Town planning

When we take potential clients through the time programme of the architectural process, we are often asked why it takes so long. As we noted in our recent article, The iron triangle, every project we undertake has “unique conditions that demand prototypical responses, the production of which cannot be achieved quickly. Making architecture is like investing all the research and development that goes into designing a new car, but then building it only once.”

This is the broad answer. More specifically, and to assist you in fleshing out your expectations of the architectural process, what follows is a description of the 3rd of the seven key stages we undertake for each of our projects.[1] An archive of all seven stages can be accessed here.

3. Town planning

town planning

In this project stage, we meet with a representative from the town planning department at your local Council for a pre-application meeting. This helps uncover any potential thorny issues in our proposal prior to submission of our application.

Once we’re satisfied that our design is as compliant as we can make it (or not, if you are masochistically interested in pushing the planning envelope), we convert our sketch design drawings into a package ready for submission. This involves tweaking the whole set to alter their main purpose from communicating our design to you, to demonstrating compliance with town planning regulations. We produce additional drawings like a site analysis, design response and shadow diagrams, and prepare a town planning report that assesses our design against the relevant zoning and overlay requirements.

Once we submit, we wait. Council will assign our application to a town planner, who will review it and request additional information if necessary. She will then arrange an advertising period where neighbours are able to review the proposal, will consider any objections received and prepare her report. Depending on the number of objections, either the planning coordinator or a full sitting of Council will consider the report and decide the project’s fate.

This is a highly variable stage of the project. Simple applications can fly through Council in a matter of weeks, while those that receive significant objections can get bogged down in months of bureaucracy. The worst case scenario is that the project will wind up at VCAT, which can take the better part of a year and cost many thousands of dollars in legal and consulting fees. Fortunately, most single houses do not go down this path. These will receive planning approval within the maximum 3 month period allotted to Council to assess applications.

Stage duration = 3 – 12 months
Architect’s time = 40 – 60 hours (excluding VCAT hearings)
Specialist consultants = Town planning consultant and lawyer (for VCAT hearings only)
Documentation = Town planning drawing set and report
Scale of drawings = 1:100
Quantity = 12x A3 drawings + 10x A4 report pages

farmer house town planning


  1. Disclaimer: time allowances are estimates only and will vary depending on project size and complexity.

Image credit:

  1. Town planning. Author’s own image.
  2. Farmer House town planning. Author’s own image, see here for further details.

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