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Manage your Council

By Justine Northcott

Combine a respect for red tape with a healthy dose of patience, and you have the perfect recipe for dealing with your local council.

If you possess neither of these qualities, instead try arming yourself with as much information as possible about how your council operates. By doing things by the book you’ll make life easier and there’s a good chance you’ll help speed up the approval process for your planned renovation.

One of the major stumbling blocks for obtaining council approval is completing the necessary paperwork. This starts with the initial task of working out whether your renovation needs a development application or just a complying development certificate. The bad news is that it doesn’t get an easier from there – in fact the paperwork becomes increasingly complex as you proceed through the process.

Hiring an architect to lodge your application is a useful way around the complexity, particularly if the architect has previously dealt with your council for other renovations in the area. Architects are familiar with the terms and language used and you won’t have to worry about your application being delayed because relevant information is missing.

If you decide to lodge the application yourself, make sure you do your homework in advance and know exactly what is required before you put pen to paper. Your council should be able to provide brochures and/or online information about the process involved.

Some councils require an appointment with you when lodging the application to check that you have correctly completed the forms and included all the necessary information. If your council doesn’t have this policy, it may be worth requesting a meeting with the planning officer. If there are shortfalls in your application, it’s cheaper and less frustrating to find out in advance.

Once your application is submitted, try and push it out of your mind. It’s important to remember that the application is now out of your control, and worrying about how long it is taking for approval won’t make the time go any faster!

The assessment time-frame varies from council to council but generally depends on how many applications are ahead of yours and how well your application has been put together (incomplete or missing information may delay or even cause the rejection of your application). Accept that it’s a lengthy process and there’s little you can do to speed it up.

Increasingly councils are offering an online DA tracking service, where you can log onto your council’s website and check on the progress of your application. This gives you the ability to see what stage the application is up to as it moves through the approval process.

For proposed building work that is complex or requires debate, councillors may refer the development application to a meeting of the council. As a member of the public you are entitled to attend the meeting and address the council to argue your case (a 5-10 minute timeslot is usually allowed per person).

Once a decision has been reached on your application you will be informed in writing. If it has been accepted, all is not over as there are still a number of further steps, forms and paperwork you must go through before building can commence!

If you’ve made it this far, chances are you have come to grudgingly accept red tape and been forced to learn patience, so the rest will seem a breeze!

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