Development Application Process in NSW

Property development in New South Wales has been relatively consistent over recent years, and with population growth, there is an increasing demand for development in the area. The development application (DA) process for property development should be clearly understood by prospective developers before agreeing to any site acquisitions.

What is a development application?

A development application or DA is an application for approval to undertake a development activity as defined by the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy.

The DA process in New South Wales is a complex process that can seem quite daunting for those unfamiliar with it. In its essence, a development application is a formal request lodged with the local council or other relevant authority for approval to proceed with a proposed development. The details of this proposed development will be outlined in the DA, along with the scale and use of the development and how it fits into the local area.

Step 1: Determine whether a DA is required

The first step in the process is to determine whether a development is required to be approved by a planning authority. The Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and the Development Control Plan (DCP) in place will be used to determine the regulations that apply to your development activity. Depending on the nature of the proposed development and its size, a minimum application fee must be paid to the relevant planning authority. The fees are generally around $800 to $1000, but may be higher depending on the proposed development.

Step 2: Meeting with local council

Once the initial determination is made, a property development application usually with a pre-lodgement meeting with the local council. During the meeting, developers will discuss the proposed development with the planning authority, landscape designers, traffic engineers and other specialists to ensure the proposal is within the planning guidelines of the area.

Step 3: Formal submission to local council

After the pre-lodgement meeting, a formal submission of the DA must be made to the relevant council for approval. The council will then assess the submission and make recommendations for any conditions or alterations to the proposal.

When lodging a DA, applicants must provide the relevant council or other authorised authority with detailed plans and information demonstrating the impact and implications of their proposed development, including how it will fit into the local area and meet the required regulations and standards. Documents should include the following:

  • Completed development application form.
  • Site plans, elevations and covenants, as applicable.
  • Information about draining and retention.
  • Proof of compliance with zoning requirements, council schemes, and overlays.
  • A detailed project description, including proposed layouts, services and infrastructure.
  • Survey and plans of the proposed development, including details of any abutting roads and public spaces.
  • Evidence that the project complies with traffic flow and car-park requirements.
  • The estimated cost of development.
  • The environmental impact statement and other related documents.
  • Record of Title and Cost Estimate.
  • Any relevant reports from specialist consultants.
  • Statement outlining how the proposal meets the planning objectives for the relevant development control plan.

It is important to provide detailed information about the development, including plans, photographs and drawings. The application also must include a statement of environmental effects, which details the environmental impacts of the proposed development.

Step 4: Local council assessment

Once all the information is received, a council officer will assess the DA against the relevant legislation, regulations and standards. They may also need to consult with other agencies, such as the fire brigade, police or state government. The assessment might include an inspection of the proposed site to ensure that the plans are accurate and that the proposed development would comply with the relevant controls.

During the assessment process, a council officer might consider a range of issues, including:

  • The proposed use of the land
  • The proposed scale and character of the development
  • The effect of the proposed development on the natural environment
  • The effect of the proposed development on the amenity of the area
  • The impact of the proposal on traffic, parking and access

Step 5: Local council decision

The final stage of the process is the council decision on the proposal. This decision will either approve or reject the development application.

Depending on the complexity of the proposal, the assessment process can take a few weeks to several months to complete. If the application is approved, the planning authority will issue a development consent notice, which sets out any conditions that must be complied with in order for the development to proceed. It is important to note that non-compliance with the conditions of the development consent notice could result in fines or legal action.

Refusal of DA and appeal

The assessment of the DA will determine whether the council or other authority gives approval for the development to proceed, or whether it requests modifications or further information, or refuses the application. If the DA is refused, the applicant can lodge an appeal to the NSW Land and Environment Court.

The entire DA process can be a lengthy one, and it is important for applicants to be aware of the various timeframes involved, the requirements for lodging a DA and any additional fees related to the assessment process. The New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment provides useful information on its website outlining the process of applying for a DA, including the relevant forms to be completed.

By understanding the complexity of the DA process, it is possible to ensure that the necessary planning, compliance and consultation requirements are met, and that the proposed development meets the relevant planning vision for New South Wales.