Navigating Building Development Approvals in Sydney: What You Need to Know

If you’re about to embark on a renovation project or thinking of building a new home, you must be aware of any development approvals you need to submit before you start. Most minor developments won’t need development approval in Sydney. For example, if you are adding a deck or a carport to your home that …

20 April, 2023
Navigating Building Development Approvals in Sydney: What You Need to Know

If you’re about to embark on a renovation project or thinking of building a new home, you must be aware of any development approvals you need to submit before you start. Most minor developments won’t need development approval in Sydney. For example, if you are adding a deck or a carport to your home that is at most 25 square metres, there is no need to get council approval.

Development applications in NSW require approval from the relevant local council before proceeding. Depending on the type of development, you may need to seek the consent of other government agencies. Generally, any building or altercation work visible from a public place requires planning and development approval before it begins.

Types of building development approval

In NSW there are five different types of building development approvals.

  1. Complying Development Certificate (CDC)
    This is a simplified approval process for minor works that meet the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) requirements. It can be used instead of a traditional development application, often resulting in quicker approvals with less red tape.

    Complying development applies to homes, businesses and industry and allows for a range of things like the construction of a new house, alterations and additions to a place, new industrial buildings, demolition of a building, and changes to business use. A qualified architect or engineer should be consulted before applying for a CDC.

  2. Development Application (DA)

    A Development Application (DA) is an application for major works, including the construction of new buildings or changes to existing structures. The application process involves describing the proposed project in detail, including drawings and other relevant documents, so the local council can assess and approve it before any work can commence. In some cases, additional approvals, such as a Construction or Occupation Certificate, may be required.

  3. Construction Certificate

    This is an approval issued by a certifying authority such as an accredited architect or engineer. It is used to certify that the proposed building works comply with Building Regulations, Australian Standards and any other relevant code requirements. The certificate must be obtained before construction can begin and is often required in addition to a Development Application (DA).

  4. Planning Proposal

    This is an application to make amendments to Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) or Development Control Plans (DCPs) set out by the relevant NSW local council. It may seek to change the zoning of land, amend the development standards applicably, or make changes to an LEP map.

  5. Section 96 modification
    This is a process by which the landowner can apply to their local council to approve changes to a Development Application (DA). The modifications typically involve changing the design of the proposed building, such as increasing building height or floor area, altering car parking requirements and more. The council will assess the application against relevant development codes and regulations and determine whether or not the modification is approved. It is crucial for the proposal to be thoroughly researched and well prepared before submission, as this will ensure that it meets all relevant requirements and is more likely to be approved.

It is essential to ensure that all applicable approvals have been obtained before commencing work, as it may result in delays and additional costs. In some cases, works may also be subject to ongoing inspections by council or other authorities throughout the project. Once construction is completed, a final inspection will be conducted before an Occupational Certificate is issued. This certifies that the building meets all health and safety requirements and can be occupied or used for its intended purpose.

What needs Development Approval?

In NSW, DAs are required for any works that may affect the environment or the public’s access to the area. This includes:

  • Building and construction works such as new buildings, extensions, garages and pools
  • Demolition of structures
  • Excavation and earthworks
  • Subdivision of land
  • Filling or excavation of wetlands
  • Removal of vegetation as well as trees
  • Change in the use of buildings or land, such as converting an office block into apartments
  • Construction of infrastructure such as roads, footpaths and bridges.

In some cases, planning approval may also be required in addition to development approval. It is important to check with your local council as requirements for planning and development approvals may vary from one area to another.

What are the basic steps of the DA process in Sydney?

  1. Pre-Development: This involves initial consultations with the local council and other relevant authorities, as well as obtaining any necessary reports or studies.
  2. Lodgement: You’ll need to submit a DA to your local council or the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, which includes detailed plans and specifications for your proposed development.
  3. Assessment: The council or department will assess your application against relevant planning and building codes, as well as any environmental, heritage or other constraints.
  4. Public Notification: Depending on the scale and nature of your development, you may be required to notify the public and allow for feedback.
  5. Determination: After considering all the factors and feedback, the council or department will make a determination on your application.
  6. Construction: Once you have received approval, you can begin construction of your development.
  7. Occupation: Once construction is complete, you can apply for a Final Occupation Certificate to officially occupy the development.

What are the fees for lodging a DA?

The fees for lodging a development application (DA) in Sydney vary depending on the nature and scale of the development, as well as the local council or state authority processing the application.

The fee structure is usually set by the relevant authority and may include various components such as:

  • A base fee for the DA application
  • Additional fees for any advertising or public notification requirements
  • Fees for any specialist reports or studies required
  • Fees for any inspections or monitoring during construction

It’s important to note that the fees can add up quickly, particularly for larger and more complex developments. It’s recommended to seek advice from a professional such as a planner, architect, or engineer to ensure you understand the full scope of the fees and charges involved in lodging a DA. Additionally, some local councils or state authorities may offer fee waivers or discounts for certain types of developments or applicants, so it’s worth researching these options as well.

How long does it take for a DA decision to be made?

The time it takes for a Development Application (DA) decision to be made in Sydney can vary depending on several factors. Generally, the assessment process takes around 40 days for a straightforward DA, but it can take longer for more complex developments or if additional information is required.

Factors that can impact the length of time for a DA decision to be made include:

  1. Completeness of the application: If the DA application is incomplete or missing key information, the assessment process may be delayed.
  2. Public notification: If the development requires public notification, this can add time to the assessment process as the public has a right to review and comment on the proposal.
  3. Environmental factors: If the development may impact the environment or a heritage site, additional studies or reports may be required, which can lengthen the assessment process.
  4. Planning constraints: The local council or state authority may have specific planning requirements or constraints that need to be considered, which can impact the time it takes to make a decision.

Ask the experts at ES Design

If you are unsure whether your project requires development approval, it’s best to speak to a qualified professional such as ES Design. We have the knowledge and experience to help you understand all the options for getting your development approvals in a simplified, stress-free way.

We keep up to date with changing legislation and certifier requirements, so if you’d like to find out more or book an appointment, call us today on 0460 000 000.

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