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Construction in Sydney: does every project need building development approval? - 22 Jul, 2021

Building development approvals are an essential part of any type of construction in Sydney. However, newcomers to the industry as well as first time home builders are unaware of who requires building development approvals in addition to what building development approvals constitute. It’s expected that those unfamiliar with our industry are none the wiser, however, all parties involved in a project must understand building development approvals.


What is building development approval?


Building development approval does not refer to a singular type of approval or application process. A building development approval can be acquired through either of the following:

  • Development consent – consent from a consent authority (typically a council). This is acquired through a Development Application.

  • Complying development certificate (including a Construction Certificate) is acquired through a Complying Development Checklist.

Either of the above can be acquired through the local council or a private certifier (this is only for the Complying Development Certificate). The type of building that was approved to be constructed or altered is dependent on the application put forward.


Does everyone need building development approval?


The short answer is no, not everyone needs building development approval; in that case, their building would be considered an exempt development.

Projects that are considered exempt developments usually have low-impact construction being done. These include minor building works or renovations that don’t need any planning or building approval. This can occur for some residential, industrial and even commercial developments, provided that they meet the requirements stipulated in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 and Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000.

Here are a few examples of what may be considered as an exempt development:

  • decks,

  • garden sheds,

  • carports, fences,

  • repairing a window or

  • painting a house.

Who needs building approvals?

People with more complex projects require Development Consent and a Complying Development Certificate.

Development Consent

This is formal consent for your development by the local council. To acquire development consent, you must undergo the development assessment and construction approval process. It is a merit-based assessment conducted directly through the local council. Here is a brief overview of the steps of that process.
  • Pre-lodgement

  • Lodgement and initial administration by the council

  • Assessment of your application

  • Determination of your approval

  • Acquisition of Construction Certificate

  • Occupation Certificate

Development consent is mostly needed for small residential developments including:
  • Alterations and additions to houses.

  • New houses.

  • Secondary dwellings – i.e. granny flats.

  • Dual occupancies

Complying Development Certificate

This is a fast-track approval process meant for straightforward residential, commercial and industrial development. Complying development generally includes larger building works than exempt development but does not take as long as a Development Application.
Examples of developments that may require a Complying Development Certificate include:
  • building a one and two storey home

  • building a granny flat or secondary dwelling

  • building earthworks and structural supports

  • building a fence

  • building a swimming pool

  • building waterway structures

  • carrying out a strata subdivision

  • demolishing a building

Why is it important to understand who requires building development approval?

If you engage a professional building design company like ES Design, you will be briefed on whether you need building development approval and the type that you need. However, it is still important that you have a fair understanding of what your type of construction will entail.
Understanding who requires building development approvals in Sydney is important because of the following reasons:
  • It helps you to ensure that your professional help is taking the right legal steps for your project.

  • It provides you with a realistic expectation of the approval process and the overall time needed for the entire project.

  • You aren’t caught off-guard when it comes to determining specific details of your construction. Many building development approval processes require specific details of the construction project that property owners may not have decided on yet.

  • You can prepare the necessary documents beforehand to quicken the process.

At ES Design, we know how overwhelming a project can be. The building development approval process can be extremely confusing for building owners and nerve-wracking on some levels. For this reason, our team will work with you to ensure that the proper application processes are used.
As you can see from the above article, applications are multi-layered and integral to the success of a project. Our team will thoroughly analyse your project and, in consideration of your future needs and intentions for the building, submit an application that is guaranteed to be successful.
To find out more about our building design and drafting services, call us on (02) 9787 2000.