Does my Home Based Business need Council approval?

As a town planner, I deal with a lot of Council’s across Greater Sydney and NSW. Over the last few months, with the increase in people working from home due to Covid, I’ve noticed a trend in calls from home businesses. It seems that Council compliance officers have been carrying out a inspections of home businesses and asking them to cease operating until they have the necessary approvals in place. The inspection is generally unannounced and the request to cease operating comes via a Notice of Intention to serve an Order.

There are a couple of things you should be aware of in case this happens to you.

Most Council’s have 3 categories for home based businesses; home occupation, home business and home industry. Below are the standard definitions to see which category your business fits into:

home business means a business that is carried on in a dwelling, or in a building ancillary to a dwelling, by one or more permanent residents of the dwelling and that does not involve—

(a)  the employment of more than 2 persons other than those residents, or

(b)  interference with the amenity of the neighbourhood by reason of the emission of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, vapour, steam, soot, ash, dust, waste water, waste products, grit or oil, traffic generation or otherwise, or

(c)  the exposure to view, from any adjacent premises or from any public place, of any unsightly matter, or

(d)  the exhibition of any signage (other than a business identification sign), or

(e)  the sale of items (whether goods or materials), or the exposure or offer for sale of items, by retail, except for goods produced at the dwelling or building,

but does not include bed and breakfast accommodation, home occupation (sex services) or sex services premises.

home industry means a dwelling (or a building ancillary to a dwelling) used by one or more permanent residents of the dwelling to carry out an industrial activity that does not involve any of the following—

(a)  the employment of more than 2 persons other than those residents,

(b)  interference with the amenity of the neighbourhood by reason of the emission of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, vapour, steam, soot, ash, dust, waste water, waste products, grit or oil, traffic generation or otherwise,

(c)  the exposure to view, from any adjacent premises or from any public place, of any unsightly matter,

(d)  the exhibition of any signage (other than a business identification sign),

(e)  the sale of items (whether goods or materials), or the exposure or offer for sale of items, by retail, except for goods produced at the dwelling or building,

but does not include bed and breakfast accommodation or sex services premises.

home occupation means an occupation that is carried on in a dwelling, or in a building ancillary to a dwelling, by one or more permanent residents of the dwelling and that does not involve—

(a)  the employment of persons other than those residents, or

(b)  interference with the amenity of the neighbourhood by reason of the emission of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, vapour, steam, soot, ash, dust, waste water, waste products, grit or oil, traffic generation or otherwise, or

(c)  the display of goods, whether in a window or otherwise, or

(d)  the exhibition of any signage (other than a business identification sign), or

(e)  the sale of items (whether goods or materials), or the exposure or offer for sale of items, by retail,

but does not include bed and breakfast accommodation, home occupation (sex services) or sex services premises.

The next steps are to determine the zone of your property, which types of home based businesses are permitted and any approval requirements.

This can be done a couple of ways as outlined below.

Option 1 – Contact Council

In the first instance you can call your local Council and ask them what zone your property is located in and what policy it is zoned under.

From here you’ll need to access the planning policy for your Council area via the NSW Legislation website (https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/browse/inforce ). The planning policies are listed under the “Environmental Planning Instruments” heading and sorted in alphabetic order. Scroll through the list and find the name of the policy Council provided. Once open scroll down the menu on the left until you find “Land Use Table” and click on the zone for your property. Below is an example of what you should see is accessing the website on your PC.

Developments listed under “Permitted without consent” do not require a Development Application. “Permitted with consent” requires a Development Application to be lodged. Prohibited means that your development can not occur in your zone and that an alternate location is required to operate your business.

Option 2 – Self Check

If you don’t want to call Council or are looking at this post after business hours you can check the zone of your property via the NSW Planning Portal (https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/spatialviewer/#/find-a-property/address ). Once open there is an address search where you can enter your property address. Enter your address and hit enter. This will open up a coloured map with letters and a number that tells you your zone. Below is an example of the map. The most common zones for residential areas are R1, R2, R3, R4 & R5 or E3 & E4 and rural zones start with RU.

On the right hand side under Search Results open the Local Environmental Plan and Land Zoning as shown in the example map below.

From here you’ll need to access the planning policy for your Council area via the NSW Legislation website (https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/browse/inforce ). The planning policies are listed under the “Environmental Planning Instruments” heading and sorted in alphabetic order. Find the name of the policy Council provided. Once open scroll down the menu until you find “Land Use Table” and click on the zone for your property. Below is an example of what you should see is accessing the website on your PC.

Developments listed under “permitted without consent” do not require a Development Application. “Permitted with consent” requires a Development Application to be lodged. Prohibited means that your development can not occur in your zone and that an alternate location is required to operate your business.

Option 3 – Call a town planner

If the above options seem too daunting then you are more than welcome to give us a call and we can do it for you.  

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