What can I build without Council Approval?

When I worked at Council one of our biggest enquiries I received was “Do I need to apply for a Development Application for a deck…or carport….or shed… or fence etc. It is a common question for Council duty planners and on the flip side the sentence “I didn’t know I needed approval to build that…” is one of the most common sentences heard by Council compliance officers. I have worked on both sides of these questions, assisting residents to understand what they can and cannot build and also helping those people that have built things they shouldn’t have to obtained approval.

The first thing that people don’t realise is that most builders and other tradesmen are not town planners and don’t know the legislation (it is noted however that there are a number of very knowledgable tradesmen that keep up to date with the relevant provisions within the legislation). Never trust them with what they say without checking it out for yourself. Do some research and don’t assume they are telling you the correct information. When I was at Council one of the most common stories I heard from people caught up in a unauthorised works matter was that the builder said they didn’t need approval.

So how do you know if you need approval? One of the easiest ways is to call the local duty planner at Council. They should be able to quickly send you through the documentation that specifies the deck/shed/carport etc that you can do and the rules you need to follow. Alternatively you can keep reading and I will try and give you the answers and hopefully save you some time.

 

Exempt Development

In the planning world EXEMPT DEVELOPMENT is another term for “things I can do without Council approval”. This is a list of minor developments that you can do without the need for any Council approval so long as you comply with the development standard. To view this list you can go to the following website Exempt and Complying Legislation and then go to Part 2 Exempt Development Codes this will provide a list of the different types of developments that are considered exempt development.

Understanding the exempt provisions under part 2

The first thing you need to know is your zoning. You can look this up by searching your property on the NSW Planning Portal otherwise, if this is too difficult, you just need to know if you are residential or rural. Once you understand this then you will be able to generally figure out the exempt provisions.

Please note that if you are residential then your zoning is one of the following:

R1, R2, R3, R4

If you are rural then your zoning is one of the following:

RU1, RU2, RU3, RU4, RU6, or R5

Please note that you might be residential but have a zoning of E4 (environmental living), this is considered to be a residential zoning for exempt development.

The following types of developments are the most common:

Domestic Sheds (not farm buildings)

A shed is one of the most common exempt development questions we received. Whether it is a shed to store your garden tools, a man shed, a rural shed for your tractor this is one of the most common enquiries I received in my days as a duty planner at Council. Sheds come under Subdivision 9 Cabanas, cubby houses, ferneries, garden sheds, gazebos and greenhouses of exempt development. Below is an extract from the Legislation website taken on the 7th May 2020. Please note that the legislation changes and this might not be the most recent version of the exempt provision.

2.17   Specified development

The construction or installation of a cabana, cubby house, fernery, garden shed, gazebo or greenhouse is development specified for this code if it is not constructed or installed on or in a heritage item or a draft heritage item, on land in a foreshore area or in an environmentally sensitive area.

2.18   Development standards

(1)  The standards specified for that development are that the development must—

(a)    (Repealed)

(b)  not have a floor area of more than—

(i)  on land in Zone RU1, RU2, RU3, RU4, RU6 or R5—50m2, or

(ii)  on land in any other zone—20m2, and

(c)  be not higher than 3m above ground level (existing), and

(d)  be located at a distance from each lot boundary of at least—

(i)  for development carried out in Zone RU1, RU2, RU3, RU4, RU6 or R5—5m, or

(ii)  for development carried out in any other zone—900mm, and

(e)  if it is not on land in Zone RU1, RU2, RU3, RU4 or RU6—be located behind the building line of any road frontage, and

(f)  not be a shipping container, and

(g)  be constructed or installed so that roofwater is disposed of without causing a nuisance to adjoining owners, and

(h)  to the extent it is comprised of metal components—be constructed of low reflective, factory pre-coloured materials if it is located on land in a residential zone, and

(i)  if it is located on bush fire prone land and is less than 5m from a dwelling—be constructed of non-combustible material, and

(j)  if it is constructed or installed in a heritage conservation area or a draft heritage conservation area—be located in the rear yard, and

(k)  if it is located adjacent to another building—be located so that it does not interfere with the entry to, or exit from, or the fire safety measures contained within, that building, and

(l)  be a Class 10 building and not be habitable, and

(m)  be located at least 1m from any registered easement, and

(n)  in relation to a cabana—not be connected to water supply or sewerage services.

(2)  There must not be more than 2 developments per lot.

 

Summary of Exempt Sheds

For all zones:

The maximum height of the shed can be 3m above ground level.

If you are on a rural property:

Maximum size of the shed can be 50 square metres and must be located at least 5m off any boundary.

If you are on a residential property:

The maximum size of the shed can be 20 square metres and must be located at least 900mm off a boundary.

Carport

 
 A carport is another one of the most common exempt development questions we received. Carports come under Subdivision 10 Carports of exempt development. Below is an extract from the Legislation website taken on the 7th May 2020. Please note that the legislation changes and this might not be the most recent version of the exempt provision.

 

Subdivision 10 Carports
2.19   Specified development

The construction or installation of a carport is development specified for this code if it is not constructed or installed on or in a heritage item or a draft heritage item or on land in a foreshore area.

2.20   Development standards

(1)  The standards specified for that development are that the development must—

(a)  not result in a building classified under the Building Code of Australia as class 7a, and

(b)  not have a floor area more than—

(i)  for a lot larger than 300m2 in a rural zone or Zone R5—50m2, or

(ii)  for a lot larger than 300m2 in a zone other than a rural zone or Zone R5—25m2, or

(iii)  for a lot 300m2 or less in any zone—20m2, and

(c)  be not higher than 3m above ground level (existing) or, if attached to an existing single storey dwelling, be not higher than the roof gutter line, and

(d)  be located at least 1m behind the building line of any road frontage, and

(e)  be located at a distance from each lot boundary of at least—

(i)  for development carried out in Zone RU1, RU2, RU3, RU4, RU6 or R5—5m, or

(ii)  for development carried out in any other zone—900mm, and

(f)    (Repealed)

(g)  to the extent it is comprised of metal components—be constructed of low reflective, factory pre-coloured materials, and

(h)  not involve the construction of a new driveway or gutter crossing unless the consent of the relevant road authority for each opening of a public road required for the development has been obtained under the Roads Act 1993, and

(i)  be constructed or installed so that any roofwater is disposed of into the existing stormwater drainage system, and

(j)  if it is connected to a fascia—be connected in accordance with a professional engineer’s specifications, and

(k)    (Repealed)

(l)  if it is located on bush fire prone land and is less than 5m from a dwelling—be constructed of non-combustible material, and

(m)  if it is constructed or installed in a heritage conservation area or a draft heritage conservation area—be located in the rear yard, and

(n)  be located so that it does not reduce vehicular access to, or parking or loading or unloading on, or from, the lot.

Note.

 See the definition of carport in clause 1.5(1) that sets out additional requirements for carports.

(2)  The roof of the development must be located at least 500mm from each lot boundary.

(3)  There must not be more than 1 development—

(a)  per lot if there is a dwelling on the lot, or

(b)  per lot or per each separate occupation of premises on the lot, whichever is the greater, in any other case.