What is a Development Application?
A quick guide to the development application process, development consent, and where to get great guidance on DA approval processes.
A Development Application (DA) is a formal application submitted to your local consent authority (Council) for permission to carry out a new development. This could be as simple as building a new pool and deck, tree removal, constructing a garage or carport in your home, or adding additional rooms to your existing home. More complex projects that require a DA approval may include things such as dual occupancy and multi dwelling developments, subdivision, residential flat buildings, or a change of use for a commercial premise.
The requirement for a DA is to protect the interests of all stakeholders – those who may be affected by the proposed development. As a rule, the bigger the project, the more likely it will be to impact more people and the environment around it – though this is certainly not a one-size-fits-all statement. Each project – big or small – is unique and as such, can have varying impacts on those around them. Some of the important areas that a DA helps to assess the impact on include:
- Natural environment
- Heritage buildings or Conservation Areas
- Social impacts on neighbours and community
- Noise levels
- Access to natural sunlight
- Traffic impacts
The team at Buildcert are well versed in the intricacies of Development Applications, including all of the relevant processes and required documentation, so we know how important it is to get it right the first time.
Do I need Development Consent from my council?
In New South Wales, the planning system uses a risk-based approach to development approval. This means that if your project meets certain legislative standards and criteria – you may not need to submit a Development Application. If your works can be undertaken as ‘Exempt’ development or as ‘Complying Development’ – which is a Certificate issued by a Private Certifier such as Buildcert, you do not require a development application to be submitted to your local Council.
A brief rundown of the differences between what is considered ‘Exempt’ development and ‘Complying’ Development is provided beneath:
Exempt Development Consent
For low impact developments or works that meet set criteria and pre-set standards outlined in government planning policies, no formal approval is required. This can apply to residential, industrial, or commercial projects for things such as decks, pool fences, garden sheds, or carports, minor internal or external works and signage. These can be considered for exempt development consent because the impacts and risks are low, and a standardised criteria is easy to apply to these types of developments. Since you do not need a formal type of approval to undertake certain works, you must be certain that your development meets the applicable criteria.
Complying Development Consent
This type of consent applies to development projects that meet set parameters outlined by the Department of Planning and Environment. This could be building a new home or commercial space, carrying out strata subdivision, earthworks or demolishing a building.
This is a fast-track approval process applied to larger, but very straight forward projects that fall neatly into set standards and policies. Where proposed development projects meet the criteria to be considered for completing consent, a CDC – Complying Development Certificate will need to be issued. This can be done by your local council, or by a private company like Buildcert. The difference between a DA and a CDC is simple – CDC’s can be issued more quickly, are assessed by set standards rather than by merit, and can be carried out by private specialist companies.
Most of the standards and types of development exempt from formal approval can be found in these relevant pieces of legislation:
Always consult with your local council to make sure you have not missed any standards or policies specific to your local region as well. Simply calling the Planning Department of your local council and speaking to a Duty Planner will get you the clarification you need. Alternatively, you may wish to consult with a private Town Planner who can also advise what pathway is best for your type of development.
A formal Development Application needs to be submitted for any development projects that have specifications outside of the standard policies and criteria set out by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (such as the Code SEPP). Many projects require formal DA’s because they may have unique needs or requests that put them outside of the neatly boxed pre-set guidelines. When this happens, a more thorough assessment and approval process needs to take place.
A Development Application consists of a collation of documents that can include things such as:
- Application forms
- Architectural plans
- Stormwater and civil works plans
- Cost estimate report
- Consultant reports (such a heritage impact assessment, bushfire risk assessment or Arborist report)
- Building certificates
Once a DA has been submitted, it will then go through a formal assessment and review by your local Council’s Planning Department who will assess the project against the local planning controls.
Where to get help with the DA approval process
Every local council provides community members access to a Council Duty Planner. This is a person appointed by the council to help people understand general and specific development regulations and restrictions, translating technical language and providing some guidance.
