Exempt & Complying Development

The Hills Shire Council monitors unauthorised or illegal building works. Under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 it is illegal to build without the required approvals.

Penalties for a breach of the Act include on the spot fines and may include prosecution. Council’s takes action against a breach of the Act on a case by case basis.

If you witness suspected illegal building works you can report it to Council by:


Before you start

Before you start building it is important to determine what type of planning approval you need.

Development can be undertaken using three planning avenues:

  • Exempt Development;
  • Complying Development; or
  • Development Application (DA).


For information on the various forms of construction development refer to the:

State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008


Exempt Development - Requires No Approval

Structures constructed as exempt development are usually smaller projects. This is due to their low-impact nature and scale.

The must meet all the development standards listed for the type of work.

A few examples include:

  • Advertising & Signage
  • Aerials, antennae & dishes
  • Balconies, decks, patios & pergolas
  • Carports
  • Driveways, pathways and paving
  • Retaining walls
  • Fences
  • Hot water & solar systems
  • Privacy screens
  • Rainwater tanks


The Hills Local Environment Plan 2019 features more forms of exempt development.

Also visit the Planning & Environment NSW's website to seek information on exempt development for residential, commercial and industrial sites.


Complying Development - Requires Approval

Complying Development is a fast tracked approval process.

It involves combined planning and construction approval.

For further information please read the following fact sheet:

Fact Sheet - Complying Development(PDF, 1MB)  

More information is available from the NSW Planning Portal.

Or contact Council’s specialised team, The Hills Certifiers for further information:


If your project does not meet either criteria

If your proposed work does not meet the exempt or complying development criteria you will need to:

Seek general development consent by means of lodging a Development Application with Council.