always engage a town planner for that.

– Okay, so of the applications, or of the definitions we went through before, that falls under self-assessable, code-assessable.

– I guess it’s not even on that list. It’s sort of below that list because it’s technically, council’s as sort of a referral effectively. So it’s really a building application that council’s then assessing the design elements of So it’s not really under those planning areas.

– It’s sort of backward in its process.

– Exactly, yeah.

– Instead, you’ve got what you, yeah, okay.

– So it’s more of a building certification area, really, where you’re looking at the elements of the, you know, that’s why I sorta said that a lot of certifiers will do those applications because they’re the ones who will do the BA for the construction. And then because it’s going within the setback area, they go, oh wait, we need to refer this to council to check that there’s no design implications or character implications on the street frontage.

– So someone heads down to Bunning’s, and they go, I don’t really wanna follow the rules. And then they buy their timber and sheeting and they just build one

– Chuck it up.

– Without any permission, what happens?

– Council offices will generally come out. They’ve got a building compliance section, and they’ll come out. They’ll probably issue possibly two notices. If you don’t get a correct BA, they’ll issue one for that, and if you haven’t got a referral agency assessment application then they’ll issue a show cause notice for that. So you might get double hit.

– Wow, okay. And then they’ve got people that are just prowling the streets?

– Generally not, they’re quite busy. They don’t have time

– To be roaming around like our parking inspectors. But it’s usually on a case-by-case basis of complaints.

– So if someone reports it. And people will probably do that to you.

– That’s right. And I mean, again, not to shoot myself in the foot here but the 101 that I’ve always learnt for town planning, is sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission.

– But it’s, it just depends about what the sort of application. I would always, always recommend going to a town planner and getting the proper approvals on board. But for some of those uses, it’s sometimes after the fact, and council will generally approve it. But I would never run the risk, because I’ve seen in the past, people then have to fork out or pull down parts of structure.

– Have to remove it, yeah.

– Yeah. And then it’s just a massive cost implication.

– Correct. ‘Cause by saving money and time in the short term will cost you in the long run.

– That’s right.

– Excellent, okay. So I’ve got my carport now, ’cause I followed my rules.

– So now, if I want to subdivide my block, what do I need to do? So subdividing a block, from a definition is pretty much, you have a block of land and you wanna either split a portion off it and have two blocks, is the end result.

– That’s right.

– Okay.

– So what we didn’t really touch on before is there’s two different types of development applications. There’s a material change of use.

– Oh, yep, okay, yep.

– Which is really what we’re talking about before, duplexes, gyms, offices, all that sort of uses. But then there’s reconfiguration of a lot, ROL, which is a different type of development application. So in this instance, you would have to submit ROL, reconfiguration of a lot, and you’d need to engage a town planner and a surveyor. So a surveyor would obviously come out, do a survey of the site, create some plans, and then the town planner would create the DA report, development application report, and submit that to council.

– So this one takes a bit of time.

– Yep.

– Because you’re officially changing land ownership and land sizes and things like that.

– Yeah, exactly.

– Okay. So then, your MCU’s not applicable because you’re not taking the land and turning it into something else. It’s still land. But you’re splitting it into two, so you’re reconfiguring.

– Reconfiguring, yeah.

– Okay, wonderful. So do that, go to the planner, and go to your, and the planner, or a surveyor will research that.

– Vice versa, yeah. Exactly the same, I guess, as what we were talking about before. You probably need to engage a surveyor and a town planner at the same time, you would do a town planner and an architect for a duplex or high rise or whatever else.

– Okay, excellent. So now, the final piece of the puzzle. I have my two blocks of land. I have my carport. But I want to build a deck now, and a deck with a little pergola that sits above it as well. So what do I need to do to do that?

– So depending on the size of the pergola you may just need building certification. If it’s within the constraints of the setbacks and it doesn’t go over your site coverage, you probably don’t need any kind of approval from town planning. It may just be that you need to certify that the structure is gonna be structurally sound, you know? So that would just be all through a building certifier, in that instance. But there is, if it’s under 10 square meters and under a meter in height, you might not even need a BA. But so, the one thing, again, I would be checking is if you were looking at doing something yourself, just going straight to dial before you dig, double checking that you’re not putting any footings where there’s pipes or power lines.

– So dial before you dig is literally, you call a company that will look at what is below the land that you’re trying to dig before you shove a shovel in and hit the waste water, and poo explodes all over your face.

– Which you don’t want.

– So if you do that, between doing that and checking with council how big the proposed deck is, you possibly could then call a certifier as well. But if it’s gonna be, you know, 50 square meters and you’re gonna have a patio, I’d go straight to a building certifier.

– Go straight to a certifier. Because, setbacks would come into it, though, ’cause what if I wanna build, you’re on the water, I wanna build my deck to my fence line so I can throw bread into the water to feed my fish?

– So you have to go through a similar application to council as the referral agency assessment application. And that’s, again, then just showing that, all right, we’re gonna impact on our setbacks. But the massive issues there is, well, are we impacting on the conveyancing. If it’s on the water, how’s the water that’s going to underneath your deck, what’s the impact of flood.

– Which is a big problem from the town planning side.

– Yeah, with recent changes to the city plan a little while ago, that’s really been a massive impact on the southern section of the Gold Coast and anything that’s close to water. So yeah. Look, I’d definitely, for that you’d have to go through an application to council and you may need some kind of letter from REIQ, REIQ, sorry, registered engineer. Not the real estate.

– REIQ is the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, but we don’t need to worry about them.

– We’ll worry about them another time.

– We’re talking about a–

– This is engineers.

– We’re talking about a registered professional engineer.

– Okay. So not anybody, a registered one. Then there’s a body that–

– That’s right. And you would probably be talking to a hydraulic engineer to making sure, they may need to so some kind of mapping to say that your structure’s going into the waterfront setback but it’s not gonna impact on the way the flood waters work.

– So within reason. But on this one, you can just go to a building certifier or a builder will know that they need a certifier and go through them.

– That’s right.

– Okay, wonderful. This has been a fantastic conversation. I really appreciate your time. We’ve learned a lot today. If you wanna see the full interview, head over to the group on Facebook. We’re hoping to get Nathan in in the next couple of months just to keep talking about planning and learn a little bit more. Thank you very much for your time, and we look forward to hearing from you very soon. And good luck with any applications that you’re putting in. Take care.

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