If you propose a development on your land, most local Councils will require a landscape plan to be submitted as part of the development application (DA) documentation.
A good DA landscape plan will not only propose well-considered new landscape treatments for the grounds of a property, but also record existing mature specimens and any other plantings deemed worthy of retention. The incorporation of recommendations for existing plantings on a site, at DA stage, is important. It shows Council and/or the private certifier that building works have not been proposed in isolation of their surrounds. It also shows that an owner or developer understands the intent of guidelines in Council local environmental plans (LEPs) and development control plans (DCPs), as well as the aim of a Council landscape code and tree preservation order.
When a DA is approved, it will normally come with a series of conditions of consent – some of which will relate to landscape matters of the site. A DA landscape plan (and for that matter the surveyor’s and architect’s plans) needs to show mature plantings that exist on an allotment. Even if such plans didn’t, Council’s consent document would still list and provide restrictions / approvals for such specimens. Key specimens will be shown in Council tables under such headings as ‘plants to be retained’, ‘plants which can be transplanted’ and ‘plants which can be removed’. These determinations are hopefully in accordance with suggestions on the landscape plan.
Depending on the size, location or significance of a specimen on or abutting a development site, Council may put a monetary bond on a certain planting – which is held until the occupational certificate phase of the development. This is basically done to incentivise a property developer to not accidentally back a bulldozer into some greenery they would prefer wasn’t there.
Even if bonds are not put on individual specimens in a DA approval and a property owner doesn’t risk financial loss through plant removal, they remain bound by the conditions of a local council’s tree preservation order. Lack of adherence to tree preservation orders doesn’t make certifiers or Councils particularly happy and can cause complications at the construction certificate (CC) phase.
Often, a revised landscape plan is required to be submitted at the CC approval stage – one that takes into account building approval matters and any site issues where more resolution is sought by the approval authority. If mature specimens, which were present on site at the DA stage, have been removed by the property owner between DA and CC, specific points in the conditions of consent document will be unable to be met.
Such an occurrence can jeopardise the ‘smooth’ progress of documentation at the CC stage. The certifying authority could insist that mature specimens removed from the site without approval be replaced – which is often a hugely costly undertaking.
So, if you have a long delay between your DA and CC stages, beware using a scorched-earth policy with the grounds of your site. If you do propose garden changes in this intervening period, remember that you had a landscape plan drawn at DA stage. It was hopefully a scheme you were happy with at the time it was prepared, so try to abide by the principles of that design. Aesthetics aside, sticking to the intent of the DA landscape design in any pre CC-stage garden redevelopment will result in fewer complications when that stage comes around.
A garden – pre development application (DA) submission
The same garden – pre construction certificate (CC) submission, the owners having failed to follow the landscape plan as proposed in the DA. The obvious major removal works were done between DA and CC (in this case a five year period). The total remake included the unapproved removal of several stately mature specimens, originally proposed for retention and listed as such in the conditions of consent. The client also failed to recognise that the landscape plan prepared for them at DA stage was an integral part of the planning for their site and not merely a box-ticking exercise.