Insights from RG Strategic

The challenge of interpreting uses and gross floor area in Town Planning Assessment.

The challenge of interpreting uses and gross floor area in Town Planning Assessment.


Posted June 25, 2020
Ramblings, Town Planning

Our current Town Planning challenge is considering industrial uses and in particular warehousing in wholesaling of bulk food, cleaning and packaging products.

To keep it simple – 1,400m² warehouse, 8m high, with floor to ceiling racks full of toilet paper, bags of rice, flour, sauces etc… you get the picture.

Straight forward maths

Looking at the warehouse you could say with the provision of floor to 7m high ceiling racks, as most of these style of warehouses operate, would give you a storage volume of 9,800m³. Straight forward maths. Of course to get an accurate figure you would take out the access aisles etc, but for this exercise let’s not overcomplicate it.

The challenge

The challenge now arrives when it is decided to install, within the existing building, a 400m² cold room which is 3m high, for dairy products, seafood, meat and vegetables. On top of the cold room, as it doesn’t reach to the 8m ceiling height of the warehouse, a mezzanine is installed to add more storage for exactly the same products in the rest of the warehouse, cleaning products, packaging etc.

In a volume sense, we still have the theoretical 9,800m³ of storage… but the mezzanine is counted as an additional 400m² of gross floor area/use area (depending on how the planning scheme defines). This has the roll-on effect of requiring the applicant (client) to provide an additional four car parking spaces so you meet the Code Probable Solution requirement (cause god knows no one nowadays looks at the Specific Outcome in the left column) and payment of Infrastructure Charges of $20k+.

Nothing changes… but…

From the outside of the building, nothing changes. Internally it is simply a reconfiguring in the manner in which space is used for this particular activity of warehousing… but depending on the mindset and interpretation of the assessment officer, the outcome can be wide and varied.

No flexibility

The notion of a performance-based planning scheme and framework, paired with reasonable and relevant conditions pertinent to the approval and use being sought, just shouldn’t be that hard. But we are told that “we don’t meet the Code’s probable solutions”, “we have standard conditions to impose” and “what if the use or activity changes?”

I simply say, what if we meet the Specific Outcomes, what if the conditions are drafted specific to the application lodged and what if the use never changes? But then I also see the role of a Planning Scheme to be a document enabling appropriate development to occur in appropriate locations.

I also believe in unicorns and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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