How to write an objection letter

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.

Step 1. Request more time

 

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 after the submission period closed and it was still considered in the assessment.

That being said, it is still beneficial to request for additional time to make the submission. This lets the assessing officer know that a submission will be coming in so that they can prepare themselves and also formally provides some additional time to prepare the submission.

The first step therefore is to request more time to submit your objection letter. In all my years of planning I have never been denied additional time to submit an objection letter to Council. 

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.

 

Once this email is sent, then the reply is a formality, although they might specify a different time frame (perhaps only 14 days). 

Step 2. Review the documents

 
The next step in the process is to review all the documents that are available on the DA tracker (if the Council offers this service). This is often the biggest headache for people with this process as there are often several documents available and they don’t know where to start or what they should be looking for. Below is a brief description of the documents that you might come across with a development application.

Survey plan

The survey plan is generally required by a number of Council for development application. This plan is prepared by a registered surveyor and provides an accurate plan of the property as it currently is. The survey plan will provide lot dimensions, topographical details, details of the heights in AHD (Australian Height Datum) or commonly referred to as Above Sea Level. The survey plan will show where trees are located as well as any easements or restriction on the title. This is a document that can be referred to so that you can get a base level for heights (showing the existing height of the building).

Site Plan

The site plan is the “birds eye view” of the property and highlights what is being proposed on the site. Sometimes this will be highlighted in a different colour, or shading, and sometimes it will have two different site plans showing the existing site and the proposed site. It is usually best looking at the site plan in conjunction with the other plans as well as the Statement of Environmental Effects.

Floor Plans

Floor plans are not normally provided on the Council DA Tracker website for privacy and copyright reasons. They will often be available for physical viewing however at the Council administrative building.

Elevations

Elevations show the sides of the building in relation to the existing and proposed ground levels and is the best way to figure out the intended height of the building. Sometimes there will be two sets of elevations (existing and proposed) and other times the elevations will just highlight what the proposed works is. The elevations will also show window locations and privacy screens. The building will show heights in RL (reduced levels) which are based on the height above sea level (AHD). 

Sections

Sections show the cross section of the building and is a good way to identify what the actual height of the building will be. It is also a good way to see the height of the floors and basement and identify the excavation of the site.

Shadow diagrams

Shadow diagrams are always shown on June 21st at 9am 12pm and 3pm. Sometimes the architect or draftsman will show different times and dates but June 21st is used as this is the winter solstice and is worst case scenario as it is day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight and the longest shadows. Therefore the shadow diagrams provided with development applications show a worst case scenario so that you and the Council planner will be able to determine the maximum impact of the development. 

Statement of environmental effects

The statement of environmental effects is one of the most important documents with a development application and should be the document you read first. If written correctly it should detail what the development application involves and will also identify where the development does comply with the Local Environmental Plan or the Development Control Plan. Sometimes the Statement of environmental effects will also be accompanied with a Clause 4.6 Variation Request which seeks a variation to a development standard (such as height or floor space ratio). If the statement of environmental effects doesn’t contain much information then you can include this in your objection letter and ask for Council to request a more detailed statement.

Bushfire report

A bushfire report will provide an assessment of the site in relation to the bushfire risk. The report will assess where the bushfire source is in relation to the proposed building and provide a BAL (Bushfire attack level) for the construction of the building. The report will also provide a APZ around the building that will need to be maintained and free of dense vegetation and trees. This is a report to read through and check whether the development will involve sufficient tree removal.

Stormwater management plan

The stormwater management plan will detail how the site will handle stormwater. This needs to be checked to ensure that the proposed stormwater measures aren’t going to impact your property and to make sure they aren’t forcing an easement upon you to drain their water.

Arborist report

This report will detail the removal of any trees on the site. Read through this to identify which trees are to be removed and if there are any impacts as a result of the tree removal.

Traffic Impact Statement

For larger developments, a traffic impact statement might be provided. This report outlines the impact the development will have on the local traffic network and will detail the truck and vehicle movements for the site. The report might also provide details of internal vehicle movements.

Acoustic Report

Where there is a potential noise impact of the development on surrounding neighbours the development application might be accompanied by an acoustic report. Acoustic reports are generally not required for residential developments except for circumstances such as inclinations and elevators and are usually provided for developments such as child care centres, boarding houses, industrial buildings, pubs and clubs etc.

Heritage Impact Statement

Heritage impact statements are required for development on heritage items or within heritage conservation areas. These reports must be undertaken by an expert and detail the impact of the development on the heritage value of the property. 

Geotechnical Report

Geotechnical reports are required when the land is mapped as being in a landslip area or when the excavation is substantial. These reports are prepared by a geotechnical engineer and will detail the risk of landslip for the development and outline any recommendations.
 

Step 3. Prepare your submission

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.  

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. Your goal through your objection is to minimise the impact that the development has on your property. You want to

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. 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.

Don’t stress about the notification deadline!

One of the biggest sources of stress with an objection letter is the deadline! When we assist our clients this is often the biggest stress point and it leads to a lot of anxiety and stress. People in this position often fear that their submission will not be considered by Council and their concerns will not be heard. What you need to understand is two things:
 
1. Council town planners often have 30+ applications on their desks and don’t even pick up the application for a proper look until well and truly after the notification period.
2. All submission MUST be considered with the assessment of the development application. This means you can submit an objection an hour before the development application is determined and it will still need to be considered and addressed by Council’s town planner.
 
So please don’t stress about the deadline. We have had objections that we have submitted two to three weeks after the notification period ended that have lead to major modifications to the DA as a result of the objection.

Get an expert to do a detailed submission

In our experience the best submissions generally come from experienced town planners. We know the case law and precedents to reference. We know the legislation back to front and can pick apart development application thoroughly. Our Principal Planner in particular was given the title of Objection King at his former workplaces for his aptitude to assess a development application and craft a detailed objection letter that, more often than not, resulted in wins for the client. Our objection letters generally start at about $1200 so please feel free to call us and have a chat with one of our planners and then relax in knowing that your objection is in safe hands.
 
So if the whole process is too much then just give us a call and speak with one of our planners about having us provide an objection letter on your behalf.  

Send us an email or give us a call on 0432 848 467. 

 
This page has become one of our most visited pages on our site and we get a large number of calls from clients who have followed our steps and want us to help with their objection. Please feel free to reach out just to chat about the objection as we are always happy to have a chat and let you know if your concerns are valid. We are always happy to help our clients with objections no matter how small the development. Everyone needs to live with the development on surrounding properties so give us a call and let us put you at ease.
 

 

Get the Objection King to help!

Have a chat with our Principal Town Planner today

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