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Avoid project delays with these council approval tips from home renovation experts

Secure a quicker and fuss-free approval from your local council.
council approval
Image credit: Ben Callery design; Mike Nomandin photography

Submitting plans to the local council and waiting for approval is one of the most tedious parts of renovating and building a new home. The overall council approval process is complex, and there’s a lot of red tapes involved ⸺ many dread the thought of submitting their plans themselves and chasing them through the system. Also, there’s no guarantee that they’ll greenlight your project.

The good news is that there are several ways to increase your chances of securing approval from your local council. So, take note of all the golden nuggets within this guide and use them to ensure you have everything in your favour: 

council approval
Image credit: Oliveri

Why get council approval?

If you plan to develop or renovate a residential property, you must abide by the laws set at all government levels. 

Your local council ensures that all state and federal building regulations get implemented at a local level. Your local council’s job is to analyse your plans and check whether these meet the current laws, policies, and legislation, certain specifications, zoning requirements, and other relevant criteria. Pass everything, and you’ll be given the go-signal and commence construction. 

It is crucial to get council approval to get your project off the ground. 

council approval

Find out if your project requires council approval

The council regulations and the projects that require approval vary between councils. Therefore, we highly recommend calling your local council first to check whether your future project requires council approval and which kind of approval you need to secure. 

Projects that might not need council approval:

  • Interior renovations and fit-outs without structural changes

Projects that might require council approval: 

  • Major renovations that have impact on the exterior and structural design of your property (e.g. home extensions, home additions, roof renovation, etc.)
  • Any project that requires substantial excavation and filling (e.g. underground extensions, basements, inground pools, retaining walls, building/renovating homes on sloping sites, etc.)
  • Any free-standing pad, secondary dwellings, granny flats, pool houses, studios, and backyard structures (e.g. sheds, pergolas, gazebos, water tanks, carports, decks, etc.)
  • Any project built close to the property’s boundary (e.g. fences)
  • Heritage-listed homes and buildings (these need approval for almost everything because the local council needs to make sure your renovation preserves the house and the street’s historical appeal)
  • Any structure in environmentally sensitive areas
  • Any structure in bushfire-prone areas 
council approval
Image credit: Luke Wolhuter Photography

These things vary from council to council, which is why you need to contact yours before undertaking any home renovation or development tasks. Your council will inform you about the regulations in place and a few tips to help you get approved. 

Steps towards getting council approval

The process of gaining approval is similar across the board. Here are the steps you have to follow to get council approval: 

Contact your local council

Confirm the local planning policies and other regulations pertinent to your project. Ask about the assessment and which approval application you must submit. Find out whether you need to lodge a Development Application (DA) or would a Complying Development Certificate (CDC) would suffice. Check out this guide to the planning approval processes for more information. 

Ask about associated fees that you need to settle as well. Factor these in your budget breakdown to avoid budget blow-outs.

Draw up the plans

Engage a Building Designer or a qualified Draftsman. They will draw up the complete set of working drawings that you need to secure council approval. These include the site plan, floor plan, sections, elevations, landscaping plans, electrical drawings, basix certificates, and other documents (e.g. bushfire, flood, heritage, geotechnical reports etc. depending on your local council’s requirements)

Wait for your local council’s feedback

Approval is generally straightforward when your plans are compliant. Otherwise, your local council will ask you to make changes to your design. Revise and refine the working drawings following the design modifications and revert to your local council. If they request more changes, tweak your plans and resubmit to the point where approval is granted.

Get the plans certified by an accredited Building Certifier

The Building Certifier will issue a Construction Certificate, a document that will assure the council that your plans comply with the Building Code of Australia.

Appoint a Principal Certifying Authority

Your PCA will probably be the same person who issued your Construction Certificate or another private certifier appointed by your local council. The PCA will ensure that the construction of your project follows the approved plans, then issue you with an Occupational Certificate when the work is completed. Your PCA will also inspect the structure to ensure safety and compliance.

