By Mark Waldon, Director, St-Wise 
Engaging a Town Planner when building or making alterations to a residential, commercial or industrial property will save you time and often money.  Asking for assistance from a Town Planner after Council has already found faults with your application may be way too late.
One: Education and experience
A Town Planner has the knowledge and experience to help turn great ideas into great results. Because town planning is their passion, and they are practising their skills every day, they know how to get the best results in the most expeditious way. They will listen and provide expert advice while looking for the most efficient way of getting your application approved.
Let the professionals make your life easier and take the stress out of the Town Planning process.
Two: Professional networking
A very important part of professional networking is building relationships and trust. Town Planners are in regular contact with Council officers so they know their language, and they understand the constraints of local government.
It can be difficult talking with the right person at the right time when navigating an application through Council. It is much more efficient (for you and for Council) to have one person that understands the lingo (a town planner) to do the negotiating on your behalf. The Town Planner is best placed to know the right time to contact Council and negotiate through the statutory response timelines set by State Government.
Professional networking is also about private Town Planners comparing notes with each other, which helps keep them up to date on matters (local and state wide) that affect development.
Three: Negotiation skills
During the town planning application process, or even going through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), there will almost certainly be a time where compromise and negotiation is necessary. It is always best to have a professional on board to do the negotiation for you.
As the Town Planner is not emotionally invested, they can be objective. They will use their expertise and professionalism to present your proposal in the best light.
Four: Paperwork
Whether it’s applying to Council for a new Town Planning application, a review at VCAT, or applying for a Metropolitan Planning Levy, they all require the right paperwork. It is difficult for the lay-person to navigate through complicated websites and verify the correct fees to pay. It simply isn’t that straight forward, so let a Town Planner ease the burden as part of their service.
In today’s busy lifestyles, time is too precious to waste on paperwork!
Five: $$$ value
The benefits of engaging a town planner will almost always outweigh the money spent.
When it comes to VCAT, there is no doubt that it is imperative that a Town Planner is there as the applicant’s representative, but what about submitting an application to Council? Engaging a Town Planner at the beginning of the application process means that they can also have input into the design to ensure it meets local policies and ResCode standards. It is much harder to turn around a negative disposition to an application by Council, where the Town Planner has not been involved from the start.
It’s about expertise, attention to detail and time – these three things are invaluable when it comes to developing.
Six: Quality
If you want the best chance of your Town Planning application succeeding at Council then you need to provide the right information – with the presentation Councils need. This will save time, money and create less hassles through the application process.
A Town Planner can provide a detailed report demonstrating how a development proposal meets the planning scheme requirements. The better the quality of this report (and the quality of plans provided) the more favourable Council will be towards the application.
When it comes to VCAT matter there is no doubt that a specialist Town Planner (or in more difficult cases – a planning solicitor) should be engaged. Not only can they present your case professionally but they also have the capacity to research past decisions that may provide additional information and inform the chairperson’s thinking.
Seven: Because it is the smart thing to do
Quite simply, if you are planning to do any sort of development, then it’s going to cost you a lot of money. Don’t try and save money by using cheap professional services. This includes the people preparing plans, traffic engineers, landscape architects and surveyors. And of course, the town planner you use to oversee the process. Save money, time and energy by using one.