Top 5 Reasons a Council Approval is Delayed

Home Owners
Mar 2023

Council approvals are a crucial step in the development process in New South Wales (NSW). If your development requires a Development Application (DA), it will be assessed and approved by your local Council before you can proceed with construction. However, obtaining council approval can be a complex and time-consuming process, with various requirements and regulations that must be followed.

In this blog, we will discuss common items that can hold up Council approvals in NSW, and provide tips on how to mitigate the associated risks. By understanding these factors and taking steps to address them, you can increase your chances of a smooth and successful Council approval process.

A brief overview of Council approvals in NSW

If your development is outside of scope to be exempt or complying development (discussed in our previous blog), a Development Application (DA) is likely to be required.

A DA is a formal application for development that requires consent under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021.

A DA is submitted to your local Council via the NSW Planning Portal with your supporting documents including application forms, Statement of Environmental Effects, supporting technical reports and architectural plans; these are assessed by Council against relevant State and Local development controls before issuing development consent.  

The process of lodgement and assessment of a Development Application can seem complicated, but let’s look at the most common things that Approved come across which can hold up your Council Approval times.

Reason 1: Council requirements and regulations, make sure you know the rules in your area before you submit your DA to Council.

Reason 1: Council requirements and regulations

Your local Council (the consent authority for local development applications) are guided by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act), the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 (EP&A Reg),  State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs), the relevant Local Environmental Plans(LEPs) and Council specific Development Control Plan (DCP). Preparing a Development Application can require various additional reports, certifications, and assessments such as Engineering, Site Surveys, a BASIX Assessment and Architectural Plans, among others.

The many Local Councils across NSW will have varying development controls that impact your development. This may be the maximum allowable height of your building, methods of stormwater disposal, and minimum landscaped areas on your site, to name a few.

The applicant of a DA will be eager to gain development consent as soon as possible to continue with the construction of their design. Though often, this can be an extended process.

There is no simple answer when it comes to the time it takes to receive development consent. In short, this process can take weeks or months and depends on several factors including the quality of the submission.

Reason 2: Complexity of the design and site constraints might affect the time it takes for Council to approve your Development Application.

Reason 2: Complexity of the design, site constraints, internal & external referrals

The more complex your design, the greater the risk of non-compliance with Council controls, which can delay the assessment process. This is because complex designs may require additional justification and merit assessment by the Council, which can take more time to review.

Other constraints such as whether you land is affected by Bushfire, Flooding or Acid Sulfate Soils can also dictate where you place your development and determine what technical reports may be required. This information is normally found within State and Local legislation but can be hidden in technical jargon and terminology which can be challenging to decipher.

Submitting a complex design is possible, but it's important to keep in mind that more information may be required to justify non-compliances with State and Local legislation as outlined above. It's essential to have a good understanding of the relevant legislation and technical requirements to ensure that the submission meets all necessary criteria. This may include additional technical reports or other documentation that can help to explain the proposed development's impact on the surrounding environment and community. Being prepared with all necessary information and understanding the relevant legislation can help to streamline the assessment process and avoid delays in the approval timeline.

Reason 3: If your submission is not complete, it will take longer for your Council officer to assess and make a recommendation to approve.

Reason 3: Completeness of the submission

When submitting a DA, you want to ensure your application is as complete as possible to deliver the best chance of success and minimise the potential for requests for information.

Making sure your application is complete will generally include having:

  • Full set of Architectural Plans prepared by a suitably qualified person.
  • A Statement of Environmental Effects that assesses your development against all relevant planning controls
  • Waste Management Plan detailing amounts of construction waste will be generated and what facility it will be disposed of to.
  • BASIX Certification
  • Ensuring you have all required external reports; for example, geotechnical & civil engineering reports.
  • Development stamping from relevant authorities for example, Subsidence Advisory NSW and local water authority.
  • Application forms.
  • A NSW Planning Portal account to upload the DA.

It might seem like a simple thing, but a non complete submission is a common issue and will often mean that your DA is rejected byCouncil, delaying the timeline of project

Reason 4: Responding to Council RFIs within the timeframe is important to ensure no further delay to your approval.

Reason 4: Responding to Requests for additional information

When Council assess the application, formal Requests for Information (RFI) and external referrals will be uploaded for review through the NSW Planning Portal. RFI’s will often be issued by the Council officer assessing your DA and can include requests for additional justification of non-compliances, changes to the Architectural Plans set, and acquiring additional technical reports, among other things.

If RFI’s are not responded to correctly and the sufficient information is not returned to Council, the timeframe of assessment can be extended and correspondence with Council can become tiresome.

Reason 5: Public submissions may come in from your neighbours about your development. Your response is crucial and must be justified.

Reason 5: Public submissions

For the majority of developments, neighbour notification is required. Notification ensures that neighbours and other interested parties are advised that the DA has been lodged and they have the opportunity to comment and object on elements of the application. If surrounding properties object to the proposal, Council will generally seek a response from the Applicant to the comments raised in the objection. Your response here is crucial and must be justified using valid planning grounds.

Sometimes it's outside of your control

Sometimes, there are factors that are beyond your control that may impact your application process. One such factor could be Council's backlog of existing applications or understaffing. If the Council you are applying to is experiencing a high volume of applications or is understaffed, it may result in delays or a slower response time for your application.

Unfortunately, there may not be much you can do to speed up the process in these situations. However, you can stay proactive by keeping track of the status of your application and following up with Council on a regular basis to ensure that your application is being processed. It's also important to remain patient and understanding, as Council is likely working to process applications as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What can you do to ensure a speedy Council process?

To ensure a speedy Council process, there are a few things that you can do:

  • Conduct thorough research and planning to ensure that your proposal is compliant with State and Local legislation.
  • Consult with Council planners and relevant government authorities to gain a better understanding of the requirements and any potential challenges. This can help you identify and address any issues early on in the process, which can save time and prevent delays.
  • Hire experienced professionals, such as town planners, who have a good understanding of Council process and can guide you through it. They can also help you prepare a well-designed proposal that meets the requirements and is more likely to be approved quickly. 
The best thing you can do to speed up your approval time? Be proactive and address potential hold-ups before they arise with a Preliminary Planning Assessment.

To avoid delays in the approval process, it is important to anticipate and address any potential issues ahead of time. At Approved, we conduct a Preliminary Planning Assessment (PPA) that assesses the feasibility of the proposed development and identifies any necessary supporting documentation. This allows us to clarify and address any potential hold-ups before submitting the application to Council. The PPA covers various aspects such as planning and zoning requirements, environmental impact assessments, heritage considerations, traffic and parking requirements, building codes and standards, and accessibility and disability requirements.

At Approved, we are trained and experienced with the relevant skills and knowledge to complete, organise, and submit a high-quality DA. We have relationships with external consultants who are engineers, draft plan sets, Bushfire Consultants, ecologists, surveyors and others to ensure your application is accompanied with the relevant reports to ensure the best chance of success.

The Approved Client Experience and Town Planning Teams are here to help, get in touch today to find out more about how we can accelerate your DA.

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