As part of our property development series, we’re excited to welcome a few guest hosts to share their collective wisdom to help achieve your development goals [If you haven’t already, read part 1, assembling the right property development team, and part 2, the property development process, of our series].

This blog is all about town planning, so we’ve invited Christina Hill, Principal Planner at Bennett and Bennett to share her planning advice for a development site. [For more information on Bennett and Bennett you can view their website here]

Our legal team has worked with Christina, an extremely knowledgeable town planner, on a range of matters. If you’re looking at a potential development, she is well-informed on property market trends and planning schemes and applies her knowledge to identify developable sites and see the development all the way through from plan to seal.


planning advice when looking for a development site

We all know the aim of the developer game is to turn a profit and to choose a profitable project, the risks must be weighed up to determine if the investment will pay off.

Thorough research and town planning advice is paramount in this process, so the following tips should help developers start in the right direction.


types of development

The goal is to ensure your development is successful, so understanding market trends and demands will provide greater certainty that the final product will be successful. First, identify your target market and the type of development needed to meet that need.

To address the housing crisis, target residential land large enough to subdivide or to build townhouses and apartments. If your focus is on non-residential uses like retail, commercial or industrial businesses, understand the competition in the area and analyse population statistics to determine if there is a demand or future in the catchment.


understand costs and feasibility

Before committing financially, it is important to understand the costs, planning rules and the overall development process. Be informed of the development costs and retain assets where possible.

The development process is multifaceted. Firstly, you collaborate with your consultants to determine a suitable development, then submit an application to the planning authority for approval. There are fees for not only the the conceptual design, application preparation and lodgment, but also the assessment process, compliance and registration as well. This is not an exhaustive list and the experience of your consultants will best inform the feasibility of your project.

It is recommended to have a team of reliable and experienced consultants, comprising a town planner, civil engineer and architect for example, to provide due diligence advice. Always make sure you have a cooling-off period on contracts to enable time to get professional advice before committing to site.

Retaining assets like a house can save on costs unless the development potential of the premises is restricted due to the location of that asset.

Also be aware that seeking a development approval from Council is only one facet of the development process – there is also the construction phase, sales and marketing and you will need the right people on your team to guide you on these areas. Early engagement to understand these facets is critical to the success of your project.


find suitable land

With an understanding of the market trends and costs involved, it is time to look for suitable land. In the ideal world you already own land able to be developed. This eliminates the competition of other developers and can reduce costs.

If you don’t live in an ideal work then it’s time to engage a buyer’s agent, scroll through real estate pages or knock on doors of unadvertised land. This is one of the hardest parts of the development process. Once you find a site/s, seek initial advice from your consultant team on its suitability before going any further. The more you do this, the more you will understand what a good site is.


when looking for a development site consider the following key points:


  • zone

The State and Local Governments identify zones for land use. Higher densities for housing are preferred in areas where higher amenity is established or planned for. These areas are generally mapped in high, medium, low-medium density residential zones around major centers and transport nodes and corridors. Other types of development, for employment and education, are also focused in these areas.

Whilst demand and land values are higher in these areas, there may be less risk. Cheaper land available further from developed areas may carry a high risk due to zoning and lack of services. It is important to understand land supply and market trends which may result in the rezoning of land to accommodate population growth.


  • availability of services

Identify existing infrastructure and confirm capacity for your proposal. Most developments will require connections to sewer, water supply, stormwater, electricity, and telecommunications. These services may be readily available in established urban areas but less so on the outskirts of town or non-existent in regional or rural areas.

It is relatively easy to identify the location of existing infrastructure, but engineering advice is recommended to confirm if capacities are suitable for the proposal and the costs associated with upgrading or extending infrastructure if required.


  • appropriate access

Identify vehicular access to and from the property and confirm if it is suitable. Does it involve an access over neighbouring land?  Look out for easements, access restriction strips, flooding, major roads where limitations for access may occur.


  • suitable area, shape and slope

Consider if the land is suitable for the intended development. Planning authorities will identify minimum lot sizes for zones, setbacks, parking rates, private open space and deep planting requirements for instance. Non-compliance with too many of these requirements may result in a refusal unless substantial amenity is provided and there are negligible impacts on the surrounding area. Properties irregular in shape or containing steep slopes may be more difficult to develop. Keep in mind retaining walls over 1 metre high must be engineered and extensive retaining is expensive.


  • easements

Understand the requirements for easements burdening the land. Easements grant others the right to use your land for access, drainage or services. As others have interests in the land, this may restrict the development potential, particularly if consent is not provided.


  • hazards

Understand the risk of natural hazards on your property. State and Council mapping is extensive and can identify land susceptible to hazards such as flooding, bushfire, landslide, storm tide and coastal erosion. Specialist advice is required to determine the affected area and risk to development.


  • biodiversity

Identify if matters of environmental significance impact the property. State and Council mapping covers areas of vegetation which may contain biodiversity and habitat values. Specialist advice is required to determine the extent of significance and if development is prohibited. Be careful, if a site is mapped for biodiversity values, but doesn’t appear to have ecological values, Council and or the State may still require it to be protected if it has higher strategic corridor values.  If you are able to clear protected vegetation, you may have to pay offsets which is another cost to be aware of.


  • drainage

Confirm the lawful point of discharge for stormwater runoff. Intensifying the use of a premises, especially hard surfaces, may result in increased stormwater runoff which may impact downhill properties. The ideal situation is for the site to slope to the road, to a mapped waterway corridor or have direct access to stormwater pipes. If the site slopes towards neighbours, their consent and easements across their land to the lawful point of discharge may be required. If their consent is not forthcoming there is a legal avenue to seek it. Involving neighbours can add costs especially if you need to compensate them. Alternatively, it may be possible to fill the site so the developed area slopes towards the road.

Planning authorities may also require an easement for drainage pipes on your property to cater for the development on adjoining lots in the future. This is generally required for applications where surrounding land has development potential and slopes downhill towards your property.


  • titling structure

Speak to a town planner about alternate titling strategies which may provide a better development outcome, including higher densities, improved access and stormwater capacities? Seeking expert advice can help navigate available options and implement the best arrangements.



In many cases a proposal does not comply with all of the requirements of a planning framework. Within reason a town planner can explain the merits of the proposal and justify why it should be approved on reasonable and relevant grounds.

With these tips in mind, the next development site should be right around the corner!


need help?

If you are interested in searching for a development site or obtaining planning advice on your proposed development, you can reach Christina by calling the Brisbane office of Bennett and Bennett on 07 5631 8000 or by sending an email to .

Bennett and Bennett are happy to assist and guide you in your development journey.



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general advice disclaimer

The information provided on this blog has been provided by Bennett and Bennett and is general advice only and does not constitute any type of advice that is specific to your individual circumstances.  We endeavour to ensure that the information provided is accurate however business Depot Legal cannot warrant the accuracy of information provided by third parties in areas that we do not provide advice. Please consult with an appropriate professional before making any decision.