You are most likely visiting this page because you have received a notification from your local Council in relation to a development application and you are concerned about the impact of the development on your property. Please note that you are not alone! This is a common enquiry and is something that we assist many client with. The following article attempts to give you some idea of what you need to do to prepare your own development objection.If the thought of preparing your own objection letter cause you anxiety then please feel free to get us to assist!
When you receive a notification letter from Council that a neighbour has submitted a development application it can be a stressful and confusing time. It is difficult sometimes to understand the plans and reports and to know exactly what your neighbour is planning on doing and to understand whether the development will impact you and your property. We often receive calls from people not knowing where to start with a development objection letter so we thought we would take some time to provide a bit of a guide to preparing an objection letter.
This blog was written more than a three years ago and has become one of our most popular page on our website with hundreds of people each day visiting the site wanting to know how to review plans or work out if their neighbours DA is going to impact them. We have helped many of these concerned residents with their objections and have a great track record of reducing the impact and stress on our clients with our objections.
Please note that we write objection letters and have a fantastic rate of success with our objection letters resulting in changes to the development plans as well as many refusals. If you are wanting a high quality report then please contact us. Our objection reports generally start at $1800 but this little investment can go a long way in helping retain the value of your property. Please fill out our form at the bottom of the page if you would like a quote for us to assist with an objection letter!
If you are on this article then you have most likely received a notification for a neighbouring development application and you don’t know what to do and where to start. To help educate you in the process and assist you with crafting your own objection, our Principal Planner (also known by many clients as the Objection King) gives you the tools you need to craft your own submission letter.
Intro from the Objection King
Greetings and welcome to my article on how to write an objection letter!
I have been labeled the Objection King by previously employers as well as by my clients and I just thought I would take a moment to explain how I managed to gain such a prestigious title!
There is no subject at university (as far as I am aware) on how to write an objection letter for a development application and it is nothing that is generally taught by other planners. It is something you learn through on the job experience and particularly from working on both sides of the town planning “fence”. I started my career at Pittwater Council (now Northern Beaches Council) and had my fair share of Objection letters for development applications. I worked at other Councils following Pittwater and I never received the volume of objection letter to any of my development applicaitons than I did while I worked at Pittwater Council.
What I learnt from reading so many objection letters is the subtle art of crafting a development objection letter so that the reader instantly agrees with the author! We would constantly get letters written from objectors using a lot of emotive language but as the planner for the application we would try to be un-emotional when assessing the development application. The worst thing that someone could do was to attack the Council for the DA as the town planner assigned to the DA is not the one that has designed the plans nor are they the one that has prepared the report, they are the unlucky person that has been assigned the DA. The best thing you can do is be nice as pie to this person!
The one piece of advice I would love to leave you with is this… if the development is going to impact your property and you are stressed and losing sleep then please contact us and have us prepare a quote to do the objection letter for you. It is not worth losing sleep or stressing about a DA when you can have us prepare the letter on your behalf for you!
The Steps on how to prepare your Objection!
We provide some easy to follow steps on how to prepare a development objection letter! Before we get into the particulars of what you need to do I would just like to take the time to write something to our readers. Please note that your objection is not wrong! EVERYONE has the right to object to a development application! Do not be afraid that your objection is not valid and you shouldn’t provide some input into the process. The legislation is written to allow EVERYONE the opportunity to put in a submission in regards to development applications. Sometimes the objection might be minor and might be an oversight from the building designer and other times it is a blatant disregard for good neighbourly design.
Step 1. Generate More Time
One of the biggest stresses that people have with objection letters is the limited time that is provided by Council to submit the objection letter. What makes it worse is when our clients call up the Council officer to seek additional time only to be told that they MUST get a submission into Council by the deadline!
Council are legally required to provide a time frame for you to submit your objection to the development. The normal time frame is 14 days which, when factoring in mailing time, doesn’t give much of a time frame to prepare a decent objection letter. What you need to know is that under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the Act that governs and guides all Councils in determining the development application) Council officer MUST consider any submission that is received by Council in making their determination. This means you are not limited to providing a comment within the specified time. I have made submissions on behalf of clients over a month or more after the submission period closed and it was still considered in the assessment.
