How to obtain approval for a Development Application

The process of obtaining approval for a Development Application (DA) can be a daunting task as it involves dealing with the bureaucratic maze of councils and other authorities such as the Office and local utility companies. The terminology itself may be confusing as each state and territory in Australia has its own planning laws. Every council, whilst generally have similar responsibilities and regulations, has its own processes for assessing applications and granting approvals.

The difference in terminology between New South Wales and Victoria is set out below:

Type of Document / Approval NSW Victoria
Application to construct new dwellings, demolition of old dwelling, subdivisions and change of use of dwellings. Development Application Planning Application
Statement that a particular use of development (subdivision, buildings and works) may proceed on a specific piece of land. A DA or permit may be specific to a person or operator and is always subject to a time limit and expires under specified circumstances. The responsible authority may impose conditions when granting a DA or Planning Permit. Development Approval Planning Permit
Document which signify that a registered building surveyor has approved documentation for the proposed building work prior to commencement. The Building Act 1993 and Building Regulations 2006 legislate that most building work is subject to the issuing of this document and includes renovations, demolitions and removals. This process is to regulate the standard of construction required to meet all local building code regulations. Construction Certificate Building Permit
Document stating how the land is zoned and is usually required for the purchase and sale of properties. Planning certificate Planning certificate

It is important to not confuse planning permits with building permits. Building permits relate to the methods and standard of construction of a building whilst planning permits relate more to factors such as appearance and impact on the environment, streetscape and neighbours.

An overview of the process for obtaining approval for a Development Application or  Planning Application is set out below:

Step 1- Pre-application tasks

  • Discuss proposed plans with council planner
  • Establish views of neighbours
  • Consider seeking advice of professionals – architect, town planner or project manager. One such firm which offers property development advice and management services is Brutal Art + Design. This company consists of professional builders, architects and designers which can assist property owners with conducting site assessment and dealing with council regulations and approval.

Step – Submit Development / Planning Application

  • Lodge application, building plans and all relevant supplementary documents with council
  • Written notification from council of receipt of fees and application and planning officer assigned

Step – Council review of Application

  • Planning officer makes preliminary assessment, checks plans against town planning regulations
  • Formal request for more info, modifications to design
  • Consultation with other local authorities eg utilities

Step 4 – Advertisement of proposed development

  • Advertisement signage on site for at least 14 days
  • Written notice to neighbours and hearing of parties who may object to proposed development

Step 5 – Council assessment of Application

  • Review any objections and orchestrate mediation
  • Review planning scheme provisions
  • Discuss and negotiate findings with applicant

Step 6 – Council decision

a) Approval with conditions

b) Decision with conditions

c) Rejection

To obtain a Planning Permit in the state of Victoria, it is essential that building plans comply to Rescode, which is Victoria’s residential design and building code. Some key elements of the code include the following:

  • Preserving the neighbourhood character is the starting point for all permits.
  • Dwellings must not overlook or overshadow neighbours.
  • Environmental standards must be met to maximise sunlight.
  • Maximum height of new houses reduced from 12 to 9 metres.
  • Front fences are not permitted to be more than 1.5 metres.
  • Councils may prevent removal of trees.
  • Planning applications must include site analysis.

A checklist of Rescode requirements include, among other things, the following common requirements to be satisfied by any proposed building plans:

Regulation Item Requirement
408 & 409 Street setback Max: 1/3 of allotment depth
Min: Lesser of 9 metres or average of adjoining properties
410 Building height Max: 9 metres
411 Site coverage Max: 60%
412 Permeability Min: 20% permeable area
413 Parking Min: 2 car spaces with minimum sizes (in metres) of ‘6 x 3.5’ & ‘4.9 x 2.6’. However combined width can be reduced to 5.5
414 Side/rear setbacks Max: Up to 3.6 metres on boundary, 1 metre + 300mm/metre over 3.6 metres, or 2 metres + 1metre/metre over 6.9 metres
415 Boundary walls Max: 3.6 metres high with average of 3 metres
Max: 10 metres + 25% of remaining boundary length
416 Existing windows Min: For walls over 3 metres a setback of half the wall height from the window (otherwise 1 metre), with a 3 m2 light courts provided to the window
417 Existing north windows (within 3m) Min: 1 metre + 600mm/metre over 3.6 metres, or 3 metres + 1 metre/metre over 6.9 metres
418 Overshadowing Cannot shadow minimum recreational open space to adjacent properties (including shadows from other buildings), where minimum recreational open space 40 m2 with minimum 3 metre dimension (or 75% of open space if lesser) and usually secluded
419 Overlooking No overlooking of secluded open space or habitable windows within 9 metres, (taken at height of 1.7 metres and 45 degrees from edge of windows)
420 New windows Min: 3 m2 light courts with min 1 metre dimension
421 Open space Min: Lesser of 80 m2 or 20% with minimum secluded open space of 25 m2 with minimum 3 metres at side or rear
424 & 427 Front fences Max: 1.2 metres if within 9 metres of street intersection, else 1.5 metres and 2 metres for declared roads
425 Side / rear fences Max: 2 metres. Note for fences exceeding 2 metres see regulations 4.26 to 4.30 that have similar Rescode requirements to those relating to buildings as above.

Rescode came into force in August 2001 and applies to all residential development in the state of Victoria.

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