Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How long does it take to get a planning permit?

Allow around 6-8 months in most cases from start to finish. Where a project is complex, controversial or there are a lot of objections received, it may take an addition 3-4 months to work through. When an application is refused or appealed to VCAT the time to refer the matter may take 6-8 months.

Q. Am I guaranteed a permit at the end of this process?

Unfortunately no, we cannot guarantee a permit, however we do provide you with the education and information for you to make an informed judgment on what you wish to put forward as a proposed development. We point out the strengths and weaknesses, along with what our expected position or alternatives might be if council comes back with expected issues. This is all done at the commencement of the application, and we seldomly get expected negative issues that we had not considered in the initial phase. We have an excellent track record, providing around 40-60 applications per year, with very few refusals.

Q. How large a unit/apartment/townhouse can I build?

Most applications follow a formula where you outline the areas needed in order of driveway and turning circles, open space and required setbacks, then whatever is left over in area is possible building footprint. We can provide an obligation free site feasibility study for a low cost that will allow you to see how the design could or should be laid out on the site. With this information you can then source a rough construction cost along with a rough sale price, and make an informed decision on the viability of the project. You should also consider that bigger does not always represent a better financial return, but does increase the project price, and risks associated with a proposal.

Q. What geographical areas do you work in?

We work across Victoria and deal with a lot of different councils. With the information available online these days, we can look at the surrounding area, investigate council requirements look at streetscapes and typical development without leaving the office, which means you no longer need to engage a consultant close to either yourself or the proposed site. We still visit all of our sites and collect additional information, measurements and photos, however we can do this during the process of design.

Q. I have purchased a property, it hasn’t settled yet, can I put in an application?

Yes, however you require permission from the current owner, and you are taking the additional risk that if there is an issue with settlement that you have engaged this office and other contractors to do work. However the interest saved by a long settlement and the application proceeding early, particularly with a vacant or tenant free site can be substantial.

Q. When should I get a quote from my builder?

This is not an easy question to answer. On one hand, as a client you want to put together all the costs associated with the development to assist you with the development plan. From the builders’ perspective, if there is any doubt, they will either remove an item from a quote, or usually put in a generous amount to cover these costs. At the end, you could pay a substantial amount more to cover the unknowns for the builder. We recommend getting the planning permit, address the conditions, get the building permit, engineering, soil report, energy report and at least a general specification so that you can provide this to a few alternative builders to get a competitive quote you can compare apples for apples. We can provide a feasibility study and sit down and discuss likely typical costings to ensure a proposal viable prior to commencing. Click here to get a call back or request a feasibility report.

We can assist you with this complete process, and have a few builders we deal with on a regular basis that may be keen to provide a quotation.

Q. I have used another designer and they took nearly two years, the application went to VCAT, and was refused, can you help?

Yes, we can have a look at the application that was put forward, the comments from objectors, council and VCAT and see if we think we can address the design issues raised. We will not take on a project that we feel has a low chance or if the client has unrealistic expectations – or at least warn them as such. We have seen a few applications in the past with critical issues that appear as obvious design restraints that we know council will not support prior to submission. All parties need to be comfortable with design and chances prior to proceeding otherwise you tend to throw good money after bad, which is not good for our clients or our reputation.

Q. How often do you get an application refused at council or VCAT?

Andrew Ferris Drafting and Design P/L prepare around 60 applications per year. In a typical year we might have 3-4 end up at council meetings and/or objector meetings. Of those we tend to get 1-2 over the line, with council support. We might be left with 1-2 that then are referred to VCAT, either with council support but objectors, or with no council support and objectors. Of those, we then might have a 60% chance at VCAT depending on the issues at hand. We work hard to keep particularly smaller unit or townhouse developments out of VCAT, and try to address any issues with objectors or council prior to the officers report being written.

Q. Another design firm has quoted for the planning report to be prepared by a planner, or has itemised this as an exclusion, why don’t you use a planner?

We provide all of our own planning reports and include our meetings and negotiations within our pricing structure. This can save our client thousands of dollars in consultant fees. We get our clients to engage a professional planner when all avenues are essentially exhausted and the application is looking at a refusal. We attempt to bring in a planner for a mediation in some cases, or where a refusal is given, prepare the VCAT representation and application. Due to the low ratio of occurring, this is not essential on all applications. On some larger or more complex applications we recommend a planner, but can discuss this in our first meeting.

Q. Are you registered and insured?

Yes , we have public liability insurance and are registered and carry insurance with the Victorian Building Authority as a “Design Practitioner Architectural Draftsman” and the Queensland Building and Construction Commission “Building Design – open”. Of huge concern, is that within Victoria, you do not have to be registered to provide planning applications. This means there are a large number of unqualified and unregistered operators. Please ask for their DPAD or Architects registration number if considering another firm!

Q. What is the difference between a building designer and Architect?

This is a contentious issue, with no clear answer. The requirements of registration and qualification differ from state to state so you would receive a different answer depending on where you are located. A building designer in Victoria and Queensland (open), can design any building, of any size and level. Some architects become more involved with the building stage, transitioning into project management, which is uncommon for building designers. We believe our team can provide a level of service and exceed design and functionality expectations for any project we would involve ourselves with.

Q. Do you do larger developments?

A. Yes, we have worked on retirement or holiday villages, or subdivision sites that may have anywhere up to 200 dwellings +. Please contact this office for a unique pricing structure and direction as this style of application is handled differently on many levels. Larger developments are usually assessed under a separate Clause 56 at council, and have unique seperate issues such as sewer and stormwater

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