Photos above show house location looking north -low regrowth, house location looking east – large expanse of water providing eastern “defendable space” Bottom right shows satellite phot of the site. Our horrendous experience getting planning can be read here.

Planning Learnings & Advice

  1. Apply for a planning permit as soon as you can after acquiring your land. Rules change, and what was allowed when you bought it might not be allowed when you are ready to build. Its generally easy to extend your permit and keep it valid. It should also be easy to amend the permit to change the design, when you know exactly what you want to build. There are lots of VCAT cases where someone bought land to build a house in the future and in the intervening years the rules changed, and they can no longer build. Typically they are unsuccessful at VCAT. Our neighbour applied for a permit 10 years before us, and had just started building when we applied. His planning permit would definitely not have been approved if he had applied when we did.
  2. If you haven’t done 1), then apply for a planning permit two years ahead of when you plan to start building. Without amendment or extension, the permit should last for two years, so that even if you are that rare person who gets it through easily, you will still have permission to build when you want to. And if you have a problem, you have time to go through the motions with the council and then to VCAT without the stress and extra expense of the holding pattern.
  3. Have a preplanning meeting with the council, but take notes and document it. Send them the minutes. It might not help, but when appealing to higher authorities within council it just might. No one likes being embarrassed and caught out.
  4. Engage the right planning consultant. They are not all equal. Make sure your consultant is well connected to the council, is organised and dynamic and really understands the issues your permit is likely to encounter. Do due diligence because you could be stuck with them for a long time.
  5. Select all you consultants – bushfire management, conservation, geotechnical etc – in good standing with, and known to, your council. They often have lists of people who operate in their area. Ask around, it’s not too hard to find out who the best ones are.
  6. Document every conversation and communication with the council. In the end, this documentation was very important in us getting our application through. We could demonstrate delay outside legislative time frames and highly questionable competency.
  7. Escalate early – we were too patient waiting for processes to work through.
  8. Maintain the access track to your house site to meet CFA access requirements – the track needs to be 3.5m wide, and substantially clear for 0.5m either side – so 4.5m wide. It also needs to be unobstructed to a height of 4m. A 20m long, 6m wide overtaking lane must be provided each 200m.

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