Getting your Development Application (DA) through Council can be one of the most demanding parts of planning a granny flat. But, do you need a DA for a Granny Flat?
No, not always. You only need to apply for a DA if your plans do not meet the minimum Complying Development (CDC) requirements. A Development Application (DA) is needed when stretching the boundaries of what a granny flat can be through a CDC.
I will cover what CDC’s are and discuss how to get a DA, if you need one. Plus, what is required.
DON'T PAY A FORTUNE FOR YOUR GRANNY FLAT. Find out how to deal with council and build a granny flat for the lowest cost possible. Learn More.
Lastly, I will cover what you must do after you have a DA before building your granny flat.
What Does a DA Cover for Your Granny Flat?
A Development Application is the process of submitting a formal request to build, and thus gaining:
- The appropriate approval to carry out development within a Local Government Area.
The application is handled by your local Council, who assesses your it based on:
- Applicable community standards
- Planning and development legislation, and
- Council requirements.
This allows the Council to:
- Decide if your project is adhering to both local and state building requirements.
- Consider how it will affect the environment.
- Ensure it will not impact your adjoining neighbours or other nearby properties.
So, if you’re planning on building a granny flat at your home, you may need to submit a DA to your Council, then await approval.
How to Get a DA for your Granny Flat?
There are 2 ways to get your granny flat approved – a DA is the traditional process through your local Council. A Development Application is lodged through your local Council. You can submit the DA:
- Through councils website
- By speaking to the Planning Department directly.
They will help you identify any potential problems with your proposed development.
This is separate than using a private certifier to approve your proposal with CDC.
I recommend speaking to the Planning Department before you even think about filling out forms. As you may be able to build a granny flat by submitting a Complying Development Certificate (CDC).
Ideally you want build through a CDC instead of a DA, it is cheaper to go that route, faster to get approval and can be handled without council being directly involved. Unfortunately this isn’t always possible.
A certifier cannot lodge your DA, but many other experts will assist you, such as:
- If you are using a building company, their team of builders and designers often prepare and submit the application.
- If you are using an architect for your plans, they are experienced in filing a DA and may be able to guide you.
Another site you may find helpful is the Housing Industry Association’s (HIA), who offer:
- Advice on working with Councils’, and understanding their regulations, and how to gain DA approval.
Once you’ve gathered all necessary documentation, you can:
- Lodge your DA online through your local Councils’ website and track its progress.
What is Required to Complete a DA for Your Granny Flat?
A DA contains forms and documents showing the merits of your developments, and how it adheres to:
- Local, state, and federal building requirements.
Almost every local Council has a similar DA form, but each Local Government Area can have its own regulations. So, just exactly what must be included in your DA depends on your local Council.
It is important you contact them directly for what is required for your DA.
However, generally speaking, a DA requires the following supporting information:
- Completed DA form – These can be downloaded from the Planning Department page of your local Councils’ website.
- Owner’s consent form – You need confirmed consent from all registered owners of the property. These forms can also be downloaded from your Councils’ Department of Planning webpage.
- Development description – A thorough description of your proposed development.
- Estimated cost of development – The DA fee is based around the approximate price of your development. A cost summary report may be requested (composed by a professional i.e. a qualified architect).
- Plans and drawings – Multiple drawings of your development drawn to scale must be prepared. These include site plans, floor plans and elevations. It may help to utilise a professional (i.e. an architect), for drawings that will be accepted.
- Environmental impact statement – This shows how your development adheres to local, regional, and state building and planning rules. It looks at the impact your development is expected to have on the environment, adjoining premises, and the public.
- A political contributions statement – A statement from you, whether you have made any political contributions to your Council.
- Electricity Act Declaration form – In some states (i.e. SA), a DA must include this declaration. It states your development will not be constructed within a certain setback from power lines.
Remember, your tradie or architect will probably have more experience with a DA than you if this is your first time applying for one, so may be able to assist.
The Cost to Apply for a Granny Flat DA
It can cost anything from $5000 to $15 000 to lodge a DA. Just some of the fees you’ll need to pay include a development fee and a Construction Certificate fee.
