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Development Applications (DAs) Explained

When assessing the property market, it pays to be aware of any possible developments that may affect your future livelihood and as well as the process surrounding DAs.

What is a Development Application (DA)?

When a property owner wishes to perform projects relating to their land (i.e. constructions, renovations, commercial developments, removals) it is likely they will require approval from the respective council and therefore must lodge a Development Application to obtain consent for the project to move ahead.

Councils may require varying levels of assessment (environmental, notification, appeal rights) and adheres to guidelines from NSW Planning & Infrastructure.

In NSW, councils adhere to Section 4.15 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

Examples of documentation that will be required:

Supporting documents

  • Heritage impact statement
  • Flora & fauna assessment
  • Social impact assessment
  • Owner’s consent
  • Cost estimate report

Environmental

  • Statement of Environmental Effects
  • Site Photography
  • Soil testing

Engineering Documents

  • Access, parking & road work plans
  • Erosion & sediment control plan
  • Stormwater management plan

Traditionally hard-copies of DA documentation were required, however, most councils have recently transitioned to digital platforms.

After review, the application may be accepted or rejected. One example of rejection could be

“the proposed development is unsuitable for the site as it will have a detrimental impact on the privacy of an adjoining neighbour (section 79C(1)(d) Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979)” 

Each council stores its applications in a public registrar which is accessible through the internet. This year, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment released an online planning portal which is being adopted by Local Government Areas on different schedules.

At the time of writing, Newcastle City Council uses its own portal whereas Lake Macquarie Council has transitioned to the centralised system.

Once a DA has been lodged, it will be publicly available information such as

  • Council DA reference number
  • Applicant’s name
  • Lot number
  • Property address
  • Proposed development
  • Consent authority
  • Category of development (i.e. Residential – New Multi-Unit)
  • Planning Approval Pathway (i.e. the Local Environment Plan for that region)
  • Zoning of land
  • Justification (i.e. development not considered to result in adverse impacts to surrounding properties)
  • Notification end date
  • Status

Most applications are assessed in 40 days or less.

Notifying landowners

Each council has their own Development Control Plan which will outline the notification process and what documents must be included in the notification plan. In addition to the information listed above, the notification may also include:

  • The dimensions of the subject land,
  • A north point, an indication of views and prevailing breezes
  • Location of easements
  • The position of structures on adjoining properties to the subject land

Adjoining landowners will be notified of nearby DAs, usually in the form of a written letter, on site notice and/or in the newspaper . There is an exhibition period (usually 14 days) where the public can make an objection submission towards development.

In some circumstances, the nearby public will also be notified. This will be determined by the relevant consent authority. The consent authority is usually the council, or a Joint Regional Planning Panel or possibly the NSW Planning Minister for major projects.

Why should I be aware of DAs?

apartment complex being constructed with a crane to the side

It’s important to be aware of how the development of nearby properties can detrimentally alter your lifestyle and property value –

  • Natural views become obscured
  • Oversupply of real estate
  • Natural sunlight being restricted (health concern)
  • Road and access changes
  • Noisy construction projects
  • Heritage & cultural significance
  • Wind breeze could be affected
  • Waste management changes

Or as a positive:

  • Parties sell their land for a high price to developers
  • Boosting local real estate or commercial economy

As mentioned, maintaining awareness of nearby developments can be achieved by familiarising yourself with the respective online system.

Pathways for applications that do not require council consent

In the event the project is low impact and doesn’t require any planning or building approval, the party may be informed their proposal should go through a different Assessment Pathway.

Projects with minor environmental/amenity impact (i.e. replacing windows or building a deck)  may be considered as exempt development and do not require council approval.

Projects with predictable environmental/amenity impacts (i.e. constructing a granny flat or pool) may be considered as complying development. These projects would require a Complying Development Certificate (CDC) which can be issued by a private certifier.

Remaining observant can lead to positive outcomes

A property owner in Warners Bay was notified about a Development Application on the same block they reside.

Upon reviewing the application, the Architectural Plans and the Shadow Diagram illustrated the construction of a six-story apartment complex.

The owner researched the standards set by the NSW Government Planning & Environment, namely how such a tall building would adversely affect their two-story property, as well as property separation.

In terms of solar access, which is measured in the middle of winter – when the sun is at its least radiant, it appeared the draft design would cause overshadowing. In other words, the highest point of apartments would reduce the natural sunlight on their property.

The owner assumed the intent of the project was commercial profit and could possibly have investors behind it.

The six-story construction would be rejected on the grounds of overshadowing, and the applicant would re-strategise. They could either build a much shorter building or attempt to acquire the owner’s property.

The owner knew their land was highly desirable for the developer, as it would enable them to construct three stories higher than currently permissible, resulting in millions of additional profit.

With this knowledge, the owner was able to negotiate a sale price that was $500,000 over the market value for their property.

To summarise

Maintaining awareness of items such as DA online systems, application pathways, timeframes & legal representation that can assist you.

We hope this article has helped with the reader’s knowledge of Development Applications in NSW.

Hunter Legal & Conveyancing do not offer a service to help people submit DA documentation. However, we offer a conveyancing service to guide people through the legal process surrounding buying or selling a property.

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