A key milestone for any urban development project is plan sealing, that critical event that facilitates registration of titles and settlements, and the trigger for project revenue to be realised. In talking with several developers, they describe an increasingly arduous and frustrating process of back and forward, multiple inspections, delays and inefficiencies.
Whilst there’s always unique aspects to nearly every project, we’ve found a few key principles that help in streamlining this important process:
- Start the Process Early: Plan sealing dates should be considered during the tender process with critical dates included in the tender documentation. Contractor’s works programmes should be based around them. Certainly, plan sealing dates should form part of the Contract with the project team reinforcing the plan sealing date at the start of construction. This enables responsibilities to be set and target timing to be agreed.
- Involve All Consultants/Contractors AND the Authorities: Whilst the plan sealing process is generally driven by developer/surveyor/engineer, it is important to involve all members of the project team to ensure alignment and shared understanding. Critically, this includes Council and the Water Authorities. Let them know the target sealing dates and why the date is important.
- Uncompleted Works Bonding: We recommend bonding of works, even in cases where construction is scheduled for completion well in advance of targeted plan sealing. Bonding of works gives a level of security to ensure the process isn’t held up by potential unknown factors, often simple things. This applies to both Council and the Water Authority, engage with them early to get bond amounts approved and agreements in place.
- Know the Council and Approval Condition Requirements: Each Council (or MEDQ in Priority Development Areas) has different requirements and processes. This could be in relation to level of works completion (e.g. BCC requires trunk works to be completed and accepted on maintenance) or provision of a range of reports/certifications. Review the approval conditions regularly to ensure nothing is forgotten about. Whether an Energex Certificate of Supply or the Landscape Contractor putting strips of turf down behind the kerb, all aspects are important to ensure the process isn’t held up by a simple item.
- Don’t forget the checklists: Most Council’s have a plan sealing checklist that needs to accompany the plan sealing application. Make sure the checklists are reviewed and all items attended to. Many Council’s now have processes aimed at improving plan sealing times through enabling self certification by accredited consultants, e.g. BCC has SealSmart, MBRC has MB+.
- On Maintenance: Whilst this comes after plan sealing if works are bonded, it is important to ensure that completion of the works and achieving on maintenance is followed through. This allows uncompleted works amounts to be released and critically, is key in handing assets over to Council to ensure the time the developer is responsible for the minimal amount of time required. This also ensures that once lots are settled and building commences, purchasers have no issues in starting works.
Given the critical importance of plan sealing, it should be a key focus area before and throughout construction. As with most things, communication and collaboration are key. If the project team works together, the chances of project success will be much greater.