Unit Developer Surprised By Council Call

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A Cautionary Tale for  Unit Developers

You have just been congratulated on being the winning bidder at auction.  You have done your due diligence. You've checked the regulations, services, title, existing trees, etc. You have made myriad of other checks to ensure that there aren’t going to be any nasty surprises.  You have also had come concepts drawn beforehand and had favourable discussions at council.

You're feeling great, and confident about your proposed development.

So, you engage your surveyor, architect, planner, and other consultants needed to start the design. You begin all the work necessary work for the planning application.  You make some tweaks to the design. You even have a pre application meeting at council to ensure that there are no hidden regulations you could be exposed to.

You make the submission and a month later Council writes you a letter asking for some changes to the design. They also need some additional information. Your architect makes the changes and within a few weeks you place the advertising on site.

Things are looking good!

Whilst relaxing one afternoon you receive a distressing call from the Council’s planner. They're indicating that there is a problem.  They advise you that your neighbour to the south has obtained a building permit for an addition. They've already started building.

The problem is that their addition has habitable room windows along the north. Your proposed design has building on the boundary facing the habitable room windows. Now your upper storey heights and setbacks do not conform to ResCode requirements. These requirements ensure that the adjoining north windows receive adequate sunlight.

WOW. 5 months have passed and lady luck has just dealt you a bad hand!

Unfortunately there is no protection for the developer when this scenario arises. It’s just bad luck.

We came across this situation recently. We were fortunate though. The neighbours built their addition with the northerly window opposite our existing garage. We amended the design to keep the wall of the garage and argued that the proposal did not decrease the amount of north light to the existing window.

Council accepted our proposal!

So now, we've amended our pre-design checklist to include the following:

  • contact Council’s planning department. Ask whether there have been any recent planning applications on any adjoining sites
  • contact the building department. Ask whether there have been any building permits recently issued on adjoining sites.

This way if we find an application has been lodged, we can start making further enquiries. This gives our developer client’s the best chance of obtaining a headache free planning permit.

Our processes are designed to ensure we control those items we can control. Then, we can rest assured that we have done our best.

Note: All care is taken in researching this information, however, it is general in nature and may not be specific to your case. Independent professional advice should be sought before proceeding with any development.