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Understanding Exempt & Complying Developments

New homes and major renovations, Central Coast, Newcastle and Sydney

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Changes to the residential approval process.

car port

Carports & Pergolas are now
'Exempt Complying Developments'


Over the last couple of years there have been huge changes to the way we view the entire residential approval process. In 2008 The NSW State government released the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) - Exempt & Complying Developments, to encourage quicker and hassle free residential approvals for renovations and new houses. Although this new State Environmental plan is seeing quick approvals, there is, unfortunately, a huge downside.

Just to clarify the terms: "Exempt development" means renovations and improvements to your property that comply with a group of simple rules set out in the SEPP.
"Complying development" means that the renovation or new house complies with a group of simple rules set out in the SEPP. It will still need to be reviewed by council or a private certifier.

Exempt developments do not require approval or consent from council or a private certifier. Yes, you can just go ahead and do them. These developments can include carports, sheds, verandahs and pergolas etc. Before you start, though, you must confirm that your planned ideas are outlined under "Exempt development" and what criteria of rules your development needs to meet. You will need to consult council or a private certifier to ensure your plans meet the rules for Exempt development under the SEPP.

If you go ahead with an "Exempt development" before you consult council or a private certifier there is a chance council will find out from neighbours. Council may then require you to submit a traditional development application or have the development removed.

Complying Developments will require approval from council, however it will be assessed more quickly, within 10 days, instead of a 21 days to a few years. To ascertain if your renovation or new home falls into the Complying Development basket, your plans will need to be reviewed by council or a private certifier, before you submit your plans to council or a private certifier for approval.

It is important to understand that this SEPP does not include any design rules of any kind. So while the process is simple for the person wishing to improve their property, there are no rules to ensure that neighbouring developments are unaffected. The SEPP rules do not consider any over-shadowing that may occur to neighbouring homes, reduction to the privacy of adjoining properties or if the development will fit in aesthetically to the environment.

So to sum up, even though the new SEPP for Exempt and Complying developments will ensure no required approvals or quicker approval times for various types of single dwelling developments, this new policy will result in increased neighbour complaints and a huge reduction in architectural quality.


  • The rules outlined in the SEPP override any competing requirements of local councils.
  • Granny flat requirements are outlined in the SEPP and should be read in conjunction with the SEPP on Affordable Housing.