council approval

Do I need approval for that?


Some days, it can feel like you need official approval for everything – parking, pets, parties and of course, building works. For a larger project that’s a bit out of the box, obtaining council approval can take up a considerable amount of time and money. However, the good news is that there are now a number of projects for which you do not need approval – these are called exempt developments. Yippee!


You can get the full lowdown here, but here are some highlights for those of you living in NSW.


Kitchens and bathrooms

You do not need council approval if you are replacing a kitchen or bathroom and you are not moving any walls or changing the size of any doors or windows. This means you can change the layout of the room, but not the size of it.



You do not need council approval to replace the floor, ceiling lining and walls of a bedroom so long as you are not moving the walls. You may renovate existing doors and windows but not change the size of them. The fire rating of the building and means of escape in case of a fire may not be compromised.


Cabanas and gazebos

You do not need council approval so long as your cabana is not more than 20sqm in floor area and it must be 900mm from the side boundary. It cannot be a shipping container and must not be more than 3m above the existing ground level.


Decks and balconies

You do not need council approval for a deck or balcony that is less than 25sqm or, if your lot is larger than 300sqm, all decks and balconies cannot be more than 15% of the total floor area. The deck must not have an enclosing wall higher than 1.4m and if it is covered, the roof must not extend above the dwelling’s gutter line.


These are all fairly small-time alterations and perhaps you’re planning something a little more ambitious but is still short of a major renovation requiring a DA. If that’s the case, your project might qualify for complying development – which is a fast-track approval system for a number of specific projects. A fast-track complying development will be approved within 14 days, where as a full-scale development application takes an average of 70 days.


Complying developments will need to be certified and include:


  • renovations to a home
  • development of a granny flat
  • building a swimming pool
  • property extensions (up to two storeys)
  • building a garage or carport

I would love to tell you it’s simple, but navigating your way through can be quite laborious and may stretch your patience. However, the good news is that if you can make your project a complying development, the approval process will be much quicker and you’ll be able to get started sooner rather than later.

I’m guessing the gorgeous chicks of Three Birds Renovations are all over complying developments – they do super-glam renovations in a short space of time. Smart ladies!


Have you undertaken a complying development? Would you like me to tackle this subject in more depth? What red tape gets up your nose the most?


  • Bec Senyard

    I think approvals will differ from state to state and sometimes town to town, especially with plumbing. In QLD, if you change the layout of your bathroom and kitchen you will be required to get approval as you’re changing pipes. However, if you’re installing all fixtures in the same position, your plumber can put in a form 4 which will avoid council approval fees.


      Thanks Bec – yes I think states vary and wading through the documentation is a challenge. Great to work with tradies who know what they can and can’t do without approval.

  • Leanne martz

    Thanks Alix
    Leannenewhampton here, thanks for the info and linked to your website, do you know what needs doing if you have a kitchen already in a new location in the home (done by previous owner and we purchased unaware) can we apply through a private certified to obtain complying approval ?
    Regards Leanne


      Hi Leanne – I can only offer advice – I’m not a council professional. You can usually apply to council for a retrospective approval (we had to do that recently for an external staircase). We had to present plans and elevations, a survey and have it approved by a building certifier. It was a pain but it got through. I’d speak to a certifier for the best advice. I would imagine you’d have a decent argument if all you were doing was replacing the kitchen in it’s current location. Have plenty of info and speaking directly to the head of the building department at council is the way we went. Flipping neighbours!! Good luck!

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