Starting a business

To support our local industry and help grow our region's economy, we offer a range of services, innovative programs and opportunities to help make your business journey as simple as possible.

Whether you need to lodge a development application or want to know more about business rates, we are committed to providing the business community with the support and guidance you need.

Do I need council approval?

When starting a new business, you should check whether you need any planning approval from Council before moving into a new premises or signing a lease agreement.

Changing the use of a building may not need planning permission if the proposed change meets the exempt development requirements of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (the State Policy). If you are planning on internal building works or changing the plumbing of a building you may need Council approval. Please contact Council’s Customer Service Planning Officer if you are unsure.

The Department of Planning and Environment has developed a suite of tools to provide more information on exempt and complying development. As different businesses have different needs, they have created animations and fact sheets for different business types. You are encouraged to review these quick reference guides available online.

Development Applications

Development Application (DA) information is available to assist both existing and new businesses and investors with lodging a DA.

Council also offers a pre-lodgement service to all DA applicants seeking preliminary feedback on their proposal.

Pre-lodgement meetings are an opportunity to present concepts, identify issues and seek planning and engineering advice before the lodgement of your development application.

If you wish to book a pre-lodgement meeting, please refer to our Pre-DA Lodgement Meeting page 


Business rates

Rates are levied to provide the community with a diverse range of services, facilities, programs and events. Businesses also benefit directly as we use these funds to manage and maintain enabling infrastructures.

To find out more about business rates, email our rates team at

Signage in Business Areas

NSW has standard rules in for signage set out in the Exempt and Complying Codes Policy.  Only certain signs are exempt within a Heritage Conservation Area such as changing lawful Business Identification signs on the awning fascia. Painting of walls and signs above the awning is not exempt and is subject to Heritage Conservation Area policies. 

Are you moving your new business into a heritage conservation area?

The Clarence Valley proudly retains many historic towns and villages which are valued for their built character, streetscapes and trees.

13 Heritage Conservation Areas apply to historic precincts within Grafton, South Grafton, Maclean, Brushgrove, Chatsworth, Diggers Camp, Glenreagh, Harwood , Lawrence, Minnie Water, Sandon, Ulmarra and Yamba.  Maps of these areas are available on Councils website.

If you own, lease or manage a building located in a Heritage Conservation Area or listed as a Heritage Item, you need prior approval from Council to carry out works, including making changes to the fabric, finish or appearance of a building or structure, regardless of the age of the building.

Ensure you have the necessary approvals in place before you start work such as repainting, renovating, any demolition or tree removal.

A free application is available on Council’s website for maintenance or works of a minor nature and you can make enquires through the Duty Planner or Councils website.

For more information on heritage, please check out Council’s Heritage Brochure available on the website.

Do I need planning approval for a change of use of premises to a restaurant or cafe?

If you are moving into an existing food premises with a new restaurant or cafe you may not need Council development approval! To ensure you have the correct approval before signing a lease or moving into a new premises, please contact our Environmental Health or Planning Customer Service Officers for help.

If the building has not been previously used as a food premises e.g. is currently used as an office or retail space, a new restaurant or cafe will require planning approval. You can get planning approval by submitting a development application to Council or by applying for a complying development certificate. See more on the factsheet and contact our Planning Customer Service Officer for help.


Support for getting started and staying in business

Providing support for local business and industry is one of the Clarence Valley's many strengths. There are a range of agencies and organisations available to help with advice, information and access to business development programs.

Find our business support agencies 

For more information, please email our Industry Engagement team at

We'll respond within 24 hours and follow up with any additional information you need within 5 working days.