That being said, it is still beneficial to try and get some more time to complete a detailed submission for the development application. There are two options for extending the notification time frame, the first is to email Council to seek additional timeframe to send through a submission. This was previously our preferred optioned but we would often not hear back from Council before the end of notification so we have since adopted the following option.
We submit a DOT POINT submission to Council with a basic description of what our detailed objection letter would contain with an explanation that a more detailed objection would be submitted within 14-21 days. This ticks the box for Council to ensure that the objection is received within the notification period but also informally requests an extension to the objection window. This has been a very successful avenue to obtain an extension to the objection timeframe.
An example of our dot point submissions is as follows (you are welcome to adapt this for your own dot point objection):
To whom it may concern,
We are writing to you in regard to the development at INSERT ADDRESS (DA NUMBER).
We have reviewed the plans and documents provided and have put together the following summary of our concerns:
- The proposed development does not fit within the established character of the area and is considered out of context for the locality.
- The proposed development results in a substantial impact on the privacy of the (INSERT DESCRIPTION OF PRIVACY IMPACT ie rear windows of the living room and the swimming pool area)
- The proposed development results in substantial overshadowing of the adjoining building with the shadow diagrams showing that the development doesn’t comply with the development controls.
- The proposed development result in substantial view impacts as a result of the design choice for the development. It is considered that the view impacts are detrimental.
If you would prefer to write to Council to request a formal extension to the objection timeframe then all you need to do is write a simple email to Council and use the following template:
Re: Development application (Insert address of Development) (Insert Development application Number)
Dear (Council Officer’s Name),
We have received a notification letter for (Insert Development application number). We understand that we have been provided a 14 day time frame to submit our submission to the development however we request an additional 21 days to submit our submission. The additional time will provide us the opportunity to sufficiently review the documentation and draft a suitable submission letter that outlines our concerns.
If you can please confirm whether this extension of time is acceptable via email that would be greatly appreciated.
While the above is a formality we also recommend you create a dot point summary of the issues and submit them before the notification deadline with a explanation that a more thorough report will follow.
Step 2. Review the documents
The next step in the process is to review all the documents that are available on the DA tracker (if the Council offers this service). This is often the biggest headache for people with this process as there are often several documents available and they don’t know where to start or what they should be looking for. Below is a brief description of the documents that you might come across with a development application.
The survey plan is generally required by a number of Council for development application. This plan is prepared by a registered surveyor and provides an accurate plan of the property as it currently is. The survey plan will provide lot dimensions, topographical details, details of the heights in AHD (Australian Height Datum) or commonly referred to as Above Sea Level. The survey plan will show where trees are located as well as any easements or restriction on the title. This is a document that can be referred to so that you can get a base level for heights (showing the existing height of the building).
The site plan is the “birds eye view” of the property and highlights what is being proposed on the site. Sometimes this will be highlighted in a different colour, or shading, and sometimes it will have two different site plans showing the existing site and the proposed site. It is usually best looking at the site plan in conjunction with the other plans as well as the Statement of Environmental Effects.
Floor plans are not normally provided on the Council DA Tracker website for privacy and copyright reasons. They will often be available for physical viewing however at the Council administrative building.
Elevations show the sides of the building in relation to the existing and proposed ground levels and is the best way to figure out the intended height of the building. Sometimes there will be two sets of elevations (existing and proposed) and other times the elevations will just highlight what the proposed works is. The elevations will also show window locations and privacy screens. The building will show heights in RL (reduced levels) which are based on the height above sea level (AHD).
Sections show the cross section of the building and is a good way to identify what the actual height of the building will be. It is also a good way to see the height of the floors and basement and identify the excavation of the site.
Shadow diagrams are always shown on June 21st at 9am 12pm and 3pm. Sometimes the architect or draftsman will show different times and dates but June 21st is used as this is the winter solstice and is worst case scenario as it is day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight and the longest shadows. Therefore the shadow diagrams provided with development applications show a worst case scenario so that you and the Council planner will be able to determine the maximum impact of the development.
