Before starting The Development Collective, I worked as a Planner for 15 years in both Local Government and the Private Sector.
During those years I became passionate about delivering strong design outcomes and challenging conventional processes.
However, it was my seven years as a Council Planner that gave me an understanding as to why the consenting process can go so wrong. I witnessed just how long and stressful getting consent could be for Applicants if they didn’t approach the process correctly.
Over the years this experience motivated me to try and fix the problem.
There are three parts to the Consenting Process:
- Pre-application Meeting
- Pre-lodgement Stage
- Processing Stage
The pre-lodgement stage is an important first step. I always felt that the point of the pre-lodgement meeting was more to gather knowledge and find out from Council about what’s possible on a site. This seemed logical to me as it positioned Council Planners as team members rather and contributors to the process rather than hurdles.
However, it seemed that time and time again Developers and Architects would come into Council with the aim to argue for their design or development.Fully rendered designs and completed concepts worth thousands of dollars were presented to us all the time.
The expectation was that we would be as impressed with the outcome as they were and rush it through the approval process.
We never were.
You see, Council Planners are experienced, qualified professionals with a deep understanding of the constraints of a particular site and council policies and processes.
It is the job of the Council Planner at the pre-lodgement stage to contribute the process and offer sound advice around what is and isn’t possible on a site.
It’s also an opportunity for them to present information which may not be readily available to the wider public (flood reporting and land stability reporting for example). The objective is to provide the development team with the knowledge they need to design for the specified site.
When an almost final design was presented at the pre-lodgement stage, it was usually a recipe for disaster for the Applicant as often certain matters were not adequately addressed. In many cases, this approach would often result in significant redesign costs and consenting delays, as information was uncovered that they didn’t know about and therefore needed to be addressed.
The few Applicants who came into Council with a more collaborative approach from the outset always seemed to end up being involved in a more fluid process. They generally obtained consent far quicker than those who didn’t.
Another recurring issue I observed was the siloed nature many Consultants tended to work. There was limited to no communication during the initial stages of the development process. Architects tended to focus on architecture, Planners on planning, Engineers on engineering. I always found this surprising as it went against the grain of our social nature and our ability to communicate effectively with our peers.
Sometimes when Consultants don’t understand the finer detail of each other’s requirements, holes appear in the process and miscommunication issues can arise. This also causes consenting and other important timelines to blow out.
For example – if your Architect doesn’t have a thorough understanding of the construction process and costs – certain detailing and design elements can significantly eat into profits.
I believe Applicants need to ensure that the Consultants they select for their projects work together as a team, collaborate effectively and also have a good understanding of each other’s requirements.