If you own your own home, chances are one day you’ll want to do some renovations. Maybe you’ll want to add a room on the back, or an extra storey. Whatever your grand visions, one of the most difficult things you’ll ever have to do is get your local council to agree to it.

Development in Sydney has become notoriously fraught during the past decade. Some council areas are more flexible than others but no matter how charming you are you’ll almost certainly need some assistance getting your plans through council.

There are two main phases of approval process. These are Development Application (DA) and Construction Certificate (CC) stages. The first stage presents your concept to council in the form of drawings, setting out the overall form and extent of the proposal as well as any potential impacts on your neighbours. The CC stage involves much more detailed information about construction, drainage and compliance with the relevant standards and codes.

Council planning departments are primarily focused on issues such as privacy and overlooking, access to sunlight and view-sharing. They are also concerned about the effect that any new development might have on the streetscape.

The requirements of various councils can vary quite significantly, so it’s important to gather information as early as possible to identify what your council needs to pass your plans.

It is often easier, quicker and more cost-efficient to engage a design professional to prepare the DA and CC applications. An architect with local knowledge has the necessary experience to streamline the process. They know what type of documentation -“ such as shadow diagrams and energy ratings calculations -“ is required, and often have experience in specific council areas, which is a great advantage. An architect will also let you know at an early stage whether you need to involve other consultants such as hydraulic or structural engineers, landscape or heritage architects or a town planner.

It is also important to involve your neighbours from an early stage. Let them know what you have planned and get their feedback. Sometimes disputes are inevitable, but it will help relations if you have at least made contact and discussed your ideas. They will be able to voice their concerns which will allow you to take them into account at an early stage. Neighbours are generally given the opportunity to have their say to council about a development during the DA stage, so it’s much better to let them know in advance. The input of neighbours, provided it’s reasonable, can decide whether an application is approved or rejected -“ so try to keep them on side.

Getting your DA approved can be a frustrating experience, but early planning can save you a lot of headaches. Finding out exactly what council needs, engaging a professional to help and talking to your neighbours will help make the process as painless as possible.

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