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Wollongong City Council

Small Business Planning Advice

Thinking of starting a new small business in Wollongong? We've put together a general guide below to help you work out what approvals you'll need, and how to get them.

Your first step should be to clarify exactly what your business will involve. Having clear and specific details will help you understand the likely impacts and planning approvals needed. This should include things like:

  • Any work needed to prepare your site (eg tree removal, excavation, demolition)
  • Hours of operation
  • Staff and patron / customer numbers
  • Traffic generation and car parking requirements
  • Access for pedestrians and vehicles
  • Any processes, plant or machinery
  • Environmental impacts such as noise, odour and emissions, and things you'll need to do to manage these
  • Waste generation, storage and servicing
  • Internal fit-out
  • Signage.

Any site for your business will have a mix of opportunities and obstacles. Understanding these will help you choose the right location, and make sure a site is suitable before you buy or lease a property, or go to the expense of preparing and lodging any applications for approval.

Key information you need to know about your site includes:

  • The zoning of the land. You can check this by searching for the address on our online map.
  • What activities are permitted in the zone. This is explained in our Local Environmental Plans.
  • Site constraints and how they'll affect your business. This could include bush fire or flood prone land, contamination, heritage, easements or access issues.
  • If you need to make building alterations or are changing the use of a building, you may need to make upgrades to comply with access and fire safety requirements under the Building Code of Australia.
  • How other land and buildings near your site are used, and what impact your activity might have on them (and vice versa).

Once you have a full picture of your business and the site it will take place, you can identify any approvals you need to get started.

Running a business is  a type of development. For the purpose of determining what approvals might be needed, development is categorised as either exempt, complying, or requiring development consent.

Exempt Development

You do not need planning or construction approval for many minor renovations and low impact works, known as exempt development.

Council approval is not needed if your project meets specific development standards. The standards you must comply with for most exempt development works are in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008.

Read more about exempt development on the NSW Planning Portal.

Complying Development

Complying development is a fast-track approval process for straightforward residential, commercial and industrial development.

Complying development generally includes larger building works than exempt development. For this reason, 'sign off' by a buidling professional - known as a certifying authority - is needed.

As long as the proposal fully meets the specific development standards, it can be determined by Council or an accredited certifier without the need for a full development application.

More information about complying development can be found on the NSW Planning Portal.

Development Application

Development that is not exempt or complying will need approval from Council through a development application (DA).

See the next section of this page for information about preparing a DA for your small business.

If you need development consent, make sure your application is thorough and complete. Providing high quality documentation with your application ensures better record keeping, and a smoother and more efficient assessment.

A Development Application (DA) should include the following:

  • An application submitted through the NSW Planning Portal. Visit our Submit a Development Application page to apply.
  • Consent from the property owner. This includes the body corporate where works are proposed to common property within a strata development.
  • A Statement of Environmental Effects. This should include a detailed description of the proposal, such as:
    • description of the business
    • hours of operation
    • staff numbers
    • patron capacity
    • any preparation / sale of food
    • any amplified / live music
    • security measures (staff, CCTV, swipe entry, etc)
    • any processes / machinery.
  • Site description including adjoining land uses, existing buildings / structures on site, vehicular and pedestrian access and parking.
  • Proposed works. Any proposed works should be outlined including internal fit-out and signage. Fit-out of food and drink premises should be in accordance with Council's Design and Fit-Out Guide for Food Businesses PDF, 1247.28 KB. Detailed plans demonstrating compliance with the relevant standards must be provided, and should include the location of tables and chairs within the food and drink premises. Note that any occupation of the footpath requires a licence to be entered into with Council.
  • Permissibility. You should identify what your proposal is defined as under Council's Local Environmental Plan (LEP), and ensure that it is permitted in the relevant zone.
  • Parking, deliveries and waste management. Provide details of what parking is available, and waste and servicing arrangements.
  • Environmental impacts. Consideration will be given to the likely environmental impacts of the proposal, and how any impacts such as noise and odour are mitigated. Noise sources could include machinery, exhaust systems, traffic movements, patron noise, amplified music, use of outdoor areas and the like.
  • Building Code of Australia matters:
    • Fire Safety: You must comply with the fire safety provisions of the Building Code of Australia. Under certain circumstances additional fire safety measures may be required as a result of your proposal. In the case of a change of building use or internal alterations and additions, it is recommended that you discuss these matters with a suitably qualified fire safety expert, who is accredited with the Building Professionals Board, prior to lodgement. This will assist you to determine what additional works and costs may be incurred.
    • Access and amenities. The provision of toilet facilities and appropriate access to and within the building should be considered before lodging a development application, as further works may be required to comply with the Building Code of Australia.
  • Any signage / advertising
  • Heritage. If the subject site is identified as a heritage item, or is located in a heritage conservation area, it will have implications for what physical changes can be made to the building.
  • Sale of liquor and late trading. If you plan to sell liquor you will need to obtain a liquor licence from Liquor and Gaming NSW. It is also recommended that you consult with the Licencing Police before submitting any DA to Council.
  • Plans. A DA should be accompanied by plans that accurately depict the site and any proposed works. They should generally be prepared by a draftsman or suitably qualified person, and include a title, the name of who prepared them, the date, north point and revision number. Depending on the nature of the works, plans should include:
    • Locality Plan
    • Site Plan
    • Floor Plans
    • Elevations (illustrating any proposed signage).
  • Reports. Certain site constraints may require the preparation of specialist reports, such as bush fire, heritage, flooding, or Building Code of Australia matters. You may need to engage a specialist consultant to prepare these types of reports.

Following approval of a DA, you will be issued a development consent. Your consent is the legal document that authorises your development, and you should therefore have a clear understanding of what the consent conditions require.

If your development involves works, you will need to:

  • Nominate a Principal Certifier. This can be either Council or a Private Certifier.
  • Obtain a Construction Certificate (CC) before works commence. The CC verifies that the plans prepared are consistent with the development consent.
  • Obtain an Occupation Certificate (OC) on completion of works and prior to commencing to operate your business. The OC allows you to occupy and use the building, and verifies that the PCA is satisfied that the building is suitable to occupy or use.

The Principal Certifier is responsible for ensuring a CC has been issued prior to work commending, and that relevant inspections have been undertaken before an OC is issued.

After the OC has been issued, you are free to commence.

More details about this process can be found on our Development pages.

These resources may help you with planning for a small business:

You can also talk to Council's Duty Planner  for Development Advice or email our Small Business Planning Team.