Setting up a Small Business Pre-application Information & Checklist

Starting up a business requires approvals centered around the businesses location and Development Consents and/or Food & Health Registrations based on the intended business use.

Unfortunately where businesses commence without appropriate approval, business operators can place themselves in difficult circumstances either because their use is prohibited, or because they have great difficulties in meeting building and fire safety requirements for particular types of uses.

This can have a significant financial impact. We would like to assist you avoid this hardship.

Below you will find information on Council's Development Assessment Team who are available to guide you through the process as well as detailed checks you can complete for your business before you sign a lease or enter into any other business agreements.

If a detailed Development Application is required for your new business there are also final checklists before submission to the NSW online Planning Portal.

Let Us Guide You Through the Set-Up & Application Process...

Step 1.The Benefits of Submitting this Small Business Pre-application Checklist?

  • Your online query will be referred to Council’s Development Assessment (DA) Team for review by a relevant officer within the team.
  • A letter will be issued by the relevant officer in response to your query including advice on whether your proposed activity is exempt, permitted or prohibited on the land under the provisions of The Hills LEP 2019.
  • If your proposed activity is exempt or permitted on the land without consent, you will be advised accordingly subject to compliance with relevant requirements depending on the nature of the proposed operation.
  • If your proposed activity requires development consent, you will be advised to lodge a Development Application for consideration and determination by Council.
  • Relevant fact sheets  will also be attached in the letter (if necessary) to guide you on the next steps you have to follow and you can contact the relevant officer for clarification or further assistance. 


Step 2.Getting Started

Complete and submit the Small Business Pre-Application Checklist form below:

Click here to view form.


Step 3.Next Steps?

When you complete and submit the online form a dedicated development assessment officer will contact you to assist you through the application process, including how to complete all relevant documentation and Development Application (DA) requirements.

You can also contact them by calling The Hills Shire Council on 02 9843 0555 or emailing

The Planning Approval Process in Detail

This section outlines the information available on planning approvals for you to explore.


Pre-lodgement (Find out what type of planning approval you need)

If you are thinking of setting up a business (either small or large scale) or changing the use of an existing business, it is important to determine what type of planning approval you need.

You may not need planning approval, you may be eligible for a streamlined approval process or you may be required to lodge a full development application with Council.

If required, it is your responsibility to provide all the required information and to make sure your Development Application provides enough detail to enable council to make a decision. 

Providing an assessment-ready application, with all required information will save time and money, for both you and council.


Check your intended business is permitted at your chosen location

Before you purchase or lease a premises, it is important to ensure that the premises' location is suitable for your intended use of the business.
To check these land permissions you will firstly need to know the zoning associated with the current (or intended) business location.

There are 3 ways to check the zoning of the businesses location

1) Firstly we recommend visiting the Service NSW for Business website and completing their property report tool.

Access the Property Report Tool here

2) Different zones and land uses are also detailed in Council's:

The Hills Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2019 (Web Page)

3) and summarised in Council's:

Land Use Matrix (PDF)


Complying with Relevant Development Controls and Regulations

Next, check your intended business, and any proposed fit out works,  comply with the relevant controls under The Hills Shire Council Development Control Plan (DCP) 2012.

This is to ensure that the business complies with controls that may include (but are not limited to):

  • Car parking
  • Hours of operation
  • Noise controls
  • Floor space ratios
  • Access and movement etc.


You will need to do some research to determine if your business will comply by reading the following DCP documents:

  • Part A - Introduction
  • Part B - Section 6 and/or 7
  • All of Part C - General Documents and;
  • Any Site Specific documents listed in Part D

These documents are found on The Hills Shire Council Website Here.


Check your Business will Meet Building and Fire Safety Requirements

You will need to investigate compliance with:

  • Fire safety measures
  • Building Code of Australia (BCA) compliance and
  • Other related building regulations.


Where a building is subject to an existing performance solution or fire engineering report, a review of the proposed use may be required to ensure it is consistent with the with the report. This will need to be undertaken by a Building Surveyor - Unrestricted or Certifier- Fire Safety and written confirmation will be requested.

Where a DA is lodged for a change of building use where the applicant does proposes the rebuilding, alteration, enlargement or extension to an existing building, Council need to consider if there are sufficient measures to assist occupants getting out of the building in the event of a fire and if provisions to restrict fire spread are satisfactory.

In determining the application, Council staff may impose conditions requiring the building to be upgraded partially or totally in conformity with the current Building Code of Australia.

Where a DA is lodged for a change of building use for an existing building where the applicant does not seek the rebuilding, alteration, enlargement or extension of a building, in determining the application, Council is to take into consideration whether the fire protection and structural capacity of the building will be appropriate for the building’s proposed use.

Consent must not be granted unless Council is satisfied that the building complies (or will, when completed, comply) with Category 1 fire safety provisions (under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000) which are applicable to the building’s proposed use.

The obligation to comply with the Category 1 fire safety provisions may require building work to be carried out even though none is proposed. Where building works are required, a construction certificate must be obtained prior to the commencement of the building work.


Advice from a Building Surveyor - Unrestricted will need to be provided, addressing:

  • Fire protection and structural capacity of the building, and
  • Category 1 fire safety provisions.


Fire protection and structural capacity of the building means:

  1. The structural strength and load-bearing capacity of the building
  2. The measures to protect persons using the building, and to facilitate their egress from the building, in the event of fire
  3. The measures to restrict the spread of fire from the building to other buildings nearby.


