Understand the development application process, categories of development and types of applications with an overview of planning and its importance in the Douglas Shire.

Planning is balancing the built and natural environment, community needs, cultural significance, and economic sustainability, planners aim to improve our quality of life and create vibrant communities.

The work planners do is becoming more important as society places greater emphasis on environmental sustainability, liveable communities, high quality urban design and managing urban growth effectively in order to build a nation worth inheriting for future generations.

Planners aim to improve our quality of life and create vibrant communities and specialise in the areas of planning that include balancing the built and natural environment, community needs, cultural significance and economic sustainability.


Planning documents

The main planning documents Council uses to guide the development of our communities are:



Introduction to Development Applications

A development application is an application made for consent under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (“the Act”) to carry out development.

Development is defined in the Act as:

  • Carrying out building work
  • Carrying out plumbing or drainage work
  • Carrying out operational work for example:
    • Earthworks;
    • Operational work for reconfiguring a lot;
    • Construction of a vehicle driveway or cross-over;
    • Construction of a carpark;
    • Roadworks relocating Council infrastructure;
    • Stormwater drainage works; and
    • Replacing an advertising device on premises.
  • Making a material change of use of premises for example:
    • The start of a new use of the premises;
    • The re-establishment of a use that has been abandoned; and
    • Increasing the scale and/or intensity of an existing use.
  • Reconfiguring a lot for example:
    • Creating lots by subdividing another lot.
  • Amalgamating two or more lots;
  • Rearranging the boundaries of a lot;
  • Dividing land into parts by agreement; and
  • Creating an easement giving access to a lot from a road.


A development application is necessary to change the use of land, subdivide land, carry out building, landscaping and other work, unless what is proposed is self-assessable under the Douglas Shire Planning Scheme 2008.


Types of Developmental Approval

The types of approval issued by Council are:

Preliminary Approval
A preliminary approval is a legally binding approval that approves development, but does not authorise assessable development to take place. A preliminary approval approves development to the extent stated in the approval, and subject to the conditions of the approval.

Where a preliminary approval is issued, final detailed design of the development or other details and assessments are still outstanding, which would need to be submitted for any development permit to be issued.

There is no requirement to get a preliminary approval for development, however preliminary approvals are often used to assist in the staging of an approval, an example being a concept plan for a subdivision layout.

Development Permit
A development permit authorises assessable development to take place; to the extent stated in the permit, and subject to the conditions of the permit.


Categories of Development

The categories of development under the Act include:

Exempt Development
Where development is identified as exempt it requires no application and does not need to comply with the Codes or other requirements of the region’s planning schemes. Some development activities may also become exempt development if it is designated as Community Infrastructure in accordance with the Act.

Another example of exempt development is the amalgamation of lots by a new survey plan. It is important to remember that even if your project does not need a development application, a building approval may still be required. Always check with a building certifier to see if you need a building application.

Self-assessable Development
Certain types of projects do not need a development application but must comply with the Douglas Shire Council’s rules, including applicable codes. These projects are referred to as ‘self-assessable’.

Whether a project is self-assessable depends on the planning area of your property and whether the property is subject to other codes or restrictions. Do a land search on your street address to find out the planning area, other constraints for your property.

Development requiring compliance assessment
Compliance assessment is required for plan sealing applications and work/technical documents identified within development approval conditions as requiring compliance assessment ie. As Constructed Drawings.

Assessable development
The following development projects are ‘assessable’ and need a development application:

  • carrying out building work
  • carrying out plumbing or drainage work
  • carrying out operational work
  • reconfiguring a lot (subdivision)
  • making a material change of use of premises (unless identified as being exempt, self assessable, or prohibited)


In approving assessable development, conditions of approval may be placed on the proposal to ensure compliance with a Code requirement or provision and/or alleviate impacts of the development.

Prohibited Development
Under Schedule 3 of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, “prohibited development” is defined as development:

  • listed in Schedule 1 of the Act, or
  • declared under a state planning regulatory provision to be prohibited development, or
  • stated or declared under any of the following for the planning scheme area to be prohibited development.



Levels of Assessment

With regard to assessable development, different categories of development applications require different levels of assessment. Some are advertised for public comment.

Code assessable
Some projects are straightforward and fit within the “rules” of the applicable Planning Scheme. These projects are “Code Assessable”. Code Assessable applications do not require public notification.

Impact assessable
Other applications are more complex and are classified as “Impact Assessable”. This means Council needs to examine them in more detail with input from the community before making a decision to approve or refuse the application.

For impact assessable projects, Council also takes into account submissions from the community. Note that submitters have appeal rights under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.