Well why indeed? I was asked this question recently at a workshop and it made me think that I should really spell out what you might need a town planner for - like: its obvious when you need a plumber or an electrician... .
Essentially - if you want to develop something - something big - like not a chook shed or a cubby house and sometimes not even a deck or a pergola; but like: say you wanted to renovate and extend the house - or build a granny flat, or subdivide your block of land and build a dual occupancy, or go into property development and build a block of flats or a new shopping centre somewhere.....once you have your plans drawn up - shouldn't it just be a matter of taking them to Council and asking for an approval?
The thing is - well things have become very complicated when it comes to getting development approval these days - where once it was a case of rocking up to the town clerk when you were down at the club or out on the golf course and spruik your great idea on the back of coaster and voila! Bobs your uncle - go for it ...
Now there are forms to fill out and reports to prepare and legislation to comply with; and on the whole I have to say; even though it is a pain - it is a GOOD thing because you know if Bob ISNT your uncle or you dont play golf and they won't let you into the club then your idea won't get a look in. And added to that - the developer has to be accountable these days - to ensure that development is provided with all the right utilities and facilities and doesn't wreck the environment wholesale.
In principle the playing fields are being levelled - but in reality - well you need money to invest in the process in order to make your idea a reality.
So the forms - should not be complicated - but they are: there is a whole lot of lingo that you need to know ... a good town planner can fill that stuff in for you while explaining what it is all about.
The reports - most - no pretty much all development proposals need to provide a statement to Council that clearly details what the proposal is and what impact it will have on the environment and the neighbours and how the development is legally permissible. This report is called a statement of environmental effects in NSW and it is required by law under the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 and it is where a good town planner can really hit their stride. We town planners know lots of good words that other town planners understand and enjoy.
Many development proposals will also need supplementary reports or plans by other specialists like engineering plans, landscape plans, stormwater management plans, bushfire reports, heritage impact statements and so on. A good town planner can co-ordinate and manage these specialists because town planners can fit all the bits of the jigsaw puzzle together - we dont specialise so much as generalise across all parts of development and work out a way through the process.
To write a good report or statement of environmental effects you need to understand the legislation that applies to the development application - there can be multiple layers of legislation - all development in NSW is controlled by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, but other legislation applies to - like the Local Government Act, the Rural Fires Act, the Heritage Act, the Threatened Species and Conservation Act... etc etc. and this is what town planners are trained in - it is a quasi legal profession really and of course a good town planning report will help you out if worst comes to worst and you end up in the Land and Environment Court .... but if you have a good town planner it is unlikely that you will end up wasting your money there because you would have got good advice that sets out what you can and can't do on your land - because contrary to popular opinion - you can't do whatever you like in your own back yard.....
So I hope this makes things a little bit clearer for you - if i haven't put you to sleep already! drop me a line or post a question - if you think i could clarify anything else or anything I've written here any more for you! firstname.lastname@example.org
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!