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