Get advice before building a duplex due to new planning laws

GUEST BLOG: Alex Kelly, Director and Lawyer for PDC Lawyers and Planners, Accredited Specialist in Planning and Environment Law. PDC have offices based in Wollongong and Nowra.

Homeowners and developers wanting to convert larger blocks around the south coast into a duplex or medium-density housing will have to wait at least another year for a faster and cheaper approval process.

New state-wide planning laws, which took effect from July this year, were deferred by Wollongong and Shoalhaven City Councils for at least 12 months.

As the laws will likely have a significant impact on the costs and possibly even the prospect of securing approval, we can expect some developers to delay plans to build.

If you’re looking to build a duplex or townhouse, seek advice to see if it’s beneficial to wait till the new laws take effect.

Developers left in limbo

The Low-Rise Medium Density Housing Code was intended to herald a new age of simplified development processes for some medium density development, such as dual occupancies.

Unfortunately, the new Code leaves room for local councils to change the terms of local policies to nullify its effect. Therefore, many councils throughout NSW, including Wollongong and the Shoalhaven, are rushing to amend their local policies and plans in order to overcome the new Code.

Right now, the rest of us are left in limbo, not knowing whether to wait and see what happens when the new Code comes into effect in the Illawarra and South Coast or proceed with applications under the current regime.

To decide if you’re going to delay application, professional advice would help by comparing how much less onerous the new Code will be as opposed to the existing DA approval process.

The problem is, even the professionals don’t have all the information just yet. The councils’ deferral may lead to amendments to local policies and plans for those building in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven. What we know now will almost certainly change by the time the code finally takes effect; if in-fact it takes effect at all.

What the code currently means to developers

The new Code was intended to allow those looking to build one or two-storey dual occupancies, manor houses and terraces, to jump through fewer hoops to get approval.

A manor house is a two storey building that has three or four flats under the one roof, but looks like a double storey house from the street.

The new Code would have permitted certain medium density development, which meets basic standards, to be approved by way of a complying development certificate, rather than having to go through the (often lengthy) development application process with council. This had the potential of slashing tens of thousands of dollars off the cost of the process and reduce the time it takes to get approval.

What won’t change are the zoning laws. You can only build a low-rise medium density property, for example, where that kind of development is already permitted under the council’s local policies and plans.

Where to from here

To wait or not to wait, that is the question. A chat with one of our specialist planning and development lawyers, an environmental planner, or a council approved certifier may be worth your while. When so much is resting on these decisions, this advice may be invaluable.


Alex Kelly

Director and Lawyer for PDC Lawyers and Planners

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Get advice before building a duplex due to new planning laws