FAQs

Common questions asked when undertaking building, development and renovating.

When do I need to get development approval

Please note, the information provided is only intended to be a summary. All applications are considered on their individual merits and therefore situations may vary.

Please contact the duty planner to check whether your ideas require development approval before you start work. 

 

A Planner is usually available at Council to provide advice on technical planning matters during office hours. To ensure availability and so we can allocate sufficient time to deal with your enquiry, please arrange an appointment by ringing (08) 8372 5111 or by emailing developmentservices@unley.sa.gov.au with your planning enquiry.

 The types of development that usually need approval are:

  • Building work and construction
  • Changing a land use, for example an office to a shop
  • Altering land boundaries, for exampling subdividing land into two
  • Advertising 

Some projects at home are not considered 'development' and are exempt from  needing approval. For example, a small garden shed, fence or water tank. 

You can check if these projects need approval at your property by entering your address into PlanSA's approval wizard.

Preliminary Applications

Preliminary advice may be sought from our Development team. These requests for preliminary advice must be accompanied by relevant information such as plans, information of the proposal, subdivision layout and operational information.

The intent of the preliminary advice is to provide broad comment on the proposed development and the information submitted, as well as indicating the issues that the Council considers should be addressed during the development assessment stage. Other issues may arise depending on the final design of the development and the advice cannot address all matters that will need to be considered by the Council once a Development Application is lodged.

Preliminary advice does not constitute formal approval or refusal.

 Preliminary Advice Application

Understand the Development Application Process

What is the difference between planning and building?

Planning Consent is the first step in the Development Application Process. Planning is the concept - what do you want to do? Where will your house, addition or garage etc be located on your block of land? What will it look like? Where in relation to all of the other buildings, structures and trees on your land and on your neighbours'? Will there be overshadowing or overlooking issues? How much private open area will you have?

Building Rules Consent is the second step in the Development Application Process. This is where we consider the physical construction details - the specifications (what materials you're using), the footing details and/or engineer's report (how you'll make your building stand up), working drawings (how your building will be constructed) etc.

You can apply for Planning Consent and Building Rules Consent at the same time if you wish. However you will need BOTH Planning Consent AND Building Rules Consent to get Development Approval.

What is the zoning of my property?

To find out the zoning of your property, please refer to the South Australia Property and Planning Atlas. 

You can read more about the changes to zoning and the new Planning Design Code by visiting our webpage.

How long will it take to get development approval?

The approval time for applications differs depending on the complexity of your application. If we need to notify your application, it may take up to two months for approval. This time frame may increase if we need to ask for more information, if we receive representations from notified parties, or if the application needs to be assessed by the Council Assessment Panel.

What do I need to provide for development approval?

All applications are now required to be lodged through the PlanSA Portal. You can find further information and guides on what is required here.

Who is responsible for Damage to Council Infrastructure caused as part of a development?

The responsibility to repair any damage to council infrastructure at the completion of a development is that of the applicant / owner.

All repairs to damage footpaths and roads caused due to the construction of an approved development should be repaired before hand over or soon after to avoid any extra cost to repair damaged Council infrastructure. All work is to be done in accordance to Council specifications and guild lines.

If there is damage that has not been repaired Council will assess and send a notice to repair the damaged infrastructure. If Council are to conduct the required repairs, an invoice will be attached for the cost of repairs requiring payment. 

Costs to repair damaged infrastructure would be at the cost of the applicant/owner.

When do I require Building Indemnity Insurance?

All residential development with more than $12,000 in estimated cost needs "Building Indemnity Insurance" unless the developer is an owner/builder or the builder is not known when the application is lodged. In the latter case, a condition requesting submission of the Building Indemnity Insurance is placed on the approval. If you intend to be an owner/builder, by law you must engage a registered site supervisor.

If the developer has a Builder's Licence then he/she is required to take out Building Indemnity Insurance even if the developer is the owner of the property (unless the licence is a Supervisor's Licence).

Building Indemnity Insurance lapses after five years.

Are there any special requirements if I am an owner builder?

If you are going to be responsible for undertaking building work as an owner/builder, you must engage a registered Building Work Supervisor and provide the details to us by completing a Registered Building Work Supervisor Details form(DOCX, 66KB). This form will need to be submitted through the PlanSA Portal. 

After I get my approval, when can I start work?

You have 24 months from the date of your Development Approval to start work (this usually means laying the footings) and three years from the date of your Development Approval to substantially finish the work. Please contact Council if you require an extension of time to your approval. 

What is CAP?

CAP is the abbreviation for Council Assessment Panel (formerly known as the Development Assessment Panel or DAP). The CAP is a body of people who consider and make decisions on some development applications in their Council area. The role of the CAP is to make impartial and transparent development assessment decisions based on the policies in the Development Plan.

Read more about CAP and view previous meetings, agendas and minutes.

Find out about significant trees

What is a significant tree?

A regulated tree is any tree in metropolitan Adelaide, Adelaide Hills Council townships and parts of the Mount Barker Council with a trunk circumference of 2m or more (measured at a point 1m above natural ground level). In the case of trees with multiple trunks, regulated trees are those with trunks having a total circumference of 2m or more and an average circumference of 625mm or more (measured at a point 1m above natural ground level).