The Duty Planner can help you by explaining:
- How to lodge a DA
- Location specific development standards and policies
- Heritage listed buildings and site issues
- Permitted development rights
- Council planning policy
- Where to find further resources for completing your DA (however they are not permitted to recommend external sources)
It is important to note that a Duty Planner is NOT permitted to:
- help you prepare your DA for lodgement
- give specific advice about your plans
- tell you if your DA will be approved or not
Each council will have Council Duty Planners employed to assist the public with a vast number of Development Application related issues and queries. There are many examples of what Duty Planner information looks like and which can be found on most local government websites. You can also make an appointment to speak to a duty planner in person. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the building approval process and if necessary, get in contact with your local council or a private planning consultant before submitting a DA or proceeding with any development projects – the cost of getting it wrong can be staggering!
Step-by-step through a Development Application approval process
While there are many small components and stages to submitting a Development Application, having a checklist that you can refer to will help you stay on top of things. The NSW government has published a helpful guide to the Development Application process which you can download in PDF format. The main points include:
- Concept Stage
During this stage you should be determining what you want your development to become and achieve and consult with your team and neighbours. You will also need to get informed during this stage about which applications you need to submit, and what documents make up the application. It is during this stage that consulting with a Council Duty Planner or a private consultant is recommended, who will provide accurate advice regarding your proposal. To best identify your land constraints, you should consider obtaining a planning certificate (also known as a section 10.7) from your local Council which lists the basic planning instruments and controls that apply to your land – such as zoning, applicable development control plans, and whether your site is located in a heritage conservation area.
- Preparing your DA
The type of information that accompanies a DA will vary depending on your proposal and site – when you speak to your Council, preferably at the pre-lodgement stage, you will be advised of their information requirements. This may include:
- Architectural Plans
- The owner’s consent (if you are not the owner).
- A Statement of Environmental Effects (a report which summarises your proposal’s compliance with all relevant planning controls applicable to the site).
- Site survey.
- Site analysis.
- A BASIX Certificate – A BASIX Certificate is an energy efficiency report for a new home or alterations and additions greater than $50,000 that demonstrates its sustainability.
- Other plans such as landscape or drainage plans.
- Specific technical reports from external consultants, such as: geotechnical report, Heritage Impact Statement, Arborist Report, and Bushfire Assessment Report.
Once your DA has been prepared and you have paid the applicable Council fees for your development, you are ready to submit to the local Council. Your application will then be reviewed by Council and if no further information is required, your DA may be notified to neighbours adjoining your property.
Your DA is now ready to be assessed by a Council Officer. The Officer will undertake an assessment of your proposal and may request additional information in order to complete their assessment. If required, the DA may be internally referred to another Council department for comment.
If your DA is supported by Council, you will be granted consent for development. If your DA is unsuccessful, you may request that the Council review the determination, or you may lodge an appeal to the Land & Environment Court.
- Post Determination
Dependent on the type of development, you may be required to satisfy conditions of consent. This can be completed by either Council or a private certifier who has been appointed as your Principal Certifier – such as Buildcert.
Other Considerations and Costs
Building a home or undertaking a development project can be expensive. In your budget you should consider all potential additional costs which may apply to your development. These could include:
- The DA fee.
- The construction certificate fee and fees incurred in the building process, including for inspections and engineer’s certificates.
- Development contributions payable for State and/or Local Government services (however this is not required for single dwellings and smaller scale developments such as decks, pools and sheds).
- Conditions that may be imposed by Council such as bonds to cover damage to roads, environmental clean ups, or dilapidation surveys of attached properties.
- Water and other service connections.
Be sure to contact your local Council if you wish to learn more about other potential costs.
Having the best project development experience
The construction of a new home, alterations and additions to an existing home, or demolishing an old home all require a thorough knowledge of the building industry’s legislative requirements. At Buildcert, our team of professional building consultants and private building certifiers can help you to navigate complex building requirements by providing clear guidance and practical solutions, so that you can get your project started and completed as fast as possible .
Buildcert has evolved to become the industry leading building approval and private certification service provider because we maintain our focus on professionalism and customer service. We have built a reputation for providing a personalised and proactive approach to the building approval process. By staying on top of relevant legislation, policies, codes and standards set out by Australian Industry groups, and by providing ongoing training for our staff, you can be sure that your project is in safe hands.
If you have any further questions or would like some assistance with a Development Application please don’t hesitate to call the Buildcert team on 1300 457 400