Have you received a notification from Council regarding a neighbours development application?
You are most likely visiting this page because you have received a notification from your local Council in relation to a development application and you are concerned about the impact of the development on your property. Please note that you are not alone! This is a common enquiry and is something that we assist many client with. The following article attempts to give you some idea of what you need to do to prepare your own development objection.If the thought of preparing your own objection letter cause you anxiety then please feel free to get us to assist!
When you receive a notification letter from Council that a neighbour has submitted a development application it can be a stressful and confusing time. It is difficult sometimes to understand the plans and reports and to know exactly what your neighbour is planning on doing and to understand whether the development will impact you and your property. We often receive calls from people not knowing where to start with a development objection letter so we thought we would take some time to provide a bit of a guide to preparing an objection letter.
This blog was written more than a four years ago and has become one of our most popular page on our website with hundreds of people each day visiting the site wanting to know how to review plans or work out if their neighbours DA is going to impact them. We have helped many of these concerned residents with their objections and have a great track record of reducing the impact and stress on our clients with our objections.
Please note that we write objection letters and have a fantastic rate of success with our objection letters resulting in changes to the development plans as well as many refusals. If you are wanting a high quality report then please contact us. Our objection reports generally start at $1800 but this little investment can go a long way in helping retain the value of your property. Please fill out our form at the bottom of the page if you would like a quote for us to assist with an objection letter!
Greetings and welcome to my article on how to write an objection letter!
I have been labeled the Objection King by previously employers as well as by my clients and I just thought I would take a moment to explain how I managed to gain such a prestigious title!
There is no subject at university (as far as I am aware) on how to write an objection letter for a development application and it is nothing that is generally taught by other planners. It is something you learn through on the job experience and particularly from working on both sides of the town planning “fence”. I started my career at Pittwater Council (now Northern Beaches Council) and had my fair share of Objection letters for development applications. I worked at other Councils following Pittwater and I never received the volume of objection letter to any of my development applicaitons than I did while I worked at Pittwater Council. This is what set me up as an expert in objection letters as I was able to curate all that I experienced and learnt on the job and apply it to our clients to achieve a positive result. It isn’t always about having a development refused, is is about having a development modified to fit the needs and concerns of the neighbouring properties!
What I learnt from reading so many objection letters is the subtle art of crafting a development objection letter so that the reader instantly agrees with the author! We would constantly get letters written from objectors using a lot of emotive language but as the planner for the application we would try to be un-emotional when assessing the development application. The worst thing that someone could do was to attack the Council for the DA as the town planner assigned to the DA is not the one that has designed the plans nor are they the one that has prepared the report, they are the unlucky person that has been assigned the DA. The best thing you can do is be nice as pie to this person!
The one piece of advice I would love to leave you with is this… if the development is going to impact your property and you are stressed and losing sleep then please contact us and have us prepare a quote to do the objection letter for you. It is not worth losing sleep or stressing about a DA when you can have us prepare the letter on your behalf for you!
We provide some easy to follow steps on how to prepare a development objection letter! Before we get into the particulars of what you need to do I would just like to take the time to write something to our readers. Please note that your objection is not wrong! EVERYONE has the right to object to a development application! Do not be afraid that your objection is not valid and you shouldn’t provide some input into the process. The legislation is written to allow EVERYONE the opportunity to put in a submission in regards to development applications. Sometimes the objection might be minor and might be an oversight from the building designer and other times it is a blatant disregard for good neighbourly design.
Council are legally required to provide a time frame for you to submit your objection to the development. The normal time frame is 14 days which, when factoring in mailing time, doesn’t give much of a time frame to prepare a decent objection letter. What you need to know is that under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the Act that governs and guides all Councils in determining the development application) Council officer MUST consider any submission that is received by Council in making their determination. This means you are not limited to providing a comment within the specified time. I have made submissions on behalf of clients over a month or more after the submission period closed and it was still considered in the assessment.
That being said, it is still beneficial to try and get some more time to complete a detailed submission for the development application. There are two options for extending the notification time frame, the first is to email Council to seek additional timeframe to send through a submission. This was previously our preferred optioned but we would often not hear back from Council before the end of notification so we have since adopted the following option.
We submit a DOT POINT submission to Council with a basic description of what our detailed objection letter would contain with an explanation that a more detailed objection would be submitted within 14-21 days. This ticks the box for Council to ensure that the objection is received within the notification period but also informally requests an extension to the objection window. This has been a very successful avenue to obtain an extension to the objection timeframe.
An example of our dot point submissions is as follows (you are welcome to adapt this for your own dot point objection):
To whom it may concern,
We are writing to you in regard to the development at INSERT ADDRESS (DA NUMBER).
We have reviewed the plans and documents provided and have put together the following summary of our concerns:
If you would prefer to write to Council to request a formal extension to the objection timeframe then all you need to do is write a simple email to Council and use the following template:
Re: Development application (Insert address of Development) (Insert Development application Number)
Dear (Council Officer’s Name),
We have received a notification letter for (Insert Development application number). We understand that we have been provided a 14 day time frame to submit our submission to the development however we request an additional 21 days to submit our submission. The additional time will provide us the opportunity to sufficiently review the documentation and draft a suitable submission letter that outlines our concerns.
