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Stage 1 – Pre-lodgement

Your guide to the DA process

The pre-lodgement stage is the front end of the development assessment process. If you get the front end right you are likely to have a simple DA process. Giving council an assessment-ready application, with all required information will not ‘guarantee’ approval – however, it will promote an efficient process, saving time and money, for both you and council.

Get informed

The development potential of your site is determined by its characteristics and the planning controls that apply to it.

Planning controls

There are several ways you can determine the controls that apply to your site.

  1. A planning certificate lists the planning instruments that apply to your land. If you have recently purchased your site, you may have a planning certificate, as they form part of the sale contract. Otherwise you can purchase one from council directly.
  2. Download a property report from the NSW planning portal. The report is free and provides a simple overview of the key planning controls that apply to your site.
  3. Visit your council or their website. Council’s website is a great source of planning information and specifically deals with the controls that apply to your local area.

Site Analysis – Understanding your site and how it fits into the neighbourhood

When you are planning and designing your project, you should analyse your site and how it relates to development on adjoining lands and the streetscape. This will help you understand its development capacity.

A Site Analysis plan shows the key characteristics of your site and its relationship to adjoining land. The plan will show information such as: the path of the sun; the location of buildings, trees and other key features on both your site and adjoining sites (including the street); and considers the relationship to your neighbours (such as privacy and overshadowing). The slope of the land, creeks and drainage are key issues which can impact how and where you can build on your land.

Your street will have its own character, which is created by the lot size and shape, the form of buildings (e.g. setbacks, height) and the landscape character. There may also be heritage values due to the age and style of buildings. A Site Analyses will help ensure that any development you undertake fits within that character.

A Site Analysis can be carried out by an architect, draftsperson or designer. An example of a Site Analysis is shown on the next page.

Figure 2. Site analysis is the key to good design

Figure 2. Diagram showing a site analysis of a home with contours and wind shown

Does my development sit comfortably in the neighbourhood?

Diagram showing neighbourhood streetscape with a row of houses and a proposed housing design

Project homes

Project homes can be a cost effective and simple way to get a new home. When choosing a project home make sure you consider:

  • The frontage and depth of your lot and the setbacks that apply.
  • It is right for your site.
  • It makes best use of your site’s attributes like solar access, street access, slope etc.

You should also be aware of the cost implications if you need to change the plans to suit your site or if you have to do extensive site works.

Putting your team together

In preparing your DA you may need an architect or building designer to prepare (and cost) your plans, plus a number of specialists, depending on your site and your proposal e.g. land surveyor, engineer, town planner.

You can find experienced people by:

  • Talking to friends and neighbours who have done similar work.
  • Looking at similar designs locally and asking the owners.
  • Searching at professional organisation registration websites.
  • Looking at consultants used by others on council’s DA tracking system.

As you move to construction you will need a principal certifying authority (council or private), a principal contractor (builder) and any relevant sub-contractors.

Pre-lodgement meetings with council

Most councils provide a range of pre-lodgement services many of which are free. Depending upon the complexity of your proposal, once you have gathered information you can:

  • Obtain over the counter advice from a council duty officer. This type of meeting is good for simple general inquiries or inquiries about minor development.
  • Make an appointment with a staff member. This type of meeting is good for projects where you require some general direction.
  • A formal pre-lodgement meeting is encouraged where:
    • The planning rules are not clear.
    • You wish to vary development standards.
    • There is a specific contentious issue (e.g. heritage, flooding, stormwater constraints).


Building a home can be expensive. In your budget you should consider all potential additional costs which may apply to your development. These could include:

  • The DA fee, including the cost of referral to state government agencies.
  • The construction certificate fee and fees incurred in the building process including for inspections, engineer’s certificates etc.
  • Development contributions payable for state and local services.
  • Conditions that may be imposed by council such as bonds to cover damage to roads, environmental clean ups, or dilapidation surveys of attached properties.
  • Water and other service connections.

Ask council at an early opportunity about other costs.

Get talking to your neighbours

When you are preparing your plans think about how it will look from and impact on ‘next door’ and across the street. Once you have a clear idea of your proposal, you should discuss it with your neighbours. Ideally, you should contact them early in the process. Consider issues such as privacy, solar-access, views and visual impacts – especially if you are proposing to vary the LEP standards.

Most councils have a notification policy and will notify your direct neighbours once the DA is lodged.

Prepare your DA

The type of information that accompanies a DA will vary depending on your proposal and site – when you speak to your council in the pre-lodgement stage you will be advised of information they require. This may include:

  • The owner’s consent (if you are not the owner).
  • A Statement of Environmental Effects (SEE).
  • Site survey.
  • Site analysis (see Figure 2).
  • A BASIX Certificate – A BASIX certificate is an energy efficiency report for a new home or alterations and additions greater than $50,000 that demonstrates its sustainability.
  • Other plans such as landscape or drainage plans.
  • Specific technical reports required by state agencies.

Key point – Address all relevant matters in your application

Your DA should address all relevant matters, up-front, in your Statement of Environmental Effects. This will help to avoid additional information requests, and will help to ensure an efficient and smooth process.