By Andrew Woodhouse
We all have a common interest in improving our area.
We can’t trust state government or council’s high priests of planning.
The price of our amenity is eternal vigilance in this high-octane living environment.
If we remain tacit, one morning we’ll wake up to jackhammers outside bedroom windows at 7am.
Thus follows a guide to navigating objections to Development Applications.
We look for three things when assessing a Development Approval: The site notice on the building, the expiry date for public exhibition and the value of the DA.
If the site notice is missing Council has to put it up.
It’s a brief description but can be misleading.
It is not council’s description: it’s the applicant’s description and is often paints a cosy, rosy picture.
How much the DA costs determines who will decide on it.
It might be delegated to a young, student planner sitting at their desk alone – with their squidgy sandwich and mixed health juice – with the developer constantly phoning them, and their area planner pestering them.
Phone the planner.
They don’t do chit chat.
Ask them straight up: “What are the issues in your professional view about this DA?”
They lap up compliments and can be surprisingly helpful. Take notes. Be very polite to your “new best buddy”.
Sir Frank Lowry AC, head of the US$29 billion global Mirvac developer empire, one told me: “I treat [planners] as gods.”
After chatting up the planner, download all documents, even obscure ones.
Email or call your “new best buddy” if things are missing.
Put your glossy new white DA folder on your shelf or under your (now lumpy) pillow.
Absorb by osmosis.
It sounds cumbersome but relax, you’re under control.
Read the DA file very, very carefully.
Look for the developer’s inconsistencies.
These are common.
Begin formulating objections.
Have a break.
This journey comes with a fruitful ending.
When the going gets tough, the tough get thinking.
Read Council’s Development Control plan 2012 (DCP) and Local Environment Plan (LEP).
There are detailed rules about zoning, apartment sizes, balconies, roof features, privacy controls, retail shops, sex services premises.
Town planning is all about squashing more and more people into less and less space.
Then jump right into the DCP.
Become an instant expert on provisions about car parking and bicycles, nightclubs (section 3.15), heritage (3.9) footpath awnings (3.2), solar panels (3.6.3) and trees (3.5).
Part 3.4 about “design excellence” is one of the greatest pieces of protean prose ever composed: it’s your best friend or worst enemy.
There are 30 possible breaches here.
I always end with: “This DA should be rejected. It breaches numerous controls and the overarching Planning Act, sections 4.15 etc., re: site suitability, sustainability, social, heritage and environmental impacts and the public interest.”
Andrew Woodhouse is President of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage and Residents’ Society.