Don’t design for VCAT

Conventional wisdom amongst some property developers attempting to secure a Planning Permit in Victoria is: “Design for VCAT”. We’d like to suggest some unconventional wisdom: “Don’t design for VCAT”.

 

Here’s why …

How to get a Planning Permit: Don’t design for VCAT

VCAT is the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal that deals with all manor of disputes between the people and State/Local government of Victoria.

In the context of development, they arbitrate disputes between developers and Councils – typically where a developer wishes to contest a refusal to grant a Town Planning Permit by a local Council.

To “Design for VCAT” can mean: “ensure that your proposed development is compliant to State and Local planning policy requirements” (which we very much endorse).

However the intention behind such a statement often really means:

  • “With the development I have in mind, I already know that Council are going to reject my planning permit application.”
  • “So I’ll VCAT proof my application from the start so that despite Council’s rejection, VCAT will approve my planning permit and I’ll get the development I want.”

Don’t design for VCAT

The problem with the “Design for VCAT” approach isn’t one of contingency but one of attitude.

It presupposes that Council Town Planners will be adversarial and are a hindrance and that the real goal is approval via VCAT

This attitude then permeates the project, team members, liaison with Council and limits project design freedom, creativity and opportunities.

It can blind developers to the fact that most Councils have very real housing supply needs that can really only be met by developers. (eg. Did you know that some Councils even have quotas they have to meet?)

Design for Council

Don’t go with conventional wisdom.

Don’t “design for VCAT”.

Instead, design for Council.

In fact, go one better – design with Council.

  • Approach Council as soon as you are thinking of developing
  • Don’t go in with preconceived notions of an outcome you must get
  • Find out what Council’s biggest problems are – eg. what dwelling types are they falling short of?
  • Present Land Use Plans so that Council knows the direction you’re thinking but are free to offer their input
  • Be open and ready to collaborate with Council

How to get a Planning Permit in Victoria: Conclusion

The problem with the “Design for VCAT” approach isn’t one of contingency but one of attitude.

It presupposes that Council Town Planners will be adversarial and are a hindrance and that the real goal is approval via VCAT.

Don’t go with conventional wisdom.

Instead of designing for VCAT, design with Council.

Designing with Council means:

  • You don’t see Council as adversarial but as a collaborative project partner
  • You have a direction you would like the project to proceed in but are open to Council feedback
  • Council gets the housing supply and type that it needs to cope with population growth
  • You get a Planning Permit application process with less red tape
  • You get Council engagement (and often, support) for your collaborative project right from the outset
  • You avoid VCAT
  • You save thousands in fees, redesigns and time spent

The added benefit of designing with Council becomes even more evident the next time you do a development with Council when you get placed in their ‘good books’.

After all, you do want to do another development … don’t you?