Development Applications
If your council requires a DA, it's useful for you to know what's required and prepare for the approval process you are about to enter.

The DA

A Development Application (or a DA) is a formal request to your council for consent to carry out a development on your property. This process enables the council to assess each development on its merits, according to its planning policies and documents.

All councils have websites and you should download their DA application packages and guidelines. Councils have different forms and often have different requirements about the information and documentation to be provided to support your application. The council may require plans, photos, reports and other supporting materials, plus a fee and possibly a security bond to be released after it has inspected the finished work.

Development Applications








Do I need a DA?


Generally, a DA is required if you want to:
  • Erect a new building or structure;
  • Erect outbuildings, swimming pools or retaining walls;
  • Add to or alter an existing building;
  • Demolish a building;
  • Alter anything of heritage significance;
  • Change the use of a building or premises to another use;
  • Subdivide land or strata subdivide a building;
  • (in some instances) Display an advertising sign; or
  • Carry out earthworks, excavation or filling.
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Exempt and complying work


Some work you intend doing on your property may qualify as exempt or complying development, which means it requires no approval or that the approval process is simplified.

You will not need approval for work that meets your council's definition of exempt development. This is because council has already determined, and the community has agreed, that this work will have minimal or no impact on neighbours (such as some fences or garden sheds).

If your work is defined as a complying development, you will still need approval.  But because the council believes this work will have minimal impact on neighbours (such as some home alterations), your application may be fast-tracked through the approval process.

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Other agencies


You will also need to consider whether your proposal needs approvals from other agencies as well, such as heritage, infrastructure and planning, or environment and conservation authorities. It's a good idea to consult with any relevant government agencies before you lodge a Development Application.

It's your responsibility to identify which approvals from government agencies are required when the DA is lodged. If you don't, there could be delays.

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Construction certificate


If your development proposal involves building or subdivision work, you also need to obtain a construction certificate for the building plans, specifications or engineering drawings. A construction certificate certifies that the drawings and specifications are consistent with the development consent and relevant standards, such as the Building Code (this is the code which regulates building design and construction in Australia).

You can apply for a construction certificate only if you have prepared the detailed building plans, specifications or engineering drawings.

A certificate is usually required for home-building or renovation proposals including new dwellings, extensions and in some cases fences and retaining walls. Usually, a council will stipulate a proposed expenditure above which a certificate is required (e.g. over $5000 when building a garage or shed in Victoria). If a certificate is not needed, full compliance with the Building Code is still required.

In NSW, anyone undertaking a building project or renovations costing more than $12,000 is required to hold an owner-builder permit which can be obtained only after completing an approved educational course or training. There are two options for lodging your application for a construction certificate:
  • At the same time as you lodge your DA, an option suitable for minor proposals, e.g. a car port; or
  • After you have obtained development consent, an option suitable for more complex proposals.
  • And before you can start any building or subdivision works you must appoint a principal certifying authority to oversee the construction process. This can be the council or a separate qualified person.
Pre-application meeting

If your proposal is relatively major and is likely to have an impact on the environment it's always advisable to arrange a pre-application meeting with the relevant council planners to discuss any problems they foresee in gaining council approval. It might also be helpful to ensure that the documentation attached to the application is adequate and correct.

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Planner's report

Once you lodge your DA, a council planner will assess it and prepare a report to help guide the council's consideration of the application. Before a decision is made, people the council considers will be affected by the proposal are usually provided with an outline of it and given an opportunity to make submissions.

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Community consultation


The planning process allows for people affected by your application to be given the opportunity to comment or object.  Public notification requirements vary between States, so it's worthwhile discussing this with your council.

Your DA is a public document available for inspection at council offices. It may also be advertised to the local community, usually by a letter sent to the adjoining properties and a sign on the site. It may be subject to a notice in the local paper(s) to get proper feedback.

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Objections


The council will consider any objections against your proposal, which can be lodged right up until the council makes its decision. In some circumstances the council will choose to hold further consultations.

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Assessment


The council assesses your proposal against the planning scheme provisions and may again come back to you for further negotiations. Even if no-one lodges an objection your application may be rejected if the council planner's assessment is not positive on the impact to the area.

This dialogue between you, the council, and the community can make this assessment appear long and drawn out. After all these consultations your application may be approved with or without conditions, or rejected. Development consent is valid for a set period (sometimes two years, but this varies) within which time construction must commence.

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Review and appeal

If you are dissatisfied with this outcome you can alter your DA and re-submit it. If you want to pursue the matter further you can apply for a review at an appropriate forum or tribunal. In NSW, this is the Land and Environment Court, where such appeals must be lodged within twelve months of notice of the refusal of the application.

You will normally be informed of your options by the council. Of course, anyone who has objected to your proposal has the same opportunity should your proposal be approved. Such forums are available in all States and you should obtain advice about the best way to approach this next step, if you feel it's necessary.

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