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Your guide to the planning approval processes: DAs, BAs, CDCs, and more

We summarize everything you need to know about council approvals, development approvals, building approvals, complying development certificates and exempt developments.
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Interior of a modern residential home: A dining room looking

Housing is a highly regulated industry in Australia. If you are planning to build a new or renovate a residential property, you must comply with the state and federal building regulations.  You need to contact your local council before commencing any work and inquire about your obligations to get council approval. You will receive a nod or a go signal from your local council when your plans meet the pertinent laws, criteria, policies, legislations, and zoning requirements.

No professional we know promises a super fast and easy way to obtain council approval. This is a complex and tedious process that involves a lot of paperwork and deals with administrative red tape. It might not be a straightforward process and may take longer than expected. 

Don’t worry, you don’t have to face this daunting task alone. Here at Superdraft, we give our customers access to our network of skilled designers and experienced town planners and building certifiers ⸺ the professionals you need in order to successfully obtain council, development, and building approval.

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When do you need council approval?

Start by contacting your local council to confirm the projects that need council approval. It varies between councils. A good rule of thumb is that minor interior renovations without structural changes won’t need council approval. 

On the other hand, most exterior renovations and home extensions will require one. There are cases when building these simple outdoor design elements require council approval: 

  1. Carports
  2. Decks
  3. Sheds
  4. Granny flat
  5. Backyard studio (either used as a home office, home gym, guest room)
  6. Fences
  7. Pergolas
  8. Retaining walls
  9. Pools
  10. Water tanks

Tip: Working with a designer who knows these rules and restrictions will significantly increase your probability of approval. 

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If you have no overlays (heritage overlay, bushfire management overlay), and your proposed work is compliant with local regulations, you can skip lodging the plans to the council and go straight to building approval. 

Many have done it and it saved them a lot of time, energy, and resources. 

It is advisable to call your council and double check if council lodgement is required before getting building approval. Let your council know about your proposed project and your property address and ask whether lodging an application for your project is necessary. Yes, it's nice to know about ‘shortcuts' but please don't just rely on the advice of friends, family, and neighbours about whether your project needs approval. Contact your local council to double-check.

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When do you need development approval (DA)? 

Development approval is required for most building works, especially when you are: 

  1. demolishing an existing structure to build a new residential dwelling or demolishing some parts to make room for an extension
  2. changing the exterior building materials used (e.g. from a brick cladding to 
  3. relocating an existing home to a new lot
  4. carrying out plumbing or drainage work for both new builds and renovations
  5. conducting earthworks such as excavation, filling, clearing vegetation, landscaping, etc.
  6. reconfiguring a lot or subdividing the lot to create a new one
  7. changing the way a property is being used (e.g. renovating an abandoned commercial premise to become an apartment building, or a residential structure into a commercial one).

Obtaining a DA ensures that your proposed development is suitable and appropriate for the area and the structure’s existence will not break any rule or regulation that’s attached to your land.

That being said, this requires you to submit more detailed plans and specifications for your proposed development. If there are variations in the plans, you also need to declare the reasons for those variations in detail.

Also, development applications for residential projects need to be processed by local councils within a specific time period. Sadly, only a few DAs are granted within the statutory time limit.

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Not all projects require a DA. Small residential projects such as building/renovating a small single-storey house, simple same-level extensions, building a garage, adding balconies, and more… as long as it meets the local building codes and requirements. 

Carrying out interior building works that do not affect the exterior appearance of the building might not require development application as well.  

However, DA is always required for all developments in areas that are bushfire prone, heritage-protected, environmentally sensitive, and needed character retention. 

Development approval is always required for developments located on properties subject to heritage protection or within character retention areas. The zoning of the property and the relevant planning scheme overlays always affect the development application.

After obtaining development approval (DA), your next step is to obtain building approval (BA). You must have DA and BA before you commence construction.

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Getting a building approval (BA)

Almost all new homes and significant renovation projects require building approvals. Obtaining a BA from a building certifier/building surveyor means that your project is safe and structurally sound. It also certifies that your project complies with the national laws and regulations, including those outlined in the Building Code of Australia and the National Construction Code.

Note that BA provides you with a building permit or a construction certificate (CC). 

Also,  both the DA and BA expire. The BA lapses at the same time as the DA issued for the proposed development ends.

What is a Complying Development Certificate? (CDC)

Applying for a complying development certificate (CDC) is a well-known alternative to applying for a DA. This is a fast-track approval process for low-impact developments (e.g. new home, major renovation, house extension) that meet the standard conditions or have received DA approval in the past. 

Many Australians opt for this to avoid the cumbersome and expensive DA process again. However, your project plans must really meet all the conditions and requirements ⸺ or else you have no choice but to go through the normal DA and BA processes.

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What is exempt development?

Another alternative to the DA process is applying your plan as an exempt development project. This allows minor works and low-impact developments to proceed without any planning or building approval provided that it complies with the Building Code of Australia and the National Construction Code. 

Some projects that might not need council consent include building a deck, carport, garden shed, repainting the house, and repairing doors and windows.

Exempt development makes building applications more efficient, especially for homeowners who have small home improvement projects to do.

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How can Superdraft help 

We cannot promise our customers a quick turnaround time when it comes to planning and building approval. This is the part of the construction process that we don’t have control over. 

What we do involves streamlining the process of helping homeowners who want to renovate and build a new home.

Our planning platform will help you coordinate with:

  • Local architects, building designers, and draftspeople who have years of experience drawing up plans for your local council
  • Town planners to help you deal with your local council, and 
  •  Building certifiers or building surveyors to help you get building approval

These Superdraft professionals can help you increase the probability of getting approval.

Since approval processes vary per state government, we havedesign professionals and consultants present in all major cities,states and territories. This way, you have a Superdraft professional nearby who can help you with your dream project. Please call 1300 936 740 or get in touch with us via this form to get started.

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