Getting plans for a new home or renovation approved by your local council might be one of the most stressful things you ever do as a property owner.

Many of the stresses can be avoided through familiarising yourself with local council guidelines before you even start thinking about the path you wish to go down.

Ideally this should happen before you even purchase a property. It is very risky to buy with the assumption that you will be able to add another storey, demolish a run-down terrace or install a swimming pool as these options may simply not be allowed under council guidelines.

You may find yourself stuck with a home that will never meet your needs or one that cannot be renovated adequately to allow you to break even on resale. Early research is crucial to ensure that your visions can become a reality, and it may be worth paying an expert to assist you.

Council documents can be difficult to interpret, especially if you are unfamiliar with the terminology used. An architect or planner will be able to assist with early planning and may in fact find ways of achieving your aims despite what initially appear to be prohibitive planning guidelines.

An architect can also assist by preparing your development application in a clear and convincing way that will assist council officers to understand your proposal. The application documents must address all of the issues surrounding development such as height limits, floor space ratio, overlooking, privacy and overshadowing.

Drawings of the new development need to be submitted showing all new work in plan, section and elevation and for most proposals it is also necessary to submit shadow diagrams to demonstrate the impact the new development will have on neighbouring sites. This is not something that an inexperienced person can confidently tackle, so the assistance of a professional is essential.

If there is any doubt about the likelihood of approval it is usually a good idea to consult with council before submitting a development approval.

Most councils have a pre-DA system whereby property owners can submit preliminary plans and meet with council officers to discuss the proposal before actually submitting the DA to ensure that it has a good chance of being approved.

This can avoid unnecessary expense and eventual disappointment when plans are not approved. Council officers may also suggest amendments to your scheme that may result in the DA being approved.

As with any construction and planning issue the assistance of a professional can make the whole process a lot less stressful and more likely to result in a successful DA.

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