These are calculated on the estimated cost of your proposed development, so you’ll pay less for a smaller granny flat.
Every Council has their own fee structure, so to calculate the fee for your application, I suggest you either:
- Contact your local Council directly, or
- View your Councils’ website.
Additional charges may also apply, which I have listed below.
1. Additional Documentation
Depending on the location of your land, Council may require more information, as your project may become an ‘Integrated Development’. Meaning, you will require consent from organisations outside of local Council.
For example, if your property is in a flood zone.
For how to check if your land has been affected by flooding, see my in depth article about building in a flood zone and what to do about it.
A flood certificate can cost you anywhere from $200 – $2000, depending on the size of your property. And more information can be found for your State. Such as this example of NSW here.
2. Connecting the sewer.
Your local Council will decide whether you must:
- Connect to an urban sewer, or
- Construct onsite effluent disposal (more likely in a rural area).
The cost of connecting to the sewer will be authorised by:
- Your area’s governing water authority, or
- Your Councils’ sewer and water department (in a rural area).
A rough estimate, if you are in an urban area and have an existing sewerage system, is:
- $150/metre. Depending on who you hire to help with plumbing work
3. Considerable trees
Every tree on your property must be named by species in your DA.
Council may advise you that some of these trees must be kept on site, so you will have to integrate them into your design.
Any trees identified by Council as to be retained must be protected in compliance with:
As such, you may be required to submit an independent report from an arborist in your DA, costing up to $200/hour.
How Long it Will Take for Your DA to Be Approved
Once you’ve submitted your DA, it can take anywhere from 30 – 100 days for approval, depending on your Council. A report has shown that urban Councils are typically slower, taking an average of 81 days.
The good news is that Councils have a maximum timeframe in which they must respond. But, if your application requires further information, approval will be delayed as more time is added to verify the updated documents you submit.
To ensure your DA will be processed as swiftly as possible, make sure you include:
- All necessary information and supporting documentation.
An average of over 1/3 of all DA’s are returned for more information, adding an average of 47 days to the process.
To prevent further delays see the most common mistakes made on DA’s which are:
1. Providing incorrect landowner details (most Councils’ require the person/s on the rates notice).
2. Not meeting deadlines in the assessment timelines (the application could expire or go back to an earlier stage).
3. Being unaware of site constraints (this can result in design changes during assessment, causing changes to supporting documentation).
Be up front when completing a DA – any missing information will only delay the process. Consider hiring a professional to look over your application before lodging it, or at least visiting your local Council for advice.
However, I have found that visting my local council for answers wasn’t so helpful. They seemed to ‘skip’ around questions I had, not giving me a clear answer.
And kept referring me to a town planner, or to seek a knowledgeable drafts-person or architect. Employing them to give me the answer. I was a little baffled by this. I guess the person working perhaps didn’t want to me implicated with specific information they shared with me.
Once You Have a DA, What Step is Next Before Building?
Before lodging your DA, it’s a wise idea to talk to your immediate neighbours about your plans to see if they have any concerns. As, once your application has been lodged, there is a community feedback period.
Members of the community, particularly your adjoining neighbours, are given a chance to voice their objections. This could end up wasting time and money you could have saved by speaking with them first.
There may also be an environmental impact assessment. Finally, once your DA has been approved, you still need a Construction Certificate before you can begin building. This ensures your proposed development is compliant with the approved DA.
For more information on the approval process, please see how the process of council approval for granny flats.
What needs to be included in a DA changes between Councils, so I suggest you contact yours for advice.
Speaking directly with the Planning Department can get you:
- The DA form that is relevant to you
- The information and documentation you must include
- Free advice on your application.
However, obtaining a DA for your granny flat can be difficult, so it may help to enlist the assistance of professionals:
- Builders and designers can submit the DA for you.
- An architect can provide you professional plans.
The information in this article will help you to get a successful DA outcome, but things don’t always go right the first time. Ensuring you submit a correctly completed application will get you a long way, and quicker.