In brief - Arm yourself with information and follow established
No matter what business you're in, at some point you will
have to deal with your local council. It's inevitable. Here are
five golden rules to help you make the experience a positive
1. Know the limits
Council operates under a strict set of rules and regulations, so
for example, there is a reason you can't add another level on
top of your hairdressing salon. Unfortunately, no matter how
compelling the case may be that a relaxation and wellbeing room
would benefit your clients, the rules apply to everyone and
council's job is to make sure that every decision it makes is
It may seem a simple thing, but actually clicking onto your
council's website and exploring it can provide some real
insight into what's possible in the local area. More
importantly though, the council's website will have valuable
information on zoning and use conditions - information that's
critically important if you're thinking of expanding your cafe
to have outdoor dining, for instance.
2. Know why the council does what it does
Your local council isn't a one-stop shop for all things
occurring in your suburb with unlimited power and no
accountability. More than anything, your council is a service
provider that is focused on providing the best outcomes for its
residents. That's why your development application to take up
90% of the space on the footpath with display boxes for your
wonderful scented candles will be rejected.
The first thing you need to think before asking the council for
something is, quite plainly: "If I lived here, would I want
that to happen?" It's the residents who come first.
3. The councillors are there for a reason
Whether you live in the area, or have a business operating in
the area, your local councillors are a terrific resource and a
source of knowledge for all things related to council. As the
direct liaison between the residents and the council, councillors
are well equipped to assist across a whole range of issues.
4. Apply for things the right way
There is little point in trying to call the general manager of a
local council asking for his or her permission to convert your
corner block into a two storey parking complex for the supermarket
across the road. Councils have processes. If your intention is to
get something done, you are well advised to stick to the
Most councils have an array of forms, FAQ documents and guidance
notes on the best way to go about getting something done. Applying
the right way will save the inevitable headache of having an
application knocked back on a technical point - something that we
see happen all too often.
The reality is that no matter how small the error may be,
council can't vary its application of the rules on a case by
case basis. The easier you make it for the council, the easier it
becomes for you.
5. Pick up the phone
And finally we come to what I consider to be the most important
tip of them all. Pick up the phone and ask.
Councils across the state are staffed by highly trained customer
service officers who are a rich source of information on almost
everything that council does. In the event that an officer
can't answer your question, your call will usually be directed
to someone who can.
The power of a phone call is something that can't be
understated. The call will arm you with the information that you
need to use rules 1-4 above better. An understanding of what is
possible and what needs to be done to make it happen will make
dealing with your council a whole lot easier.
Get along with your local council - do it right and save the
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