The Process: PLANNING & BUILDING APPROVALS

Understanding your options in the planning and approvals process can be complex, we walk you through what you need to know.

THE PLANNING APPROVAL PROCESS:

Planning approval is needed for most types of building development in NSW, with the exception of Exempt Development.  There are a number of different options with the most commonly known being the Development Application with local council.  The DA method then requires the additional step of building approval in the form of a Construction Certificate once approved.  A Compliant Development Certificate is another option which combines both the planning and building approval process in to one step.  We detail all of these options for you below:

DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION (DA)

As mentioned, a DA is the most commonly known method of approval for planning and development and is best used in situations where the work is non-compliant with a statewide based planning tool called the State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP). It is worth noting that you will find that the DA is sometimes used in situations where a CDC could also have been utilised. This is often more a reflection of a lack of knowledge and understanding of the CDC process itself as it is a relatively new way of working within the design industry. The process is as follows: Plans and documentation are developed in accordance with the local Councils DCP (Development Control Plan) and LEP (Local Environment Plan). There is opportunity to propose work that is outside of what is compliant within the controls but a strong supporting argument must be presented and will be assessed by Council and it’s relevant panels on a merit basis.  This statement is known as a Statement of Environmental Effects and is required for all lodgments regardless of compliance. Your Designer may advise that a pre-DA meeting is held or at the least the Designer will informally review the documents with the relevant Council Duty Planner. It is important to note that every Council has a different set of documentation requirements for submission. Examples of these documents are:
  • Shadow Diagrams
  • BASIX certificates
  • Heritage Impact Statements
  • Statement of Environmental Effects
  • Building Costing Schedules or Quantity Surveyor Estimates
  • 3D Modeling or Photomontage
Preliminary or Development Application (Not for Construction) plans are submitted to Council for approval and will be sent out for a 2 week neighbour notification period if relevant. All councils processing policies and timeframes differ and we can advise you regarding this throughout the process. Council’s processing times are usually dependent on workload and staffing but generally we allow at least 10-12 weeks for the approvals process. Again this depends on the size and complexity of the project. Once you’ve received your DA approval the next step is the Building Approvals process. This involves a Construction Certificate and the appointment of a certifying authority for the duration of your build.

BUILDING APPROVAL PROCESS:

Building approval is needed for most types of building development in NSW, with the exception of Exempt Development.  There are a number of different options with the most commonly known being the Construction Certificate lodged with either a Private Certifying Authority or local council.   A Compliant Development Certificate is another option which combines both the planning and building approval process in to one step.  We detail all of these options for you below:

CONSTRUCTION CERTFICATE (CC)

Once the DA plans are approved, they will need to be detailed and finalised ready for construction and a set of detailed plans (labeled For Construction) are produced for the Certifying Authority who will produce your Construction Certificate (CC), and also for the selected builder. A CC must be lodged and approved by a Certifying Authority – either Private Certifying Authority (PCA) or the relevant Council’s Building Certification Services, in order to commence the building process. All documents are updated by us according with the conditions of the DA approval and also the conditions of the Construction Certificate as indicated by the Private Certifying Authority (PCA). The CC will require external consultants and plans such as:  
  • Structural Engineering
  • Hydraulic Engineering
  • Waste Management Reports
  • Acoustic Engineering
  • Geotechnical Reports
  • Materials listings etc..
  One of the final elements required to lodge your CC is the appointment of a Builder including a signed contract and a Home Owners Warranty Insurance policy taken out by the builder on your behalf.   Generally you will pay up to a 5% deposit for the project and the builder will obtain the HOWI for the value of the project on your behalf. HOWI insures the structural components of the project for the owner for 7 years after the completion of the project. The HOWI certificate must be provided as part of the documentation in the CC application. The CC will take approximately 2-3 working weeks to approve, but once the CC is approved building can commence shortly after – usually 5 days notice to neighbours will be required. The appointed PCA acts on behalf of the homeowner to ensure the project is constructed according to the DA, the CC and the Building Code of Australia (BCA). They will make regular inspections during the build to ensure that this happens. Once the build is complete the PCA undertakes a final inspection, the Builder provides the PCA with a list of compliance documents and then the PCA will provide the owner with a Final Occupancy Certificate (OC) which allows the owner to legally occupy the premises again.  

BUT WAIT – THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS…

 

EXEMPT DEVELOPMENT (ED)

Exempt Development (ED) is development that meets all of the requirements set out in the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) – Exempt and Complying Development legislation for the planning and development of your property. The policy sets out some strict guidelines for planning and building, but as long as your plans are fully compliant with the relevant Exempt clauses of the legislation you will be able to complete your project without any external approval.   The types of projects this might include are Kitchens, Bathrooms, Joinery, and re-working internal spaces where structural walls do not need to be removed. Exempt Development (ED) requires no lodgement with a certifying authority such as Council or a Private Certifier but responsibility falls to your licensed Builder to build within the bounds of the SEPP code and also according to the Building Code of Australia (BCA).    

COMPLIANT DEVELOPMENT CERTIFICATION (CDC)

A CDC also utilises the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) – Exempt and Complying Development legislation for the planning and development of your property. As mentioned, the policy sets out some strict guidelines for planning and building, but as long as your plans are fully compliant with the relevant Compliant Development clauses and components of the legislation you will be able to have your project approved directly by a Private Certifying Authority. This approval encompasses both the planning approval AND building approval phases and combines them for one approval. Where a CDC is possible it allows us to speed up the design and documentation phases and also reduces costs to you. It is important to note that not all properties are able to utiilise the option of SEPP compliance, but we can advise if this is a suitable option for you during Stages 1 and 2 of the design process.  
  • The first step is for you to look at your 149 Planning Certificate – you will have received this in your contract when you bought your property. If not, you can easily obtain one from your local Council. This will clearly advise if compliant work MAY or MAY NOT be carried out at your property.
  • If your project is a suitable CDC you will be able to have the plans approved via a Private Certifying Authority (PCA) without requiring submission to your local Council for approval.
  • When lodging a CDC, all of the plans are produced in their final state (labeled For Construction) and all of the external consultants plans are also provided at the time of Detailed Documentation. The appointed PCA will advise what documents are required for the submission and processing time generally takes approximately 25 days.
  • One of the final elements required to lodge your CDC is the appointment of a Builder and a signed contract. Generally you will pay up to a 5% deposit for the project and the builder will get Home Owners Warranty Insurance (HOWI) for the value of the project on your behalf. HOWI insures the project for the owner for 7 years after the completion of the project. The HOWI certificate must be provided as part of the documentation in the CDC application.
  • The PCA will give your neighbours 21 days notice that they are reviewing your CDC application. During this time neighbours and interested parties are able to contact you with questions, but you are under no obligation to change any part of the plans as remember – they have already been designed to be compliant!
  • Once the CDC has been approved building can commence shortly after – usually 5 working days.
  • The appointed PCA acts on behalf of the homeowner to ensure the project is constructed according to the CDC and the Building Code of Australia. They will make regular inspections during the build to ensure that this happens.
  • Once the build is complete the PCA undertakes a final inspection and will provide the owner with a Final Occupancy Certificate (OC) which allows the owner to legally occupy the premises again.