The time it takes before your working drawings get approved will vary and will depend on several factors. You might wait a little longer than expected.

How to avoid costly delays or risk having your application denied

There is no guarantee that dealing with your local council will be a straightforward process, but you can do a few things to make the experience more manageable. 

Take note of these tips: 

council approval
Image credit: Luke Wolhuter Photography

Do your research

Read guides and articles from your local council’s website and other reputable sources. Find out about any factors that will or may affect your application. 

Check: 

  • whether your property is a heritage-listed building, in a rural village within conservation areas, or a Charter Residential Area because obtaining planning permission in these areas is more complex and complicated than others
  • relevant zoning and planning restrictions in your area
  • site specifications and requirements for the project you want to do
  • planning and development policies relevant to your project
  • the application requirements
  • fees 

Head to your local council’s website ⸺ you’ll be surprised how much information is available. 

council approval meeting
Image credit: Maroondah City Council

Book a consultation with your local council’s planning and development team

Yes, you can make an appointment to discuss your plans with your council’s planning team. Most councils offer a pre-development application advice service. Ask all the questions and hear suggestions directly from the people who will assess your application! Take advantage of this for a quick and fuss-free approval process. 

Develop a good working relationship with your local council

Treat everyone with respect ⸺ you want to get on the council’s good side. 

Look at your project through the eyes of your local council 

Review your plans from your council’s perspective to reduce amendments and variations, which will incur extra costs. Take note of these tips: 

  • See that the size, scale, form and placement of your house is compatible with nearby homes and properties. 
  • Ensure the site layout has a well-designed relationship to the environment, open spaces, and topography of the site. 
  • Ensure the landscape is proportional to the property.
  • Indicate your plant selection and garden maintenance features.
  • Stay consistent with the materials, colours, and compositions of your exterior design.
Image credit: ABC News

Comply with the Australian building codes and regulations from the onset

Make sure your plans are 100% compliant with the Australian building codes and regulations before submitting them. Preparing the working drawings will take time and will cost money; you might as well do them right. Work with a skilled building designer or a qualified draftsman for assurance and a quicker turnaround time of your drawings. 

Get matched with a suitable designer for your project.

Hire a town planning consultant

A town planner assesses the site, prepares all the required documents, and ensures the plans meet the planning regulations and development codes. They can help you manage the council approval process and timeline as well.

Get connected with top planning consultants when you sign up for Superdraft’s project coordination platform.

Sign up here.

Inform your neighbours ahead of time

Share your plans with your neighbours before submitting them to the council. Organise a face-to-face meeting, invite them over for a meal and drinks, then discuss your plans. Be transparent and honest during the presentation.

Meeting your neighbours will give them enough time to process the situation. It will be an avenue for them to raise their concerns to you and for you to address each one in a considerate manner. 

Try to end the meeting with everyone feeling reassured. The board finds projects that have the support of the neighbours easier to approve than those that do not.

Be patient

Patience is a virtue when dealing with your local council. So, plan ahead, wait patiently for the results, and prepare for the worst so you can avoid disappointments.

council approval

Make council submissions easier with Superdraft

We hope these tips can improve the chances of your projects getting signed off. 

If you are looking to develop or renovate a property now, using our project coordination dashboard is advisable to make the entire process easier. 

Through the project coordination dashboard, you can find: 

  • suitable building designers and craftspeople to help you with the plans
  • land surveyors, in case you need a land survey
  • structural engineers to ensure the structural integrity of the building
  • thermal performance assessors, in case you need a basic report
  • town planning consultants to help you lodge the plans to your local council
  • building certifiers to issue you construction certificates and occupational certificates
  • and all other design and construction consultants to provide you with all other reports pertinent to your council application

Use the project coordination dashboard to bring the works of these professionals together who can help you secure planning permissions and later complete the project on time and within budget.

Sign up here.

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