Anyone can opt to do the planning process, you don’t have to engage a Town Planner. However, what you will find after reading this article and listening to our podcast segment related to the topic, that it’s a fairly complicated process and can be a very time consuming thus costly process if you’ve never trodden the path before.
To put it simply there are 4 main stages of getting planning approval and ultimately your liquor licence to legally produce and sell alcohol at your brewery’s site, and they are:
- CONCEPT/SITE SELECTION
- DEVELOPMENT CONSENT
- LIQUOR LICENSING APPROVAL
CONCEPT & SITE SELECTION
To go to a Town Planner with a site or location first, might be jumping a step ahead. Ideally they like it when brewers go to them in the beginning with a concept of what they want. So this is essentially the very first step in the whole planning process and that is understanding what type of brewery you are looking to open.
If you are looking to be a brewery production facility that has an ancillary tasting bar then you are going to focus primarily on industrial leaning zonings. If it is a brewery that is a Brewpub first and foremost, and the brewing is ancillary to the principal purpose of the pub, then you will be looking for more commercial type zonings.
The issue many brewery owners find is that you can’t have it both ways. If it is going to be a pub it’s not going to be in an industrial area, that’s not going to sit well with local council. And similarly, if it is a Production facility with more of an industrial business activity that won’t fly either with council as well as with your neighbours if it’s in a town centre, commercial type precinct.
Engaging a town planner early on in the piece will give the aspiring brewery owner piece of mind before fully committing to a site and exploring whether or not this site is feasible for what they want to do at the premises now or into the future, as well as clearly outlining if there will be any potential growing pains for the brewery if success follows.
The quicker you get planning and licensing approval, the more money you will save in the long run, having to prepare less reports to convince council that what you are planning to do at the site is appropriate. An example could be holding costs with a tenant’s lease if not being able to negotiate a sufficient rent-free period until approval given or even worse that lease falling over and being subject to costly penalties. A lot of those time attributed costs and direct costs associated with consultants can be minimised going through a town planner and getting you opened up sooner rather than later.
Once the concept has been established, then assistance and guidance is given by at Town Planner on looking at sites within a particular location. This might come in the form of a map showing what these zoning areas are for them to target. This potential site locations will then be fed back through to the Town planner to either rule out for one reason or another. These sites might be constrained or impacted in some way such as being subject to planning provisions that will prevent them from what they are wanting to do.
Once the site has been decided upon and there is more confidence that it will deliver the brewery you are intending to set up, then you can start putting everything behind that site in terms of preparation of plans and documents and identifying whether it is a Development Application (DA) lodgement with your Local Council or some other planning pathway that might be available. This is quite important to know, because it is not every circumstance where a DA will absolutely be necessary, as there are other ways to avoid obtaining council consent and getting consent through private certifiers, if your property ticks all the boxes for the type of brewery that you wish to establish. This is called a Complying Development Consent (CDC) which is a fast-track planning approval system to perhaps gain consent for what you want to do.
The planning system does differ from state to state in Australia. The principles of planning are still the same in regards to industrial, commercial and residential zoning and the various impacts on these zonings.
This is why our first step ‘Site Selection’ is so important because we’ve got to find a site that ticks all the boxes of what you want to do in regard to zoning and planning controls, you have to look at each individual site on its merits, asking questions like does the site provide sufficient parking, does it impact on my neighbours in regards to noise, or emissions etc. So you essentially you need to test the sensitivity of the adjoining properties to each of those things. If you are confident that you are proposing an appropriate land use for a site, and that it isn’t going to contravene any of the planning provisions and isn’t going to result in an undue impact on neighbours then it is safe to say we can move past that step into preparing what is necessary for what is required for Development consent.
If that site you have selected already has a physical building on it and you only need to carry out internal modifications, then the documentation that you may need to prepare for Development consent will be a lot less than someone who has a greenfield site looking to erect a new building or someone who is carrying out significant alterations in additions to their building to accommodate their brewery. In those circumstances they are going to need surveys of the land, drafting of plans by an architect or a drafter at the least and they are most likely going to need advice from BCA (Building Codes of Australia) consultants, which is a set of guidelines which govern things like toilet facilities, food facilities, doorway whips, access for people with disabilities, entry/exit egress from the building.
So there is a lot that needs to be considered and a lot of potential hidden costs, in regards to trying to retrofit old buildings to comply with new modern day building standards, which is what needs to occur when you are moving into an building and use it for a new purpose. You may need the advice of a Traffic & Parking engineer if the parking provision is not sufficient to comply with councils planning controls. You often need acoustic assessments if patron noise from the activity of the premises is going to impact on nearby residential or other types of sensitive receivers in the area. If the site needs landscaping, you may need to hire a landscape architect and these are all things that council needs for minimum documentation for a Development application. That documentation carries with it significant costs, that’s why it’s so important early in the piece with your site selection process that you are selecting a site that’s not going to put you into too much debt with commitments of the various types of work that needs to be done to that building to make it fit for purpose for a brewery.
Once you’ve got all that documentation together, it’s about handing it over to council and seeking their development consent. Along with the assessment of a Development Consent application, comes the neighbour notification which nearby businesses and residents get to object to if they have any problems with what you are proposing. This can include having to provide additional information to satisfy concerns that neighbours or council might have. But the end result hopefully is a determination which is an approval for your brewery and a determination for which your brewery which carries with it a list of consent conditions for which your brewery has to operate.
