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When planning any kind of development, dealing with local Council can be a daunting and confusing experience. Communicating to the Council officers the details of your proposal is not always easy. So what is the process for obtaining development consent?

When starting the planning for a development that requires approval, you should ensure that you have all the relevant information at hand. This information can include:

  • The identification of the land where the development is proposed. This includes a Lot and DP number as well as a street address.
  • Ownership of the land – an applicant for a development application does not have to be the owner of the land, but the owner of the land must give consent.
  • Plans showing the proposed development.
  • Known restrictions on the land such as heritage, flood prone or bushfire prone status.
  • Zoning of the land
  • Whether a Development Application is required – certain development is exempt from requiring a development application, while other development is considered to be “complying development” and falls under a different set of requirements.
  • Any other information which may be relevant to the development

You can submit a development application yourself in most cases, however it is often more efficient to engage a planning consultant to assist you with the application. A planning consultant will be able to know what information is required to begin the application process and will often have a professional relationship with the Council staff involved. Their expertise can save time in preparing the application and in answering any queries that Council may have through the approval process.

Once you have as much relevant information as you can, the first step in the application process is a Pre-lodgement Meeting. The proposal is put forward to Council staff for their input on what Council considers important to address when preparing the development application.  If you have engaged a planning consultant, they will generally assist with the pre-lodgement meeting. The pre-lodgement meeting should reveal whether your proposal is possible under the current legislation, whether it is exempt or complying development or whether you are required to submit a development application.

With all the facts and advice from council, the development application can now be prepared. Where a Statement of Environmental Effects is required, it is recommended that you engage a planning consultant. Where your application is for building works, a building designer or architect can prepare the development application. The plans, Statement of Environmental Effects, planning report, supporting information and development application form can then be compiled ready to be submitted to Council.

The assessment of a development application can take a significant amount of time, depending on the complexity of what is proposed and the applicable legislation. There is no typical assessment time or rule of thumb that can be applied. It is important to assist Council with any queries they have through the process. The faster an applicant can provide information, the faster the assessment can progress.

When your development application has been assessed, consent may be issued, or the development application may be refused. If consent is issued, it is extremely likely that Council will issue the consent with conditions. These conditions must be met before Council will allow the development to progress to further stages such as a construction certificate or subdivision certificate. Items such as construction certificates or occupation certificates can be obtained from a private certifier, or through Council. Private certifiers are able to inspect the works and issue compliance certificates in the same manner as Council. Once a development consent is issued, you have five years to physically commence the development, otherwise the consent will lapse.

If you are planning a development, consider speaking to a planning consultant such as a town planner or registered surveyor, and take advantage of their experience and expertise.