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The role of an architect in council approvals for multi-dwelling residential

The role of an architect in council approvals for multi-dwelling residential

Ben Pomroy

Ben Pomroy, Principal, Sydney recently spoke to property specialist, Jeff Moxham about the role of an architect in council approvals for multi-dwelling residential.

Types of medium- and high-density developments

As Ben noted in our chat, “We tend to work on large residential projects. The northwest is a big growth area for Sydney, mostly medium- to high-density developments.

“We regard any development with from 60 to 300 apartments per hectare over several apartment blocks as high density. High-density also encompasses a single apartment block with 50 to 100 apartments per hectare.

“For medium density, we’re looking at 30 to 60 dwellings per hectare. They could be strata title or Torrens title, two- to three-storey dwellings that provide compact living. Campus style incorporates several buildings with recreational space and possibly a multi-use component like retail or a community library.

“At Box Hill in Sydney’s northwest, the development is a hybrid model. Owners get apartments with townhouse-style amenities. Some dwellings are ‘dual key’, meaning that the owners can buy a property that will suit their family as it grows but rent half the property until they need it themselves. This makes the homes affordable, and communal space makes the homes liveable.

Approaching Councils

All the above options might seem appealing but first you need to have your development approved by the local Council.

Comments Ben, “For medium-density and high-density developments in local government areas such as Hornsby, this isn’t too difficult. Council is familiar with the concept and we don’t have to educate them so much. For greenfield sites such as those in the northwest, Councils are unfamiliar with the type of housing we’re proposing.

A selection of Rothelowman multi-residential projects.

The Council learning curve

“We’ve found that the first time a Council sees a medium-density or high-density DA, they tend to be overly involved. Too many changes will compromise the development by eroding intended design outcomes and the project as a whole.

Due to the State Government-imposed controls (State Environmental Planning Policies or SEPP) overriding any Council Local Environmental Policy, there is often tension from the get-go.

Councils often resent the controls; however, all Councils need to identify areas where they can achieve the housing targets set by State Government. Sometimes this might require rezoning to achieve goals within LGA. We have early open discussions with Council. Sometimes we need to change a little or a lot but if both sides are reasonable, we can get a good design. The sooner we get Council engaged, the faster the turnaround for the DA approval. Time is money. Council members and staff want to see that they’re approving a high-quality development with a good return on investment, that we know our buyers.

We help Council with the story, answer all their questions and address fears. The Council puts the Development Application on public exhibition. Our job is to help Council respond to community concerns and explain how our development sits within the architectural vernacular of a particular suburb or uses local community needs as key drivers for the style of the development.

We’re helping Councils do their job, not just leaving it all up to them to work out. We take them on a journey and help them get the development across the line with the community.


First published by Jeff Moxham, Principal, Ray White.


While this article highlights our work with council in Sydney, Rothelowman work across the Nation.

Contact Ben Pomroy, Principal – Sydney,   Duncan Betts, Principal – Brisbane,  Kim Lowman, Founding Principal – Melbourne