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Development Applications - Changes of use

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Under the NSW planning system, not only do new buildings generally require approval but the "use" of buildings and their fitout also generally require approval. Often this is addressed as part of the approval of the new building, although when the use of the building is changed, this may require a further approval, which is commonly referred to as a "change of use".

Examples of changes of use could be as follows:

- Change from a warehouse to a factory

- Change of use from an office to a shop

- Change of use from a house to backpackers accommodation

There are a wide range of potential changes of use when we look at the number of land use definitions provided in a typical Council LEP.

Any internal fitout work may also require approval if it doesn't meet the requirements for exempt or complying development outlined in State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt & Complying Development Codes) 2008. Signage may also require approval.

A wide range of changes of use are listed as exempt development under the SEPP. These include, changes of use between shops and office premises, hardware/building supplies and landscaping and light industry/warehousing. There are requirements relating to complying with existing consent conditions and certain uses are excluded eg. funeral homes, firearms shops.

An even wider range of changes of use can be complying development under the SEPP, meaning they can be approved by a private certifier, avoiding the need to go to Council. Examples here not in the exempt category include food and drink premises, medical centres and general industry. There are many standards that need to be met to go as complying, including requirements relating to parking and conditions of the existing development consent.

Many sites are excluded from exempt or complying development under the SEPP. I will not list all of them here, as the information is available in the SEPP, although exclusions relate to matters such as sites that are heritage listed or within wilderness areas.

For sites or developments that cannot meet the requirements for exempt or complying development, a Development Application with Council is the most likely option. Most Councils have checklists that outline the type of information required for a change of use application.

For further information on this and other related matters, check out my book Understanding Local Government and Town Planning in NSW.

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