A significant tree is a regulated tree in metropolitan Adelaide, Adelaide Hills Council townships and parts of the Mount Barker Council with a trunk circumference of 3m or more (measured at a point 1m above natural ground level). In the case of trees with multiple trunks, significant trees are those with trunks having a total circumference of 3m or more and an average circumference of 625mm or more (measured at a point 1m above natural ground level).

For more information view the PlanSA Fact Sheet on Regulated and Significant Trees(PDF, 327KB)

 

Cutting Down / pruning a tree at the fenceline (between private property)

Pruning back a regulated tree's branches or roots that are encroaching on your property does not require development consent unless it is likely to affect the health and appearance of the tree. For further information please contact the Legal Services Commission.

Where cutting back the tree would result in damage to the tree (including root damage), you will be required to seek Development Approval from Council for any works on your side of the common property boundary.

If you have any concerns on work being undertaken on a Significant or Private Tree, please contact Council on (08) 8372 5111.

Private Trees

The law about neighbours' rights and responsibilities for trees is covered by the common law of nuisance. Information on your rights and responsibilities as a tree owner can be found on the Legal Services Commission Website. Most general questions can be answered with the Trees and the Law Handbook.

Change my fencing

Do I need development approval to build a fence?

In some cases you will need development approval to build a fence. To check if you need approval please visit the PlanSA website. 

 

Which kind of fence is right for my property ? 

View a range of useful guides to development to choose the appropriate fence to match your home.

Change the use of my property

If you intending on undertaking any building work or seeking to change the land use of a property you may require Development Approval from the City of Unley. 

A Duty Planner is available to speak with between the office hours Monday to Friday with the exception of Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons. Visit the Civic Centre during these times, phone (08) 8372 5111 or email pobox1@unley.sa.gov.au with your planning enquiry.

Other permits/ regulations

If you obtain a planning permit from Council to change the use of your property, before you commence, you may also need a Building permit – if any structural re-modelling is required, or the ‘class’ or category/type of the building use/ occupancy changes.

 

Businesses may also require

  • Health permit – depending on the type of use (eg. Hairdressing salon, hotel).
  • Footpath Trading License – if you wish to place anything on the footpath such as tables and chairs, umbrellas or signs (the planning permit does not include the footpath).
  • Food Safety registration – if you plan to serve or sell food.

Visit our business responsibility page.

 

View historic plans of my property

Viewing previous property plans

As not all properties in the Council area have comprehensive records available, you should first complete the application form Request to view Plans to view what plans are available. Should you wish to have copies of these plans you can make a formal application. If you make a formal application you will be required to pay the relevant fee. 

If you require copies of plans and reports (in paper or electronic format), copyright release may be required from the copyright owner. Records Officers will advise you if this is the case and how this may affect the timeframe for providing the information.

For further information on copyright, visit the Australian Copyright Council website.

Request To View Plans

 

Get approval to undertake work on Public Land

Development Approval and Altering a Public Road or Removing a Street Tree

An application to Alter Public Road Form is required to be submitted to Councils for any works being undertaken on Council land / Public Road and Footpath as part of your development. A separate application form is required for an Underground Electrical Service installation and street tree removal. 

Approval from Council is required for the following works:

  • Opening, Closing and the Extending of a Crossover / Driveway
  • Installation of new or replacement of stormwater pipe crossing the footpath or other stormwater installation across council land. (Note a specified class pipe is required across Council footpath. ( Refer to specifications )
  • Any alterations to Council land / roads and footpath
  • Installation for Underground Electrical Service (Underground Electrical service Form).
  • Removal of a street tree 

 

Lodging an Application

While Development Approval provides authority to develop your private property it does not provide the required approval to conduct works on Council land to alter a public road. If your development requires the removal/ installation of stormwater pipes, create nature strip, repair damaged footway, close/open driveway crossover, extend driveway crossover, removal of council street tree, you are required to lodge an application providing your Development Approval number and any other information you deem relevant.

To alter Council’s roads you are required to apply for authorisation by completing an Application to Alter a Public Road form(PDF, 260KB).  All work is to be done in accordance to Council specifications and guidelines.  Further details on Council's specifications and guidelines can be found here.  

If you wish to remove a street tree, you must complete an Application for Street Tree Removal. (PDF, 29KB)

If you have any queries regarding these application forms, please contact Council on (08) 8372 5111.

Dial before you Dig

Before any excavation is undertaken you are required to make a Dial Before You Dig Enquiry to ensure you do not damage underground infrastructure.

Who is responsible for Damage to Council Infrastructure caused as part of a development?

The responsibility to repair any damage to council infrastructure at the completion of a development is that of the applicant / owner

All repairs to damage footpaths and roads caused due to the construction of an approved development should be repaired before hand over or soon after to avoid any extra cost to repair damaged Council infrastructure. 

If there is damage that has not been repaired Council will assess and send a notice to repair the damaged infrastructure. If Council are to conduct the required repairs, an invoice will be attached for the cost of repairs requiring payment. Please note that costs to repair damaged infrastructure are forwarded to the applicant/owner.