A Development Application (or DA) is an official request for permission to carry out a development.

A development includes changes to anything from an existing driveway, to a knock down rebuild of your home, a new home on a new block, or a large commercial development.

If you want to do a knock down rebuild in Canberra, your development application (or exemption from requiring one) is handled by your building designer/architect and your Building Certifier.

As you discuss the ideal layout and style of your new home with your designer, they will be able to advise you on the building legislation that affects your suburb. Not every suburb in Canberra has the same rules governing the way a house can be designed, so it is important to use an established designer (we can help you find one) that is highly familiar with local building legislation.

The legislation for your suburb will affect the way you can build your home. This might include the amount of set back from the street, proximity to neighbours, height of the house, materials for use, energy efficiency and so on.

A great designer will understand how to combine building legislation with your desired design to create your ideal home.

In this perfect circumstance, your building design will automatically tick all of the legislation boxes and fall into a category known as “Code Compliant”. A Building Certifier will assess the design and agree that it is compliant, in which case you will be exempt from undergoing the more lengthy process of obtaining approval from ACTPLA (Canberra’s governing body). Most designs for new homes tend to be code compliant, thereby removing any stress about whether it will be approved.

Sometimes in an effort to ensure compliance and meet your expectations, your building designer may get a little creative with their plans – such as suggesting that you keep a section (even just a wall) of your current home.

Why?

Well, if your home was built in the 1980s, it almost definitely complies with 1980s building legislation. A lot has changed since then, but as long as you complied in the year you built, you have had no need to worry about legislation changes. Unless you knock it down. Once you erect a new structure, the new structure must be compliant with new legislation.

So, if during your discussions with the designer you identify that you want something that was permissible in the 1980s but not permissible now, your designer may recommend keeping a portion of your home which still technically falls under the legislation of the 1980s.

It’s all up to the designer and how creative they can be. A great designer will be aware of all of this and more – helping you maximise your design to get the best of both worlds!

So what happens if your new home design does not tick all of the legislation boxes? For example, perhaps the slope of your block requires you to build higher than the legislation. Or a large tree is preventing you from achieving the proper set-back from the street.

If this happens, the Building Certifier will place your home on a “Merit Track Assessment Process”. About 600 homes in the ACT every year go through this process – which is not a lot considering the amount of new developments.

The Merit Track Assessment Process can take a long time (months). It includes putting up a development signpost on the property, putting the application on ACTPLA’s website for public viewing, and providing neighbours and other affected parties with a time period in which to raise any objections.

When you submit your application, your designer will need to justify how you still meet the intent of the legislation (i.e.: not overshadowing neighbours).

In a circumstance where you fail to meet to legislation by just a fraction, your designer may be able to apply for an Exemption Declaration. This basically says that the development is 99% compliant, and is much faster than a Merit Track Assessment.

Before you begin wondering about whether your block and desired home design will have you stamped as Code Compliant or on the Merit Track, call us for a free site assessment.

We’ll come and visit your block, discuss your design and help you identify any potential issues that could affect code compliance. This will give you plenty of time to consider your options and understand how you might approach any challenges.

And if you are seeking a block to purchase specifically for a knock down rebuild, give us a call before you make an offer. Generally, a wide flat block is your safest bet!

For more information about DA Approval in Canberra, or to arrange a free site assessment, call us on 62 47 4799 or email info@rosinbros.com.au.

For more information on Development Applications, visit: ACTPLA.