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Development Application FAQs

Find answers to many frequently asked questions about development in Port Stephens.

Balconies, decks and patios

Installing balconies, decks, patios, pergolas, terraces and verandahs may not require approval if the proposal meets the relevant development standards in the State Policy for exempt and complying development. This is known as exempt development.

Council cannot advise whether or not your development is classified as exempt. This is something you have to be satisfied with as the property owner.

Under the State Policy for exempt development, balconies, decks, patios, pergolas, terraces and verandahs must generally meet the following requirements.

Site requirements:
  • not constructed or installed on or in a heritage item or a draft heritage item, and/or
  • on land in a foreshore area.
Development requirements:
  • be located behind the building line of any road frontage, and must be located from the lot boundary by at least: 
    • 5 metres (if located on Zone RU1, RU2, RU3, RU4, RU6 or R5)
    • 900 millimetres (for any other zone)
  • not have an area of more than 25m²
  • not cause the total floor area of all such structures on the lot to be more than:
    • for a lot larger than 300m — 15% of the ground floor area of the dwelling on the lot
    • for a lot 300m2 or less — 25m2
  • not have an enclosing wall higher than 1.4 metres
  • not have a floor height of more than 1 metre above the existing ground level
  • not be more than 3 metres at its highest point, above existing ground level.

Additional design and construction details can be found under Subdivision 6 of the State Policy. These developments need to comply with general and land based criteria for exempt development.

For more information, visit the NSW Planning Portal.

If your development doesn't meet the criteria for exempt development, it may be permitted with consent under most zones in Port Stephens.

Section C4 of the Port Stephens Development Control Plan sets out guidelines for this type of development.

The next step would be to lodge a Development Application.

Change of use

Changing the use of a building may not need planning permission if the proposed change meets the requirements set out in the State Policy for exempt and complying development. This is known as exempt development.

Please refer to Subdivision 10A of the State Policy for a full list of development standards under exempt development relating to changing the use of a building. Any development needs to comply with the general and land based criteria for exempt development.

For more information, visit the NSW Planning Portal.

A Complying Development Certificate may be issued for a change of use of an existing building or the initial use of a new building if the proposal meets the relevant development standards. For more information, see:

Council may grant development consent for change of use or initial use if the proposal meets the relevant planning controls.

View the planning controls for dwellings and ancillary development:

To get started, view the development application process.

Dual occupancy

Dual occupancies can be subdivided where the resulting allotments meet the minimum lot sizes for the zone under the Local Environmental Plan 2013. Clause 4.1C details exceptions to minimum lot sizes for certain developments.

You can easily look up the address of the development to see zoning requirements and minimum lot size on the NSW Planning Portal.

Dwelling house

Depending on the type of development proposal, you may not need approval. Many types of home renovations and minor building projects don't need approval from council or an accredited certifier. If the building project meets specific standards and land requirements, no planning or building approval is needed.

Dwelling means a room or suite of rooms occupied or used or so constructed or adapted as to be capable of being occupied or used as a separate domicile.

Dwelling house means a building containing only one dwelling.

Complying development

Some new detached dwelling houses can be designed to meet the criteria for complying development listed in the State Policy.

If your dwelling meets all of the criteria, you will need to obtain a Complying Development Certificate prior to commencing work.

Development Application

Many new dwellings houses will not meet all of the criteria for complying developments. In this case, you will need to lodge a Development Application with Council.

A Development Application for a dwelling house will need to comply with legislation and the technical requirements outlined in:

You will need a BASIX certificate if you are lodging a development application for:

  • a new home
  • any alteration or addition to an existing home of $50,000 or more.

If you receive approval for your dwelling, you will also need to obtain a Construction Certificate prior to starting building works.

Home Business

The Port Stephens Local Environmental Plan 2013 defines a home business as:

A business that is carried on in a dwelling, or in a building ancillary to a dwelling, by one or more permanent residents of the dwelling and that does not involve any of the following:

  • the employment of more than 2 persons other than those residents
  • interference with the amenity of the neighborhood by reason of the emission of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, vapor, steam, soot, ash, dust, waste water, waste products, grit or oil, traffic generation or otherwise
  • the exposure to view, from any adjacent premises or from any public place, of any unsightly matter
  • the exhibition of any signage (other than a business identification sign)
  • the sale of items (whether goods or materials), or the exposure or offer for sale of items, by retail, except for goods produced at the dwelling or building, but does not include bed and breakfast accommodation, home occupation (sex services) or sex services premises.

If you meet the above definition, the development must also meet clause 5.4 of the Local Environmental Plan, which states:

  • If development for the purposes of a home business is permitted under this Plan, the carrying on of the business must not involve the use of more than 50m2 of floor area.

It depends on the type of home business you are planning to operate.

Exempt development

Under the State Policy, a house may be used for home business as exempt development, so long as the use does not involve the manufacture of food products or skin penetration procedures.

Council cannot advise whether your development is classified as exempt. This is something you have to be satisfied with as the property or business owner.

For more information about exempt development, visit the NSW Planning Portal.

Complying development

These 2 types of home businesses may be carried out as complying development (fast-track approval process):

For more information about complying development, visit the NSW Planning Portal.

Development Application

If your development isn't exempt or complying, generally home business is permitted with consent under most zones in Port Stephens.

The Port Stephens Development Control Plan Chapter C6 (Home Business or Home Industry) sets out the guidelines for this type of development.

