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Development and planning issues

Development and planning issues

Perhaps the hardest part to manage about temporary projects is the legal issues that are associated with any kind of development or use of property. Although “renew” type projects are temporary they must generally comply with the same rules, regulations and costs that would accompany a permanent development or any other kind of change of use.

This is an area where a local council can go a long way to make things either easy or difficult. A sympathetic council or even just the right person in planning and compliance can help you work through practical issues and find ways to do things. An unsympathetic approach can create cost, complexity and confusion so quickly that it can kill this sort of initiative before it even gets started. Unfortunately, the rules vary from state to state, from council to council and in some cases even from street to street – depending on what the local plans allow or whether the area is under a heritage order for example.

As a result specific advice can be difficult to provide in a document like this. However, there are a few principles that tend to make things a little easier if they are followed. They include:

Match projects to pre-existing uses

In most places any building will have an approval that has already been granted for a certain kind of use. It is much easier to continue this than to try to do something new. For an empty shop that was previously selling clothes for example it should not be too difficult to convert it for use as a retail outlet for local designers, as a gallery (which is often legally just a shop for art) or some other kind of comparable retail use. Many commercial offices can easily be converted into artists’ studios if the work the artists are doing is similar to what was being undertaken before. Converting spaces and getting permissions for a whole new kind of use can be costly and expensive and may not be able to be justified if you think a project may only have 30 days in the space.

Some types of projects are harder than others to get permission for

Anything involving noise, live performance, alcohol, heavy equipment or large crowds is harder to get permission for than simply retail, office, or exhibition type projects. This is not to say that you shouldn’t try and do them but it is likely to take a lot longer and cost a lot more and should not be entered into lightly.

Match projects to available spaces

While it would be great to be able to find space for every last good idea that someone has it works a lot better to find which spaces are available and then place in them the things that they are suitable for. This works better than starting with projects and looking for spaces particularly if the projects have very specific requirements. A photography gallery could potentially suit a wide variety of spaces relatively easily while a recording studio may take quite some time to find the right space for. “What can we do here?” is generally a much more practical place to start than “where can we find a space with…?” or “wouldn’t it be great if?”

Start with the low hanging fruit. Rather than beginning by taking on difficult projects it is better to begin with relatively easy ones and work towards more complex ones. Establishing good relationships with councils, property owners, and others is much easier when you have the runs on the board than when you are trying to open up the first space. Build your reputation, your credibility, experience and track record before tackling the ambitious schemes.

Rules will vary from place to place but for a good example of how things can work see the NSW Government document Arts Revitalisation Projects and the Planning system which was prepared by planning NSW.