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Victoria’s planning system, mired in sluggish bureaucracy, exacts a hefty toll on property development.

Photograph courtesy of Cera Stribley - Chris Stribley (left), Domenic Cerantonio (right)

The elongated planning phase often leaves projects obsolete by the time permits are secured, and compelling costly revisions. Increasingly we are finding a staggering number of projects necessitate such changes, due to shifts in the market since the site was purchased. With projects dragging out, the insidious “project fatigue” sets in amongst clients and consultants – even Planners – compromising the very essence of quality. This isn’t just a minor inconvenience; it’s a seismic shift in the industry landscape.

The structural fallout is undeniable. At Cera Stribley, our interstate offices operate in two distinct manners, shaped by the planning system’s pace. In Queensland, streamlined planning schemes foster an efficient, end-to-end project group, in which conception, design, delivery, and construction form a cohesive unit. The result? A holistic design process, continuity of knowledge and personnel, heightened job satisfaction, and ultimately better project outcomes.

Conversely, in Victoria, a convoluted planning scheme has created a need for a front-end Design team dedicated to nurturing projects through Town Planning and all the associated authorities. By the time a permit is granted, the project requires a different type of architect; one that specialises in construction documentation and delivery, rather than winning council’s approval. At this stage, there is a handover period in which the ‘Design’ and ‘Delivery’ teams overlap before the project is carried through to completion by the Delivery team. Compared to the cohesive approach enabled in the Queensland context, this ‘waterfall’ approach is suboptimal, to say the least.

What’s more, the protracted Planning process forces developers to cut upfront expenses. Consequently, critical consultant feedback is deferred until permits are in hand. The consequences reverberate, distorting crucial project elements and stifling creativity within a rigid framework.

Resource management becomes an intricate dance, akin to moving chess pieces on a constantly shifting board. With no clear timelines or outcome certainty, consultants are perpetually shuffling personnel, seeking temporary fill-in jobs or delaying new projects. This turmoil exacts a heavy price, not just in financial terms but also in stymying progress and creativity.

This less-than-ideal process, symptomatic of Victoria’s planning system, leads to loss of project specific knowledge, surplus overheads, reduced professional gratification, more specialised staff, and potentially diluted buildings. The flow-on is to consultants’ bottom lines, developer profits, cost of housing, and the legacy of the buildings we are leaving.

In this landscape of uncertainty, change beckons as an urgent necessity. Developers, consultants, and the industry at large await a streamlined planning system, one that promotes efficiency, creativity, and a clear path forward.

Article featured in The Monark Minute and written by Chris Stribley, Co-Founder and Managing Principal, Cera Stribley,