Legal Considerations for Town Planners in Australia

Legal Considerations for Town Planners in Australia

Author: Ian Aldridge, Progressive Legal

town planners

Town planners play a crucial role in the development and growth of cities and towns in Australia. They work to ensure that different types of developments are planned properly and strategically, taking into consideration various factors such as environmental impact, community needs, and zoning regulations.

However, while the work of town planners is vital, it is also fraught with legal risks. In this article, we will explore the key legal considerations that town planners in Australia should be aware of when it comes to drafting legal documents, managing client relationships, and protecting their intellectual property.

Understanding these considerations can help town planners to operate their businesses with confidence and minimise their exposure to legal risks.

What does a Town Planner do?

Town planners are individuals or organisations that specialise in strategically and effectively planning various types of developments.

They collaborate with developers, landowners, councils, and other stakeholders to provide a range of services, including analysis, assessments, reports, and advice.

While their ultimate goal is to simplify the council approval process for their clients, such a practice also involves a set of legal risks that need to be considered.

Primary Legislation and Planning Schemes

Town planners in Australia are subject to a complex web of legislation and regulations that govern the planning and use of land. The primary legislation governing the planning system in Victoria is the Planning and Environment Act 1987, which provides the legal framework for the preparation and implementation of planning schemes across the state.

Planning schemes are the main instrument for land use planning in Victoria and set out the objectives, policies and provisions for land use and development in each municipality or region.

Town planners must be familiar with the specific planning schemes and zoning maps that apply to the land they are working on, as well as any planning policies and controls that may impact on their development proposals.

Failure to comply with the requirements of the planning scheme can result in delays or refusal of planning permits, and may expose town planners to legal and financial risks.

Therefore, town planners must ensure that their proposals are consistent with the relevant planning scheme and comply with all legal requirements.

Legal Entity for Town Planners

Although it’s generally advisable for business owners to trade under a separate legal entity, such as a company or a trust, there are several factors that a town planner should consider when deciding whether to set up a company, such as liability protection, tax implications, and business management.

You should consult with a legal and financial/tax professional for advice on whether setting up a company is the right decision for your particular circumstances.

Legal Documents for Town Planners

The 3 legal documents to consider as a town planner are: terms and conditions, disclaimers and waivers, and a privacy policy.

Drafting Comprehensive Terms and Conditions

When it comes to the town planning industry in Australia, drafting comprehensive terms and conditions is crucial for both legal compliance and business success. In order to avoid potential disputes with clients and ensure a clear understanding of the scope of services being offered, town planners must carefully consider various factors and hiring a lawyer specialised in drafting terms and conditions. Here are some key considerations:

  • Decide how to provide terms and conditions (e.g. with a quote, on a website);
  • Be clear about services offered and provisions for future services;
  • Ensure fees cover regulatory submissions and clarify payment terms (deposits and refunds);
  • Outline how additional work will be charged, approved, and whether further quote required;
  • Impose obligations on clients and assert intellectual property rights; and
  • Include provisions for termination, including notice requirements.

Having Robust Disclaimers and Waivers

As a planner, it is important to have waivers and disclaimers in place to clearly outline your liability. Specifically in relation to planning, these disclaimers could include:

  • Dependence on client-provided information: Acknowledging that the accuracy of any information provided to the client is dependent on the accuracy of information provided by them, and any liability should be excluded in the event of inaccuracies in such information.
  • Delayed response: Clarifying that any delay in responding to information, queries or submissions sent by you to the client does not imply liability.
  • Non-responsibility for development outcome: Stating that as the planner, you are not responsible for the final outcome of any development proposal.

Ensuring Compliance with a Privacy Policy

Town planners in Australia need to comply with privacy laws and regulations when collecting, using, and disclosing personal information. The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) governs the handling of personal information by Australian businesses, including town planners.

As such, planners must have privacy policies in place that clearly explain how they collect, use, store, and disclose personal information.

Consent must be obtained from individuals before their personal information is collected and used, and measures must be taken to protect personal information from misuse, interference, loss, and unauthorized access.

Maintaining client confidentiality is crucial for town planners to build trust and maintain professional relationships with clients. Failure to comply with privacy laws and regulations can result in legal and reputational consequences, including fines and damage to the planner’s reputation.

Key Takeaways

Town planners should ensure they have clear and comprehensive terms and conditions in place, including provisions for fees, payment terms, and termination.

It’s important for planners to have waivers and disclaimers to protect themselves from liability in certain situations, such as inaccuracies in information provided by clients or delays in response times.

Planners should also be aware of and comply with privacy laws and regulations when collecting, using, and disclosing personal information.

Finally, it’s worth noting that legal requirements and regulations may vary by state or territory, so town planners should research and be familiar with the specific laws that apply to them.

If you require any assistance with legal documents or advice for your town planning business, fill out the online contact form on this page, or contact our office at 1800 820 083.

*NB// The contents of this article are information only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Please seek specialist legal advice in relation to your particular situation.

(c) Progressive Legal Pty Ltd – All legal rights reserved (2023)

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