Now a town planner will help navigate that whole process to make sure that any conditions that council impose on your DA aren’t onerous and that don’t prevent or limit you in a way from carrying out the commercial aspects of your business compared to what you had intended onsite from the beginning. To a degree a lot of that should be known if you have picked the right site. An example might be, if you have picked the wrong site and you might get that far down the track and you find that council has imposed a noise condition on you or imposed some hours of operation condition on you which means you can only operate at certain times or are subject to certain noise constraints which might be very hard to achieve because you’ve picked a site too close to residents or too close to nearby businesses that impact them at certain times of the day, such as a TAFE where students are studying of an evening and the noise of your brewery might impact that.
We’ve jumped back a bit there, and gong further into the topic of site selection, but it’s important to point out and reiterate in regard to getting Development Consent, because it is this part of the process that will most commonly help you with having a nice clean, smooth process of consent, and one that doesn’t have you trying to operate a brewery with one arm tied behind your back.
CONSTRUCTON & OCCUPANCY
At that point in time, in NSW at least, the certification of that construction process which will include the critical stage inspections that occur at different stages of the fit out is typically managed by the private certifier, that means you can avoid going back to council at that point, and once construction has finished there’s the issuing of an Occupation Certificate (NSW). It has different names in different states, which basically says that everything has been finished and built, everything has been built according to the National Codes and Australia Standards and its consistent with the original DA and it’s ok to open up your doors for trading.
LIQUOR LICENSING APPROVAL
The other step of the process is the licensing approval. This is one part of the process that can be done concurrently with the DA process, but you cannot be issued Licensing Approval until you have been given Development Consent by council. Once that Development consent comes from Local Council it opens the door for the licensing authority to issue a licence to enable you to produce and sell alcohol from the premises. That process typically takes 120 days, but there is usually a backlog, but they have a statutory period which they try to adhere to and that is 120 days. But you can lodge that concurrently with your application for Development consent, but you cannot get your liquor licence until you have got Development consent.
A word of advice from Ben at CPS Planning is to hold off on applying for your Liquor Licence until you have a feel from council that they are going to support your DA and when you have got that confidence that you are on track for approval, you lodge that application with your state regulator for your liquor licensing.
To get more information on the Licensing element, listen to our episode with Russell Steele from RSA Liquor Professionals
EXPECTED TOWN PLANNER COSTS
These are ballpark figures and may only be relevant to what Ben from CPS Planning stated on our podcast episode, so do not treat them as Gospel.
For Stage 1 involving Site Selection (based off 2 – 3 sites), a Town Planner may have an upper limit or envisage fee between $3,000 - $4,000, which will involve site canvassing, reviewing planning controls, onsite inspection, including building surrounds and site context, having initial discussions with Local Council, and providing good preliminary assessment that the site is good or not feasible to go ahead. This cost will vary depending on how many sites are requested to investigate.
For Stage 2, the Development Consent fee depends on the size of the brewery, expected patron size, existing site vs greenfield site, amount of modifications required etc. This figure could range between $5,000 - $10,000.
In regards to expected timeframes for a brewery to receive Development Consent from date of lodgement can be quite a large degree of variance and the reasons for this can be the differing situation of breweries looking at doing a new build as opposed to those just looking at doing an internal fit out of an existing building in a relevant zoning use for a brewery, as well as those that are looking at trying to receive Development Consent for an area that doesn’t traditionally allow for the stated purpose of use in that zone.
In Ben’s experience, the quickest DA application he has seen was 6 months from point of preparing the DA, having identifying site to getting the Occupying Certificate and Liquor Licence to operate. The Longest is 18 months but there has been many stories of others across the industry that have taken longer.
It is safe to say, that any site will have something associated with it that you will need to overcome. There is no such thing as a perfect or ‘Vanilla’ site, each having its own inherent challenges and constraints. But engaging a Town Planner at the concept and site selection stage will help you map out what those constraints potentially could be, so you know what expected costs you are in for upfront before fully committing to the site for a DA.
The most overlooked part in the DA process, is Site Selection. If you have got the right site everything falls into place. So, you might go out to look at your ideal building, and you might think wow look as these high ceilings, large floor space, old architectural features, it’s going to make a fantastic brewery, and you can picture your bar over here, brew house over there, beer garden over there. But what you will find is, you are only focusing on the internal features of the building and not necessarily looking at what is around you and that is essentially even more important because what council are looking at is what kind of impact are you going to have on your surrounds, and so you need to get a really good understanding of what surrounds you, not just in land use context, but in a planning context in terms of zoning, planning controls and all the rest mentioned earlier in this article. You need to have a good understanding of what you are proposing is going to fit into your neighbourhood and surrounds now and into the future and if you can say that what you have proposed for this site is a perfect fit for everyone around me then you have paved your way through the whole process rather than set up hurdles for yourself along the away to overcome.
For more information on the Planning Process check out our Licensing & Government Compliance Segment on the Build Me A Brewery Podcast
Written & Transcribed by Chris Hayton
Majority of information in this article has been collated from my sit-down chat with Ben Tesoriero from CPS Planning in our Part 1 Episode of the Brewery Licensing & Government Compliance segment.