The term ‘planning permit’ might conjure images of daunting paperwork and labyrinthine bureaucracy. In truth, while obtaining a planning permit is a detail-oriented process, understanding its components demystifies the task. Below we break down a planning permit and what it truly entails.

Understanding the Planning Permit

A planning permit is a legal document granting permission for land use or development. A planning permit is necessary for planned changes to land, and for building new structures or altering existing ones. Permits can also be needed for tree removal, advertising signs, and other alterations to land or property.

It’s important not to confuse this with a building permit. While a building permit relates to the compliance of construction with safety codes and standards, a planning permit assesses a project’s adherence to local planning schemes, zoning laws, and community impact.

Why Do You Need a Planning Permit?

The purpose of a planning permit is to ensure that developments align with local plans, look appropriate for the area, have minimal environmental impact, and provide adequate infrastructure. The impact on existing infrastructure and traffic is also considered.

The Application Process

  • Pre-application Research: Start with thorough research. Familiarize yourself with the local planning scheme, which includes zoning regulations and overlays that may affect your project. Understand what is permissible and what might require special consideration or a more involved application process.
  • Pre-application Meeting: The next step is usually a pre-application meeting with your local planning department. It is a chance for you to discuss your project, understand the specific requirements, and get valuable guidance. If your local government doesn’t have this as a requirement, it is still recommended to try to arrange one.
  • Submission of Application: After refining your proposal based on preliminary feedback, you submit your application. This typically includes detailed plans, a project description, and potentially an environmental impact assessment.
  • Review and Public Comment: The planning department reviews your application against local regulations. There might be a period for public comment, where neighbors and other stakeholders can view your proposal and submit their input.
  • Decision: The planning authority will either approve, approve with conditions, or deny your application. This decision is based on how well your project aligns with local planning policies and regulations.

Key Elements of a Planning Permit

  • Zoning: Zoning laws dictate how you can use your property. Your project must align with these regulations, which cover aspects like building height, density, and land use.
  • Overlay Controls: Additional requirements might be in place depending on your property’s location. These can relate to heritage, environmental significance, or other specific local characteristics.
  • Discretionary and Non-Discretionary Standards: Some aspects of your proposal might be negotiable (discretionary), while others are non-negotiable (non-discretionary). Understanding this distinction is crucial.
  • Conditions: Often, permits come with conditions that must be fulfilled, such as landscaping requirements or specific design elements.

Dealing with Challenges

This process can be complex and sometimes frustrating. Delays are common, and meeting all the requirements can be challenging. Patience and a willingness to adapt your plans according to feedback are key. Hiring professionals like architects or planners can provide expertise and streamline the process.

Cities around the world such as Austin are utilizing Archistar’s eCheck technology to streamline the permit application process. Applications are immediately checked against local regulations and codes and given a preliminary pass or fail. For failed submissions, adjust your plans and resubmit. If your local government isn’t using eCheck, they can request a demo to see how it can improve their planning process.

The planning permit process is about due diligence and effective communication. Make sure you understand and respect the framework of local legislation, engage openly with stakeholders, and meticulously prepare your application. While this requires effort initially, it can prevent significant delays after submitting your application.