Most likely you are reading this because you have undertaken some construction work (or undertaken a use) without development approval and now Council is breathing down your neck… Either that or you are thinking of undertaking some work on your house and you want to know what the penalty/ramification would be if you did it without approval.
This would be one of our top 5 most common questions from our clients and I thought I would take the time to provide some information around unapproved works.
Unapproved works or unapproved development is development that has been undertaken without formal approvals. Examples of common unapproved works are provided below:
If you have received this letter it is for one of two reasons:
From our experience it is normally the first of the two options with most of our enquiries being from people that have not had great dealings with their neighbours.
The first thing to do if you receive a letter asking for an inspection is to understand that the Council officer is just doing their job and they are not out to “get you”. The best way to deal with something like this is to be calm and rational to the Council officer. When clients have called me and informed me that they have had a yelling match with the Council officer I already know that we are on the back foot for this future approval. PLEASE do not yell at the Council officer as it will make our job just that little bit harder to get them on our side. If you feel that you will be emotional about the matter then I would suggest just sending an email or perhaps ask a friend to talk on your behalf.
The next step is to contact Council and arrange an inspection. There is no avoiding Council inspecting your premises and they do have powers under a few legislations to enter your premises without your permission if you repeatedly deny them access. The sooner they come to the site, the sooner it will be to have it resolved.
When the Council officer attends the site be friendly and oblivious that any approval was required. If you received advice from anyone (such as a builder) prior to undertaking the works then please let the officer know about so that they know that this is not your fault (please note that this is not a get our of jail free card but it often goes a long way in helping you either obtain approval or at least in delaying the removal of the structure).
Following the meeting the Council will put together a letter known as the Notice of Intent to Serve an Order…
We normally refer to this is the “scary Council letter” and often it is at this point that we receive the phone call from new clients in a panic as the letter often asks for the development works to be demolished within 28 days and will also mention fines if the order is not actioned.
If you have received a letter like this…. take a moment and have a deep breath…. Everything is ok, you do not have to demolish the structure (or cease use of your business) within the time frame….
This is a standard letter in a standard format that is almost identical across all Councils. The “Notice of Intent” is the equivalent of a “first warning” at high school before you receive detention. In the case of Council this is often one of many warnings before you receive a fine or any real ramifications.
The notice of intent is often our starting point in working towards an approval as this will outline what Council has concerns about and will often give us a clearer understanding of an avenue towards approval (or a way to delay if an approval cannot be achievable).
Once you have received your notice please email Council (there is no rush as long as it happens before the deadline) and advise that you will be engaging a town planning firm to review and assist with a future development application and will need additional time to review and prepare the development application and let them know that your town planner (once appointed) will contact Council to update them about the application.
Below are the following options for your unapproved works:
MOST unapproved works can be remedied through a development application and then the submission of a building information certificate once the DA is approved. Every Council is different as the Act is not black and white about the pathway to approving unapproved works.
As a MINIMUM the following information is required for a development application:
The following information MAY be required by Council
Obviously the additional reports depend on the type of development so please feel free to contact us or Council to check what information may be required.
Sometimes delaying Council is all that can be done for unapproved works as the development will never be approved by Council. In this case then delay is the best bet…
The following delay tactics can be utilised:
At any point you can conceed to Council and advise them that the development has been removed or the use has been ceased.
We can assist throughout the whole process and assist with the gameplan on how to proceed with the project. We can advise if Council approval is possible and if not then we can advise of possible delay tactics to assist. Get in contact with us and one of our planners can contact your and let you know if your development can be approved.
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