Planning Approval


Planning Approval is actually the common term for what is more correctly called “Development Plan Consent”. It is the first stage of “Development Approval


Planning Approval drawings are concerned with what the building looks like and where it is placed on the block. This is often the hardest part of the Development process for an Architect. The reason for this is that the client will often want to develop the site in a way that is not strictly compliant with the regulations.  Generally the more rules that are broken the longer the approval process takes.  This also also diminishes the chance Approval will be granted. Typical information contained in a set of residential planning drawings is (but not limited to) the percentage of the block that is covered by roofed or paved areas, the amount of “Private open Space”, the height of the walls and the roof, the proximity to boundaries, the number of enclosed and unenclosed parking spaces compared to number of bedrooms, the placement of the garage in relationship to the house and the width of the garage door opening, the length of boundary walls, the setbacks from street frontages, how storm-water is disposed, the materials used in construction and the colours of the finishes. A link to a typical set of Planning Approval drawings with cost breakdown for a Verandah Converted to a new Living area (with Dining and study) is included below.

Typical Planning Approval Drawing set


Please note that if you look at the date stamp on the document set above, this job was produced in 2011 and as such prices reflect this. This project was slightly more costly than normal. The cost for Planning Approval drawings was just over $4k. The additional cost was due to the fact that the clients brief was complicated and tight on both space and budget.  Multiple areas of the building were being changed and an additional documentation page usually not included for Planning Approval was produced in the form of a SECTION drawing (see last drawing of set). This additional information meant that this document set could be used to get a cost estimate from a Builder whist awaiting Planning Approval.  Price breakdown for this job was $1800 for measure-up, measured drawings and sketch design. $1400 for Design development (refining exactly what the client wants) and $1100 for Planning Approval documents

Plans are lodged online in the Plan SA portal. From here access can be granted to the relevant parties that need to assess them. This assessment can take from a few days to many months depending on what category it falls into.  I find that for most residential jobs producing a set of Planning Approval drawings is just over half the cost of the entire Development Approval process. At an hourly rate of $89 (my fee as of 2022) for a set of Planning Approval Drawings of a typical uncomplicated house extension will be around $6k (around $12k for the entire DA set). This cost will be around the same for a simple new house.  This assumes that the client knows pretty much what they want and sticks to their decisions.  This also assumes the building is not on a Heritage Register or in a Local streetscape area.  I have had clients spend up to double because they could not make up their mind or because they wanted to disregard planning regulations (or a combination of both).   What you see on the page for a Planning set of drawings may look the same for two jobs but the cost to produce them may be hugely dissimilar.  The hidden time taken up by meetings and answering questions is not apparent in ink on the page and yet it can be great proportion of the cost.  In preparing a set of planning drawings I will come to your house. We will have a chat about what you want and then I will  measure up the existing building and any significant elements on the site such as paving, sheds, pools, trees etc. I will then draw up plans and Elevations showing your existing building and how it relates to your block and your neighbours. The resultant drawings are called “Measured drawings”.  These form the basis for all the drawings to come and depending on the specific requirements of the job may be  fairly rough or very exacting.  Usually a set of Measured drawings good enough for most jobs can be produced for around $2500. This process takes just as long for a small extension as it does for a bigger one, which means that smaller jobs are not necessarily cheaper than larger ones.  A highly detailed 30sq m extension and renovation may cost more to draw (and as much to build)  than a simple 100sq m “box” tacked onto the rear of the existing house.  Keeping all the work in one area (and away from boundaries) will make the job simpler and cheaper. The most costly extensions are ones that involve changed use of multiple parts of the existing building or are located in separate parts of the house and site.  Heritage work will cost more in the planning stages of the job and drawings for “Merit assesment” (see below) will cost more than a “Rescode” compliant submission (the set of plans linked above was Rescode compliant)


In South Australia “Development Plan Consent” is governed by an Act of Parliament and the “2008 Development Regulations”.  The regulations in this Act that specifically apply to Residential Development are commonly called “RESCODE” an acronym for “Residential Development Code”.  The most important part of the act for Residential development is “Schedule 4”, which lists what is known as “Complying Development”.  These Regulations also call into effect the individual Council Development Plans and contain a list of Heritage and Conservation areas (such as the entire suburb of Colonel Light Gardens).  Rescode applies to much of Adelaide’s newer suburbs, but there are many areas in the older Suburbs where these rules are not applicable due to factors such as “Local Streetscape Character”. If Rescode is not applicable due to breaking too many rules or being in a non Rescode zone then the relevant Local Councils individual “Development Plan” (which is usually more stringent and prescriptive than Rescode) needs to be adhered to and a process called “Merit Assessment” is used. This is the process by which the Councils planning Department judges the Development against its own planning requirements and decides if the scheme is worthy of proceeding.