18 Sep Town Planning Research Tools
Today I wanted to share with you some tips and tools and that I regularly use when researching property for my clients and myself.
What Zone Is It?
The first thing I always check is the planning controls. There are a couple of easy ways to do this online:
There is the state government’s mapping tool called VicPlan . You can find out the Zone and Overlay details of any property. You can also create a planning property report and look up the title details as well as explore other mapping information such as bushfire and heritage areas.
Another option is a website called Landchecker. They have a subscription based model, but there is some information that is currently available without signing up to a paid service. You can find out the Zone and Overlay details of any property, same as with VicPlan. However, they also have some additional features which are handy. It is easy to click directly to the Zone and Overlay information, which saves having to go to the Council Planning Scheme or creating a property report. They also have approximate size and dimension information for the property (though this is just an estimate only and should be checked). Another feature that has been added is information for previous planning applications. You can get an idea if there is history on the site, as well as get an overview of planning permit activity in an area. This is useful, but as they need to rely on the information that is made public from the local councils, this is in no way a complete history of planning applications. The website also pulls in data on current properties for sale as well, so you can see listed properties in the area as well.
Virtual Site Check
Once I understand the planning controls I like to look at an aerial photograph of the site. I typically use a subscription service like Nearmap as this gives me access to recent photographs, however often the information that you can see on Google Maps is sufficient. The streetview feature in Google Maps is also really handy to allow you to “walk” around the area. The information on Google Maps is dated, so you can see how recent it is which is good.
Using my aerial photographs I can do approximate measurements. I can measure the distance to features of the area or the width of a setback on site, for example. I can also look at the Melways Map to see what facilities or other uses are located nearby.
Planning Permit History
Another thing that I often check is if there is any planning permit history.
As I mentioned above, sometimes you can see information about this on the Landchecker website, but this is really just a guide on planning history that may have occurred.
To get a more complete picture to town planning permit history the best thing would be to contact the local council directly and speak with the planning department. However, this is time consuming and not all councils will be available or willing to handle your information request in a timely manner. To assist with these problems many councils now have a planning register available on their website.
All councils are required to keep a register of planning applications, unfortunately this can still be in the form of a physical register so not all councils have one online yet. For the councils that do have an online planning register it can be difficult to find where it is. I have found that the best way is to do a search for “planning register” on their website. If they do have an online register it should come up near the top of the results.
Having an online planning register allows people to search up previous planning applications themselves, which also frees up council time. Depending on when the council started the online register all historical information may not be available, but usually at least the last 15 years or so is available, which can give you a good picture of the area. This means that you can research on the planning history for specific site or an area in your own time.
How To Use The Tools
I have put this research to practice many times when investigating potential sites for clients. Just the other day I was able to identify that a property that was currently being advertised as having potential for three double storey townhouses and had a current planning application had a murky past. A review of planning history for the site identified that a planning permit for three dwellings had been refused twice and that the new planning application had not been progressed significantly yet. This isn’t to say that the property is not capable of development, but before considering it further I would want to know more about the past refusals and how the new application was different. What the research did was provide information and negotiation leverage for my client if they decided to consider this property further.
These are some of tools that we use daily when considering properties, responding to clients and researching sites for our Expert Planning Advice service. If you need some help with property research we are here to help!