Your Local Council – The Ins And Outs.


Are you considering making some improvements to your home?  It’s worth noting that many alterations or improvements need to be approved by your local council before you can begin any work.  If you don’t get the correct approvals, then you may be forced to tear down your improvements or even pay a fine.  This article will show you some of the ins and outs that arise when dealing with your council.

Regulations vary from council to council so the golden rule is to always check with your council during the planning stage of your project.  This will let you know if you need to lodge a development application or apply for a construction certificate.  Heritage-listed homes have additional rules about how they can be improved as often the façade of the home must remain as original as possible. 

Generally speaking, you will need approval for any work of a structural nature or work that affects the appearance of your home.  Such work includes, but is not limited to, swimming pools, garages, carports, fences, retaining walls, and any work that may affect the structural integrity of your home. 

There are strict regulations about how close to you can build to your boundaries and councils will also take into account how your proposed improvements will affect your neighbours.  Councils have to consider issues such as privacy, whether your improvement will leave your neighbours in too much shadow, their urban design plans and if your improvement will affect view corridors.  Nowadays, councils even require you to have permission before you can remove a tree!

Development Applications and Construction Certificates

A development application or construction certificate is required for all building and demolition work.  Your local council, with the exceptions of the State Government and the Land and Environment Court, is the only body that is able to approve your application or issue your certificate.

You should consult the relevant person at your council – usually a Planning Advisor or Officer – before preparing your development application or any plans.  This person will let you know of any specific council policies that may be relevant to your home improvement plans.

Some policies include site restraints, building requirements, environmental planning policies and design guidelines.  For example, many communities nowadays are designed and built with specific objectives in mind.  These objectives cover such things as what colour your roof can be, what type of driveway and fencing materials you can use and even what colour your bricks or render can be.

When lodging your application, make sure that you have included everything that your local council requires.  This will ensure that your application is processed in a timely manner, and promptness in obtaining permission from the council is important when you’re on a tight building schedule!  Turn in three copies of your application to your council but make sure that you keep a copy for yourself.

It sounds complicated but most councils are happy to answer questions over the phone and/or direct you to the relevant Council Officer.  There is a fee involved in development applications and construction certificates so find out what it is before you apply.

Noise Limits

Local councils are very strict when it comes to the amount of noise generated by home improvements.  Most, if not all, local councils have limits on when noise can be made and these limits are in place in order to reduce noise pollution.  Generally speaking, work may be carried out on your premises between the hours of 7am to 6pm on weekdays and sometimes up to 1pm on Saturdays.  Some councils do not permit loud building work on weekends however so check with your local council first. You don’t want to end up with a fine!

It is your neighbours that will be affected most by the noise you make so if you are planning to do something particularly loud like jack-hammering or using heavy machinery, tell your neighbours beforehand.  If they have any objections, you can then try to work out something mutually agreeable.

There are ways that you can reduce building noise.  Limit your working hours, or alternatively, try and get most of the loud work done when your neighbours are away from their property.  Use equipment that is in good condition – it will work more efficiently and therefore be quieter.  Also, if it is practicable, erect a solid fence or barrier of some sort to help control noise emissions.

Dealing with your local council doesn’t have to be a complicated exercise as long as you take the time to find out the requirements of your local council before you undergo any planning or building work.  Submitting the correct applications and documents will mean that approval is gained quickly and with a minimum of fuss and you can go about your home improvements knowing that you have your council’s blessing.

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