Are you about to undertake a residential townhouse development such as a side-by-side but have concerns around your local council and how to manage that part of the process? 

Well, stick around because, in this video, I will share three tips for managing your council. 

Here at Little Fish, we have dealt with councils for many years. Through these interactions and experiences, we now have significant experience and knowledge that I want to share. 

We’ve made mistakes, so you don’t have to.

Let’s get into it.

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1. Pre-lodgement Meetings

For tip number one, we will talk about Pre-lodgement meetings with the council. 

Generally speaking, we don’t do these, but as with most things when it comes to developing property, it’s always going to be a case-by-case scenario. 

managing council meetings

The reason is unless there is a specific reason or purpose for the meeting, it’s unlikely you’ll come away with any further confidence or knowledge than when you went in. 

From our experience, these meetings are, in most cases, super high-level conversations with very little to no commitment from the council.

That said, there will always be projects that make sense for a pre-application meeting.

pre application council meetings

For example – you might want to have one if the area in the council you are developing is tightly held or if you are looking to undertake something that might be considered out of the ordinary.

If the site potentially has different ways, it can be developed, and you need that guidance from the council before you commit to a path, then that’s when these pre-application meetings make every bit of sense.

You never want to throw a dart and hope it hits if you can get feedback in a situation like this before you waste money on plans that end up being completely redesigned.

When sitting with the council in one of these meetings, a good mindset looks at it as negotiation

You need to be prepared to give things up that are less important to you to give you the best chance to get positive feedback on the most important things to you.

When you walk out of the meeting, it needs to be a win-win situation. If it is, then the meeting will be a success.

2. Common Push-backs from Council

For tip number two, I want to talk about common push-backs from the council.

The good news is that there are only so many things the council can push back on, and in most cases, these are the same old issues. 

Think, setbacks, traffic, overshadowing, privacy and overlooking and density. 

These are things that will need to be negotiated into a win-win.

Then you have things such as neighbourhood character that are more subjective and can be tricky to navigate. Particularly if you are butting heads with the council planner managing your application.

It will be critical that you listen to the planner and understand his perspective. Then negotiate where possible and ultimately work together for a mutually beneficial and successful outcome.

town planners meeting

The key to a successful outcome will come down to having a positive relationship with the planner. 

It will be critical that you articulate what is most important to you and the project’s success to try and focus on negotiating those less impactful and essential items.

managing your council

You need to understand that you will rarely get everything that you want. The key is to get what is most important.

3. Dealing with Neighbours Objections

For tip number three, I want to touch on dealing with neighbours’ objections.

You need to understand that no matter what you do, you should expect some pushback from neighbours.

Whether that be an official objection or directly to you as the property developer – it’s the nature of the beast.

People love to complain; it’s just the way it is.

This can be difficult to avoid and can become super frustrating. But you can’t let this discourage you because often, they don’t have merit.

It would be best if you focused on working with the council. If they are happy to support your application, it becomes more difficult for the neighbours to disrupt your project and its progress.

council meeting support

It is essential to point out that the council will have no problem issuing their positive notice of decision even if there have been objections. If the council doesn’t think the objections, they will push on.

At this point, the objecting neighbours can take the council to VCAT on their decision.

But we have seen over several years that this is super unlikely. You should be fine if you have worked with the council and played by the rules.

For the record. At the time of filming this video, we at Little Fish have never been to VCAT for a project – ever!

And I can say with confidence. It’s because we understand these principles I’m sharing. 

Sometimes even just a minor shift in your mindset of how you approach something can impact the outcome. 

mindset shift

The mindset around dealing with the council is one of those times.

Ideally, you want to work with everyone. The last thing you want to do is put anyone offside. You need to check your ego and remember the bigger picture. 

You will never be able to appease the council every time, in which case you need to be able to work with these external parties in a productive, collaborative, and positive manner.