Permissions to come aboard.
Well then. Having been hemming and hawing, fretting and fuming about about being stuck in the shallows, we are finally about to set sail into deeper waters.
They can, apparently, be difficult waters to navigate, full of shifting rocks and Cyclopean perspectives (though sadly, to date, there have been no reports of lotus eating or sirens). So with our redoubtable architect at the helm we must steer a careful course between the Scylla of one planning authority and the Charybdis of the other.
On Monday I asked the architect to explain the whole planning process because it was, to me, well nigh incomphrehensible. And this is what he quoth – first you have the Exemptions Schedule (for repairs, things which don’t bring about change). This is one-tree document which goes to Housing NSW and then to Heritage. It’s the easy, uncontroversial bit which has already been done, box ticked, rubber stamped and tucked under the belt.
Then comes the Section 60. I have to say, rather red-herringishly (or maybe not?), that Section 60s where I come from are the means by which people can be detained against their will in establishments of a psychiatric persuasion. It’s not a co-incidence I’m keen to think about too closely right now.
The current S60, however, is a two-tree document that deals with all the temeritous changes we are proposing (upstairs bathrooms!), comparing each against the Conservation Management Plan (an – oh – four? tree document) and declaring them either ‘compliant’ or ‘non-compliant’. Initially this goes to the lovely Housing Heritage Officer, who sends it to an external examiner. There is a bit of parlaying back and forth and it is then returned to you. It’s hard not to feel like an anxious schoolchild when your non-compliances leap out and beat you about the pate in their bold red type. Actually this step, the easiest, has recently been done. It’s necessary because although we have paid them all our pocket monies, the house technically belongs to Housing NSW and as ‘owner’ they must therefore grant us permission to apply for building permission. That having been given, the Section 60 is now due to go to Heritage. Theoretically, they will take five weeks over it and then, after a tap from the architect’s wand to transform it into a DA, we will be able to send it to the City of Sydney. Likewise, they should also take five weeks with it.
So, you know, in a theoretical universe we could start work in ten weeks. But, a person might ask, why so long? Can’t these things happen in parallel, can’t Housing and Heritage and Council be considering the documents simultaneously? No, not on your nelly! Can’t they talk amongst themselves, discuss what might and might not be allowed? Perish the thought, shiver my timbers, ice your cocoa and stone the crows! How could you think such a thing! Well then – you might say – ten weeks isn’t so bad. And no, if it stays at ten weeks it won’t be. But we hear these can be treacherous, snark infested waters. Prone to many a slip ‘twixt brine and ship. It has been known, for example, that one item approved by one body might be denied by another. A document or a drawing might be missing from the submission and it might take months to request, be received and pontificated over. Or even – and I kid not – planning permission might be denied for failing to request permission to do something you’re not expected, or even allowed to do in the first place. So, to my fretful eyes, ten weeks could easily liquify and slither into ten months. By which time on this damned boat we’ll all have scurvy, sea-madness or given up and gone to live with Circe.
But we shall see. And don’t tell anyone but despite all the gnashing of teeth I do have some level of optimism that we might (just to kill off a laborious and overworked metaphor) get in a bit of plain sailing. You know, the ship-half-full way of thinking.