If you’re thinking of renovating extending, building, demolishing or subdividing you will most probably need to lodge a development application with your local council. There are no general regulations on this – you must contact your local council for specific details however, we have put together a general guide of what the process can involve.

What is a development application?

A development application is an application made to local council for consent to carry out development such as demolition, extensions, subdivision, house construction and possibly renovation. So if you are thinking of adding on, building a shed, undergoing a knockdown-rebuild, altering the structure of your home or making any other major change to your building or garden you may need to submit one.

How do I know if I need to submit one?

Not everyone who does a renovation has to submit a development application – the exact requirements are dictated by each local council. That means that your renovation in one location may need one, while your mate’s identical renovation in a different location may not. The only way to be sure is to contact your own local council. Some of the general stipulations councils use to determine whether you need an application include:

Zoning regulations – your local council is divided into zones such as residential or business. Different regulations for factors such as building height apply to each different zone.
The council’s Local Environment Plan – establishes what forms of development and land use are permitted in a council area. Different types of development will be permitted in different zones.
Development Control Plans and land use regulations – these provide additional information and guidelines to the Local Environment Plan on development and land use.
Visual impact of development – will the development change the look of the area or streets-cape? Will it be an eyesore?
Impact on adjoining property – how will the development affect the neighbours?
Many local councils will have information online detailing their guidelines but it may be worthwhile organising a meeting with a council member. They will tell you:

Specific planning controls as stipulated by the above points (they will have a long term plan that considers factors such as streets-cape, fire hazards, drainage, erosion, waste management, wildlife and sustainability).
Whether you meet the criteria to be exempt from development consent (it’s still worthwhile notifying the council of your proposed work anyway).
Whether you meet the criteria requiring development approval.
Whether you meet the criteria requiring involvement at a higher level due to wider social, economic or environmental impact.
Whether you are prohibited from development.


Before you submit a development application we recommend consulting the neighbours. This allows you to explain your development plans in detail and allows them to voice any concerns. A small change in the plans now could make the neighbours happy and potentially save you a lot of cash.

Supporting information

Again, you will need to check with your local council the specific supporting material needed to be submitted with your application. This may include but is not limited to the following:

Scaled architectural plans
Reduced A4 plans
Architectural model
Site analysis plan
Survey plan
Landscape plans and calculations
Drainage plans
Erosion and sediment plans
Environmental impact report
Geo-technical reports about the soil
Shadow diagrams
Waste management plan
Statement of heritage impact (if property or area is heritage listed)
Acoustical report
Engineers certificate for structural design

Any supporting material (as listed above) will cost you extra. Depending on the size and type of your development you could be looking at thousands of dollars. Each council will have a Development Application Fee that you will have to lodge alongside your application. The amount is dictated by the size and type of your development. Contact your local council for a schedule of fees. They may have them online.

Public notification

So you’ve submitted your application. It doesn’t stop here. You may have a period of public notification (depending on your local council) whereby members of the community have access to your application and can lodge an objection. This is where consulting your neighbours prior to submitting will benefit you.

The decision making process

At this point you may be required to do the following:

  • Submit additional information
  • Undergo a council inspection of the site
  • Attend a council meeting

There are a number of ways your application will be assessed and this is generally determined by which criteria you meet. Assessment options include:

Assessment by council planning staff under delegated authority
Assessment by your council conducting a development assessment meeting – this can occur due to objections to the proposal or because it does not comply with the council’s standard regulations and policies. (This may differ slightly from council to council).
Assessment at a council meeting – this is when the application is controversial, has attracted a large number of objections or has been referred from a development assessment meeting.
Approval notification

Now it’s a waiting game – how long the approval takes depends on the type of application,your Town Planner and your council. Some can take a few weeks while others may drag out for months. You will be notified by mail of the outcome of the application process. Depending on the council you may be able to track the process on the internet. Some council’s publish results in the local newspaper.

Additional info

You must remember that while the general process for obtaining a development application is the same across Australia, requirements and processes will differ from council to council. Before you start your application it’s essential to contact your local council or town planer. They will be able to give you a list of specific requirements and guidelines you need to follow.