Statement of environmental effects
The statement of environmental effects is one of the most important documents with a development application and should be the document you read first. If written correctly it should detail what the development application involves and will also identify where the development does comply with the Local Environmental Plan or the Development Control Plan. Sometimes the Statement of environmental effects will also be accompanied with a Clause 4.6 Variation Request which seeks a variation to a development standard (such as height or floor space ratio). If the statement of environmental effects doesn’t contain much information then you can include this in your objection letter and ask for Council to request a more detailed statement.
A bushfire report will provide an assessment of the site in relation to the bushfire risk. The report will assess where the bushfire source is in relation to the proposed building and provide a BAL (Bushfire attack level) for the construction of the building. The report will also provide a APZ around the building that will need to be maintained and free of dense vegetation and trees. This is a report to read through and check whether the development will involve sufficient tree removal.
Stormwater management plan
The stormwater management plan will detail how the site will handle stormwater. This needs to be checked to ensure that the proposed stormwater measures aren’t going to impact your property and to make sure they aren’t forcing an easement upon you to drain their water.
This report will detail the removal of any trees on the site. Read through this to identify which trees are to be removed and if there are any impacts as a result of the tree removal.
Traffic Impact Statement
For larger developments, a traffic impact statement might be provided. This report outlines the impact the development will have on the local traffic network and will detail the truck and vehicle movements for the site. The report might also provide details of internal vehicle movements.
Where there is a potential noise impact of the development on surrounding neighbours the development application might be accompanied by an acoustic report. Acoustic reports are generally not required for residential developments except for circumstances such as inclinations and elevators and are usually provided for developments such as child care centres, boarding houses, industrial buildings, pubs and clubs etc.
Heritage Impact Statement
Heritage impact statements are required for development on heritage items or within heritage conservation areas. These reports must be undertaken by an expert and detail the impact of the development on the heritage value of the property.
Geotechnical reports are required when the land is mapped as being in a landslip area or when the excavation is substantial. These reports are prepared by a geotechnical engineer and will detail the risk of landslip for the development and outline any recommendations.
Step 3. Prepare your submission
Once you have reviewed all the information provided with the development application now it is time to start your objection letter. The best advice I can give is to write the objection letter removing as much emotion as possible. Your point will come across stronger if it is based on fact rather than emotion. In particular do not use phrases such as “how can Council consider a development such as this!”. This was a common phrase for a lot of the objection letters I read while I was a Council officer and unfortunately Council MUST consider every development application that is submitted. Council are not out to get you (generally) but they are only doing their job.
It is often best to prepare you submission with references to relevant planning documents such as the Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan. For example… if you have an issue in regards to the height of the building then find what the allowed maximum height of the building is by looking up the site on the planning portal. The planning portal is a great tool that shows you information from the Local Environmental plan such as the zoning, height, floor space, heritage value as well as information such as bushfire and flooding information.
Structure your submission in headings that relate to the issue ie: Height, Overshadowing, Privacy, view loss etc.
Dot points are completely fine for an objection letter. Don’t feel that you need to provide paragraphs of text to argue your point. A simple dot point pointing out an issue will go a long way in letting the assessing officer know what you have concerns over. Inclusion of photos and diagrams can also go a long way to showing the officer the issue.
We know that emotion is a big part of a submission but please note that most developments eventually get approved in some way as everyone is entitled to develop their land. Your goal through your objection is to minimise the impact that the development has on your property. You want to convince the reader of the objection letter that there is either a better way of achieving the same result (perhaps through mitigation measures such as privacy screens, landscaping or by reducing the roof height) or by pointing out that the development is not suitable for the site.
Please note: If you have a concern regarding VIEW LOSS or PRIVACY then I would highly recommend getting a professional to do the objection report. Both of these concerns are best handled by someone that is experienced in assessment against the Planning Principles and legislation.
PLEASE NOTE: We have had a few clients recently that have mentioned that View Loss is not a valid concern in regard to a development application particularly those that are located on the Northern Beaches or any property with a water view or a view of Sydney Harbour. It should be mentioned that view loss is a major town planning concern in relation to neighbouring developments. The Planning Principle Tenacity V Warringah Council sets out a clear assessment guideline that Council staff use to determine view loss.
The first step is the assessment of views to be affected. Water views are valued more highly than land views. Iconic views (eg of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge or North Head) are valued more highly than views without icons. Whole views are valued more highly than partial views, eg a water view in which the interface between land and water is visible is more valuable than one in which it is obscured.
