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Property construction and renovation: your guide to development approval - 27 Aug, 2020

Building or renovating a new home or your commercial business can be thrilling, however, getting the approval to develop can be overwhelming. If you are interested in renovating or constructing your property, whether commercial or residential, you will have to acquire a building development approval. To receive development approval, there are three standard methods in New South Wales that you can take; however, this is dependent on the type of project you have.

The process of getting development approval can be exhausting and sometimes confusing. This is why ES Design has created this guide. It should make the journey to development approval much easier and a lot quicker. Before we get into the guide, let’s explore a bit more about development approval.

What type of building requires development approval?

The type of consent and approval you need depends on specific factors:

  • The size and cost of your proposed development

  • The zone, location and the restrictions which are placed on your land

  • The heritage status of the land, buildings and surrounding land


Based on these factors, there are three assessment pathways that you can take:

  • Exempt Development

    • This is for minor developments that have minimal impact on the locality. It does not require approval if standards are set in either State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) or your council’s local environmental plan (LEP)

  • Complying Development

    • This is a cost-effective approval process needed for routine developments such as one and two storey homes and additions to buildings. As an alternative to obtaining development consent, you can obtain a complying development certificate which is granted by a council or an accredited certifier.

  • Development that requires consent/Development Assessment

    • A Development Assessment is a formal assessment for development that requires consent under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). It is usually needed for properties that will change the environment and the amenity of those around the community.

Why does a building need a development assessment?
A development assessment is your gateway to development approval, not just red tape. It’s needed because it controls developments on Australian land. Development assessments are helpful for the following reasons:

  • Ensure that there isn’t damage done to the environment

  • Balances public and private interests by ensuring that the character of the building fits the environment and ‘public domain’

  • Provides a process where members of the community can raise concerns

  • Ensures that both hard and soft infrastructure needed for your property is provided

  • Makes sure that your building is structurally safe, protected from fire and has access to sunlight and ventilation


What is the Development Application process?
Step 1: Pre-lodgement

This is the front-end of the development assessment process and largely determines how quick, cost-effective and simple it can be. With this step, you give your council an assessment ready application with all of the required information which may include the owner’s consent (provided you are not the owner), Statement of Environmental Effects (SEE), site survey, site analysis, BASIX certificate, landscape or drainage plans and technical reports. All of these elements will not be required for every single project, it is dependent on your property.

Step 2: Lodgement

In this step, you should fill out all of your required forms including, all of the above items mentioned (once applicable), specialist reports and the required application fee. All NSW councils now accept online lodgements via NSW Planning Portal.

Step 3 Assessment

Your application will be formally assessed by the council. Your council will take into consideration the following:

  • All relevant plans and policies

  • Impacts of your proposal on the environment and its social and economic impacts on the locality

  • Sustainability of your site

  • Submissions from other parties

  • Comments, agreements or approvals from any NSW Government agency

  • Public interest


Step 4: Determination

There are three possible outcomes:

  • Development consent

    • With this outcome, your project is granted, but conditionally (for example, you may have to reduce the height of your building)

  • Development Assessment Refusal

    • Your project has been refused due to specific reasons (these will be given)

  • Deferred Commencement Consent

    • Consent that is not operating until another, more important matter is resolved

Councils may then issue approvals that lapse between 2 and 5 years, with most in NSW opting to issue consents that last up to 5 years. 

Step 5: Get your Construction Certificate

Once you have received consent, you must obtain your Construction Certificate (approval to build) from your council or an accredited certifier. This must be done before you begin to build. Bear in mind your project must be in line with the plans that you submitted and the development consent.

Step 6: Get your Occupation Certificate

The Occupation Certificate authorises the occupation and use of your new building or building section. This is the final step in the process.
As you can see the process is long and complicated and can easily be subject to delays. At ES Design, we work with you to ensure that your development potential is maximised. We have over two decades of experience preparing Development Applications, making us experts in designing plans that will minimise delays. To find out more about our services, call us on (02) 9787 2000.