If you can please confirm whether this extension of time is acceptable via email that would be greatly appreciated.
While the above is a formality we also recommend you create a dot point summary of the issues and submit them before the notification deadline with an explanation that a more thorough report will follow. This has been the best way of doing these recently due to Council often refusing to grant an extension (although as mentioned, as long as the objection is received during the assessment period it MUST be considered).
Once you have reviewed all the information provided with the development application now it is time to start your objection letter. The best advice I can give is to write the objection letter removing as much emotion as possible. Your point will come across stronger if it is based on fact rather than emotion. In particular do not use phrases such as “how can Council consider a development such as this!”. This was a common phrase for a lot of the objection letters I read while I was a Council officer and unfortunately Council MUST consider every development application that is submitted. Council are not out to get you (generally) but they are only doing their job.
It is often best to prepare you submission with references to relevant planning documents such as the Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan. For example… if you have an issue in regards to the height of the building then find what the allowed maximum height of the building is by looking up the site on the planning portal. The planning portal is a great tool that shows you information from the Local Environmental plan such as the zoning, height, floor space, heritage value as well as information such as bushfire and flooding information.
Structure your submission in headings that relate to the issue ie: Height, Overshadowing, Privacy, view loss etc.
Dot points are completely fine for an objection letter. Don’t feel that you need to provide paragraphs of text to argue your point. A simple dot point pointing out an issue will go a long way in letting the assessing officer know what you have concerns over. Inclusion of photos and diagrams can also go a long way to showing the officer the issue.
We know that emotion is a big part of a submission but please note that most developments eventually get approved in some way as everyone is entitled to develop their land. Your goal through your objection is to minimise the impact that the development has on your property. You want to convince the reader of the objection letter that there is either a better way of achieving the same result (perhaps through mitigation measures such as privacy screens, landscaping or by reducing the roof height) or by pointing out that the development is not suitable for the site.
Please note: If you have a concern regarding VIEW LOSS or PRIVACY then I would highly recommend getting a professional to do the objection report. Both of these concerns are best handled by someone that is experienced in assessment against the Planning Principles and legislation.
PLEASE NOTE: We have had a few clients recently that have mentioned that View Loss is not a valid concern in regard to a development application particularly those that are located on the Northern Beaches or any property with a water view or a view of Sydney Harbour. It should be mentioned that view loss is a major town planning concern in relation to neighbouring developments. The Planning Principle Tenacity V Warringah Council sets out a clear assessment guideline that Council staff use to determine view loss.
The first step is the assessment of views to be affected. Water views are valued more highly than land views. Iconic views (eg of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge or North Head) are valued more highly than views without icons. Whole views are valued more highly than partial views, eg a water view in which the interface between land and water is visible is more valuable than one in which it is obscured.
The second step is to consider from what part of the property the views are obtained. For example the protection of views across side boundaries is more difficult than the protection of views from front and rear boundaries. In addition, whether the view is enjoyed from a standing or sitting position may also be relevant. Sitting views are more difficult to protect than standing views. The expectation to retain side views and sitting views is often unrealistic.
The third step is to assess the extent of the impact. This should be done for the whole of the property, not just for the view that is affected. The impact on views from living areas is more significant than from bedrooms or service areas (though views from kitchens are highly valued because people spend so much time in them). The impact may be assessed quantitatively, but in many cases this can be meaningless. For example, it is unhelpful to say that the view loss is 20% if it includes one of the sails of the Opera House. It is usually more useful to assess the view loss qualitatively as negligible, minor, moderate, severe or devastating.
The fourth step is to assess the reasonableness of the proposal that is causing the impact. A development that complies with all planning controls would be considered more reasonable than one that breaches them. Where an impact on views arises as a result of non-compliance with one or more planning controls, even a moderate impact may be considered unreasonable. With a complying proposal, the question should be asked whether a more skilful design could provide the applicant with the same development potential and amenity and reduce the impact on the views of neighbours. If the answer to that question is no, then the view impact of a complying development would probably be considered acceptable and the view sharing reasonable.
So if your neighbours development is going to block your harbour views then please get in touch with us. We are skilled in view loss assessment and our objections have resulted in refusals and redesigns for developments where there is a view loss issue.
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We recently had a review about an objection letter that we did for a client. It was a 9 storey boarding house development that looked like something from a third world country. We received the following review based on the submission we put into Council on behalf of the adjoining neighbour:
“Highly recommend Josh and the team at Outlook Planning and Development!
I needed to put together an objection to a neighbours DA but had no idea where to start and was getting very stressed out about the situation.
After googling and speaking to several consultants, Josh stood out with his calmness, expertise and value for money.
I was not disappointed! Josh took the time upfront to understand my needs, produced an awesome and detailed objection letter and made the submission on my family’s behalf.
He really took the stress and pain out of the whole process!! Long live the Objection King!”
We offer a new service where we will review your submission and make comments on any changes or thoughts. This service includes a conversation with our Principal Planner, The Objection King himself, and a review of the development and any concerns you have. Our clients have found that sometimes just by talking with our Principal Planner they are able to put together a detailed submission of their concerns. We offer this service for $550 inc GST.
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