The second step is to consider from what part of the property the views are obtained. For example the protection of views across side boundaries is more difficult than the protection of views from front and rear boundaries. In addition, whether the view is enjoyed from a standing or sitting position may also be relevant. Sitting views are more difficult to protect than standing views. The expectation to retain side views and sitting views is often unrealistic.
The third step is to assess the extent of the impact. This should be done for the whole of the property, not just for the view that is affected. The impact on views from living areas is more significant than from bedrooms or service areas (though views from kitchens are highly valued because people spend so much time in them). The impact may be assessed quantitatively, but in many cases this can be meaningless. For example, it is unhelpful to say that the view loss is 20% if it includes one of the sails of the Opera House. It is usually more useful to assess the view loss qualitatively as negligible, minor, moderate, severe or devastating.
The fourth step is to assess the reasonableness of the proposal that is causing the impact. A development that complies with all planning controls would be considered more reasonable than one that breaches them. Where an impact on views arises as a result of non-compliance with one or more planning controls, even a moderate impact may be considered unreasonable. With a complying proposal, the question should be asked whether a more skilful design could provide the applicant with the same development potential and amenity and reduce the impact on the views of neighbours. If the answer to that question is no, then the view impact of a complying development would probably be considered acceptable and the view sharing reasonable.
So if your neighbours development is going to block your harbour views then please get in touch with us. We are skilled in view loss assessment and our objections have resulted in refusals and redesigns for developments where there is a view loss issue.
Don’t stress about the notification deadline!
This is something that we will repeat again!
One of the biggest sources of stress with an objection letter is the deadline! When we assist our clients this is often the biggest stress point and it leads to a lot of anxiety and stress. People in this position often fear that their submission will not be considered by Council and their concerns will not be heard. What you need to understand is two things:
1. Council town planners often have 30+ applications on their desks and don’t even pick up the application for a proper look until well and truly after the notification period.
2. All submission MUST be considered with the assessment of the development application. This means you can submit an objection an hour before the development application is determined and it will still need to be considered and addressed by Council’s town planner.
So please don’t stress about the deadline. We have had objections that we have submitted two to three weeks after the notification period ended that have lead to major modifications to the DA as a result of the objection.
PLEASE DO NOT STRESS ABOUT THE NOTIFICATION DEADLINE!
Get an expert to do a detailed submission
We have had a lot of success with our objection letters for our clients! We have helped overturn decisions at Planning Panels and we have been the ones to find the smoking gun on many occasions for our clients! In our experience the best submissions generally come from experienced town planners. We know the case law and precedents to reference. We know the legislation back to front and can pick apart development application thoroughly. Our Principal Planner in particular was given the title of Objection King at his former workplaces for his aptitude to assess a development application and craft a detailed objection letter that, more often than not, resulted in wins for the client. Our objection letters generally start at about $1800 so please feel free to call us and have a chat with one of our planners and then relax in knowing that your objection is in safe hands. Please fill out our form below if you would like a quote for us for the OBJECTION KING TO assist with your objection letter!
So if the whole process is too much then just give us a call and speak with one of our planners about having us provide an objection letter on your behalf.
Send us an email or give us a call on 0432 848 467.
We recently had a review about an objection letter that we did for a client. It was a 9 storey boarding house development that looked like something from a third world country. We received the following review based on the submission we put into Council on behalf of the adjoining neighbour:
“Highly recommend Josh and the team at The Planning Collective,
I needed to put together an objection to a neighbours DA but had no idea where to start and was getting very stressed out about the situation.
After googling and speaking to several consultants, Josh stood out with his calmness, expertise and value for money.
I was not disappointed! Josh took the time upfront to understand my needs, produced an awesome and detailed objection letter and made the submission on my family’s behalf.
He really took the stress and pain out of the whole process!! Long live the Objection King!”
This page has become one of our most visited pages on our site and we get a large number of calls from clients who have followed our steps and want us to help with their objection. Please feel free to reach out just to chat about the objection as we are always happy to have a chat and let you know if your concerns are valid. We are always happy to help our clients with objections no matter how small the development. Everyone needs to live with the development on surrounding properties so give us a call and let us put you at ease.