Category 1 fire safety provision means EP1.3, EP1.4, EP1.6, EP2.1, EP2.2, EP3.2 & P2.3.2 of the Building Code of Australia.

Council’s Fire safety team can provide pre-lodgement Building Code/Fire safety advice in accordance with Council’s fees and charges. Please contact Council’s Customer service staff to arrange a meeting.


Statement of Environmental Effects

A Statement of Environmental Effects is a report that details the likely environmental and social impacts of the proposed development and the proposed measures to address any expected harm to the environment or community.

To produce a thorough Statement of Environmental Effects you should seek out the services of a suitably qualified and experienced Town Planning Consultant to assist you in preparing the necessary documentation to accompany your development application.


Understanding the Three Levels of Development Approval

Next you need to understand what types of development require which level of approval


Exempt Development

There are some types of development that do not require development consent (known as exempt development).

Exempt and complying development for cafés:


Exempt and complying development for hairdressers and salons:


Exempt and complying development for a retail shop or office:

Structures constructed as exempt development are usually smaller projects that do not require any approval due to their low-impact nature and scale, so long as they meet all of the development standards listed for the type of work.

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 outlines various forms of development that may be constructed as ‘exempt’ development.

Additional forms of exempt development that are listed in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 have been included in The Hills Local Environment Plan 2019.

To assist in understanding the exempt development requirements and limitations for residential, commercial and industrial sites, visit the Planning & Environment NSW's website:

Visit the Planning & Environment NSW website


Complying Development

There are some types of development that may be approved via a fast track approval system (known as complying development) that involves combined planning and construction approval. 

Fact Sheet - Complying Development(PDF, 1MB) 

More information is available from the NSW Planning Portal.

Need further assistance? Contact Council’s specialised team, The Hills Certifiers, for further information on 02 9843 0301 or visit


Lodging a Development Consent Application with The Hills Shire Council

If your proposed work does not meet the criteria of exempt or complying development then you will need to obtain development consent by lodging a Development Application with Council.

More Information on the Development Application Process is available here


Need Further Assistance? We can help

Council's Development Assessment Team are available to guide you through the DA process.

Contact them here

Lodging a Development Application

This section details how to submit your Development Application (if required) once you are satisfied the business will meet Council's requirements and you have gathered ALL of the required and complete documentation for online submission.

If you are unsure, please reach out to our Development Assessment Officers who are available to guide you through the process.

Access the Small Business Pre-Application Checklist

For the lodgement of a Development Application for larger scale or more complex developments (including large scale rural activities, seniors living developments, child care centres and new or extensions/alterations to commercial or industrial developments) you might consider booking a formal pre-lodgement meeting here.

How to Submit a Development Application 

The Development Application process has changed and hard copy applications are no longer accepted at your local council administration centre - All Development Applications are now submitted online via the NSW Government Planning Portal.

There are advantages to submitting your application through the NSW Government Planning Portal:

What You Need to Upload to the Planning Portal

Plans and documents are to be submitted as part of the application detailing the proposed works and use of the site.

Details of how the business is to operate also needs to be provided (for example signage, hours of operation, car parking spots, number of employees and expected patrons on site).

Applications with missing or incomplete information may be rejected. This would require applicants to reapply and lengthen the amount of time taken to complete the application.

The type of information that accompanies an online Development Application will vary depending on your proposal and the location of the business. This may include:

  • Fire Safety Compliance Report
  • Statement of Environmental Effects
  • Political Donations or Gifts
  • If the site is affected by The Hills Shire Council S7.12  Contributions Plan include the “Cost Summary Report” or  “Detailed Cost Report”
  • Architectural Plans
  • Site Plan
  • Floor Plan
  • Elevation Drawings
  • Section Drawings
  • Site Photographs
  • Proposed signage on a plan with dimensions, colours and wording
  • Waste Management Plan


Fees and Charges

Council will email a fee estimate and payment arrangements to the applicant after checking the application. The fees must be paid before the application can continue to be lodged with Council and assigned to the assessing officer.


I'm Ready to Submit My Application Online?


You will need to first:

Register an account through the NSW Planning Portal and then:

Submit the Development Application Online


What Happens Next?

After submitting the application, the applicant will receive an email confirming receipt of the application and receive a reference number.

Council will then check the application for lodgement.

A fee estimate and payment arrangements will be emailed to the applicant if the application has been completed with the necessary information for assessment.

When the required fee/s is paid, the application will then be lodged as a Development Application, Section 4.55 modification and assessment of the application will commence. 

More information on Development Application Assessment can be found here.


Track Your Application

You will find applications that have been lodged via the NSW Planning Portal and submitted to Council for assessment using Council’s Application Tracker. 

Track my Development Application

Additional Small Business Support

Business Help Desk and Concierge Program

In addition to the pre-application service offered above, Council provides free personalised support to small business owners as they build and grow their businesses or if they need to adapt and recover in times of crisis.

Council’s Economic Development team, in conjunction with the Service NSW Business Concierge team offer a range of support to help small business navigate government regulations including grants, licences and permits, at local, state and federal levels.

Book a meeting to access expert local industry knowledge and to connect with Council, business networking groups and other government agencies.

Meeting Areas of Discussion

The sessions are tailored to the businesses that are attending. We will cover off any specific business challenges your business may be currently facing, Council and Government resources available to help you be successful and information about conducting business in the Hills region.

Businesses are also provided with a large range of economic/industry and demographic information to assist with starting a business, business planning, growth strategies and marketing strategies.

To book a meeting fill-out the form below:

Click here to view form.