The next step is to lodge a Development Application. Council is not required to notify or advertise for home business applications.

For more information on hairdressing and beauty salons:

For more information on food and drink preparation premises:

Secondary dwelling / Granny flat

A granny flat, or secondary dwelling, is self-contained accommodation within, attached or separate to an individual home.

Granny flats or secondary dwellings require approval before starting construction through complying development or a Development Application.

Complying development

Council or accredited certifier can certify granny flats as complying development without the need for a development application, so long as they meet standards in the State Policy for affordable rental housing.

Typically, to build a granny flat as complying development it must be:

  • established in conjunction with another dwelling (the principal dwelling)
  • on the same lot of land as the principal dwelling (and not an individual lot in a strata plan or community title scheme), and
  • may be within, attached to, or separate from the principal dwelling.
Development Application

If the development does not meet complying development standards, you can lodge a development application with Council.

Secondary dwellings are permissible under the Port Stephens Local Environmental Plan 2013 in these zones:

  • R1 General Residential
  • R2 Low Density Residential
  • R3 Medium Density Residential
  • R5 Large Lot Residential.

The total floor area (excluding parking) must not exceed whichever of the following is greater:

  • 60m2
  • 40% of the total floor area of the principle dwelling.

Applications must address and consider the requirements of the Local Environmental Plan and the Development Control Plan. A BASIX certificate is not required.

Development contributions apply to secondary dwellings and have a lower development contribution rate to dual occupancy development.

Sheds and carports

Installing a carport may not require approval if the proposal meets the relevant development standards in the State Policy for exempt and complying development. This is known as exempt development.

Council cannot advise whether or not your development is classified as exempt. This is something you have to be satisfied with as the property owner.

Generally, a carport cannot be constructed as exempt development on land:

  • in a foreshore area
  • on or in a heritage item
  • on or in draft heritage item.

Also:

  • if on bushfire prone land, carports must be constructed of non-combustible materials if within 5 metres of a house.
  • if in heritage conservation areas (or draft conservation areas), carports must be in the rear yard.
  • carports must be at least 1 metre behind the building line facing any road.

Any development must comply with additional design and construction details in the Subdivision 10 of the State Policy, as well as general and land based criteria for exempt development.

Signage

Specific development standards must be met when constructing, installing or displaying the types of signs identified in the State Policy. If satisfied, these standards allow certain types of signage to be erected as exempt development (without consent from Council).

Generally to be considered exempt development, the sign must:

  • have consent in writing from the owner of the land on which the sign is located — if the sign is located over adjoining land, the consent of the owner of the adjoining land is also required
  • be approved under section 138 of the Roads Act 1993 if the sign or part of the sign projects over a public road (including a footpath)
  • not be carried out on or in relation to a building being used as a restricted premise
  • not cover any mechanical ventilation outlets located on any building in which the business is carried out not obstruct or interfere with any traffic sign
  • all signage must be securely fixed to the building in accordance with the relevant Australian Standards.

Council cannot advise whether or not your development is classified as exempt — it's up to the individual to assess their proposal against the State Policy. If you are satisfied it meets exempt provisions, you may proceed without consent from Council.

If you do not meet the exempt provisions under State Policy, you will need development consent from Council. Schedule 1 of the State Environmental Planning Policy No. 64 – Advertising and Signage outlines assessment criteria for signage.

In your development application, you should include:

  • Development and Construction Certificate Application — including correct property address and owner's consent
  • Site plan including neighbouring property boundaries and location of the signage if appropriate
  • Signage plans — showing colour, size and content. If the proposal includes a pylon sign, signage elevations should also be included in plans.
  • Statement of Environmental Effects should include an assessment against the State Policy on advertising and signage, Port Stephens Local Environmental Plan 2013 and Development Control Plan 2014 (Chapter C8).

See Development Applications for more information on Council's applications process.

Subdivision

Subdivision of land is the process of creating new lots of land, changing the size of the existing lot or changing the location of property boundaries. This process creates a new title for each new lot that can be registered with NSW Land Registry Services. There are several types of subdivision.

Torrens title

Subdivisions involve the creation of new allotments from an existing allotment, including:

  • boundary adjustments — realignment of a lot boundary
  • site consolidations — amalgamation of 2 or more lots into one lot
  • the subdividing of an existing lot into 2 or more lots.
Community title

The subdivision of land so that each lot has a separate title but shares a common piece of land such as a pool, BBQ area, driveway, garden and so on. The community plan for the subdivision may outline a number of development guidelines for the subdivision's design and construction.

Strata title
  • Gives ownership to individual portions of a larger property and a share of common property such as gardens and driveways. Owners become members of the body corporate and may share responsibility for the whole property.
  • Strata subdivision is most commonly used with dual occupancies, multiple dwelling development, apartment buildings, commercial and industrial buildings.
Stratum subdivision
  • The horizontal subdivision of sections of a building into separate titles.
  • For example, the subdivision of a ground floor retail or commercial area from the above residential floors.

As most subdivisions of land are carried out under Torrens Title subdivision, the below information relates to Torrens Title subdivision only.

Most subdivisions require development consent. See the Development Application process for more information.

For some minor boundary adjustments, consent may not be required if it meets the criteria contained in State Policy.

If the proposal doesn't qualify as exempt development and is a strata subdivision, you may be able to apply for a Complying Development Certificate if it meets the relevant development standards.

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