Do I need approval?

Approval Overview

Before you undertake any development or building works, you will need to determine what approvals are required.

Certain types of minor development may be carried out as Exempt or Complying Development. All other development will require a Development Application (DA) to be submitted to Council.

Unauthorised development, or using a premises without the required approvals is an offence, which can result in significant penalties.

Other Approvals

In addition to the planning and building related approvals required under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, other approvals are required for certain ancillary activities located upon or affecting a public road, footpath or other public land.

These requirements are mostly contained in the Roads Act 1993 and/or the Local Government Act 1993.

Footpath Dining

A Frame Signs

Works within a Nature Strip

Exempt Development

Exempt development is development that complies with specified criteria. It is of a minor nature and may be carried out without Council consent subject to Compliance with specific requirements and limitations. Exempt development includes certain:

  • access ramps, animal shelters and aviaries
  • television aerials, air conditioning units and barbeques
  • retaining walls and fences
  • awnings, blinds, pergolas, cabanas, greenhouses, gazebos and garden sheds
  • shade structures, privacy screens and screen enclosures
  • cubby houses and playground equipment
  • driveways, pathways, patios, decks and other paved or sealed areas at ground level
  • non-structural/non-load-bearing internal alterations and renovations
  • repairs, maintenance work and landscaping works
  • re-cladding of walls/roofs and skylights
  • solar-hot water heaters and photo voltaic systems
  • emergency works
  • rainwater tanks
  • changes-of-use of commercial premises
  • advertising and signage
  • filming
  • home businesses
  • special events and temporary structures
For this type of development to be carried out without consent, all of the criteria and requirements specified in the relevant planning instrument must be met, including Compliance with the Building Code of Australia. If any of the criteria cannot be fully met, a complying certificate or development approval must be obtained before carrying out the work or development.

Please refer to the complete planning instruments (State Environmental Policies or Local Environmental Plan) and seek professional advice (if necessary) before undertaking any building works or development, to ensure that all of the requirements and criteria will be satisfied.

To find out whether your proposal is eligible to be exempt or complying development under the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (The Codes SEPP) please follow this link which contains the majority of provisions relating to exempt development for dwellings, ancillary structures and certain minor commercial and industrial development.

Complying Development

Complying development relates to specified small-scale, low-impact development, which complies with pre-set criteria detailed in a State Policy or Local Environmental Plan.

Complying development, is basically, a fast-track single-stage approval process, which requires only a Complying Development Certificate to be obtained from a private sector Accredited Certifier or the Council.

Complying development requires detailed plans and specifications to be prepared (e.g. by a architect and/or professional engineer) and an application for a Complying Development Certificate is to be made to an Accredited Certifier or Council.

If all of the criteria, requirements and standards relating to the proposed building or other development are satisfied, the Accredited Certifier or Council will issue a Complying Development Certificate.

A Complying Development Certificate must be obtained before commencing any demolition, excavation or building work or other development.

Some of the types of development listed as complying development include:

  • internal or external alterations and/or additions to dwelling houses
  • carports, garages and car spaces
  • shade structures, conservatories, awnings and pergolas
  • new dwelling houses
  • fences and retaining walls 
  • swimming pools and spas
  • internal alterations to commercial and industrial buildings
  • shop or office fit-outs, shop-fronts and awnings
  • certain types of land and strata subdivision
  • changes of certain commercial and industrial uses
  • demolition of certain buildings
  • temporary structures and marquees
  • fire safety upgrading work

A complying development certificate can usually be issued by an Accredited Certifier or Council promptly upon submission of the required plans, specifications and information. 

If the proposed development does not meet all of the criteria, a development application must be obtained from Council and a construction certificate must also be obtained from an Accredited Certifier or Council before commencing any work or development.

In some cases, residents of adjoining or nearby properties are required to be notified of proposed complying development to dwellings, to encourage consultation between neighbours and resolution of any concerns that may be raised. However, the provisions do not require the owner or Certifier to consider or address any submissions or, to modify the proposal if the relevant requirements are met.

Complying development policy

The detailed provisions for complying development are contained in a State Planning Policy or Local Environmental Plan, including:

State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt & Complying Development Codes) 2008