Ilvy Bonnefin By Ilvy Bonnefin • April 30, 2018

Development Application approval / building process in NSW

Prior to commencing most types of developments in NSW, you will have to lodge a Development Application (DA) with your local council.

development steps

The DA approval/building approval process in NSW can be summarised in the following steps, with minor variances between each local government area:

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1. Pre-DA planning
Before lodgement of a DA, there are certain limitations as to what is permissible on the land. Land zoning is an important regulator on what can be developed on a block of land. For instance, a block of land zoned R1 – General Residential, can only have residential developments and not commercial. Zoning information for all councils in NSW can be found in their respective Local Environmental Plan (LEP) land zoning maps or on

Exemptions and complying developments do not need to lodge a DA to construct. A few examples of exempt developments include decks, garden sheds, carports and fences. Complying development is a combined planning and construction approval for straightforward developments. These developments apply to homes, business and industry and can be determined by a fast-track assessment by a council or private certifier. 

Generally, all works covered by State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 do not need a DA in order to construct. These are usually lower scale developments like sheds or carports. Always check with your local council to confirm an exemption or complying development.

2. Pre-DA organisation
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Before drafting plans for your proposal, you will need to investigate the following:

  • Site surroundings
  • Land contamination
  • Heritage/conservation areas
  • Flood prone areas
  • Approval needed from other government agencies (i.e. RMS, NSW Office of Water)

All of these investigation areas could potentially impact on your design proposal. In order to determine the requirements for your development, it is important to consider the following documents:

  • Local council Local Environmental Plans (LEP)
  • Local council Development Control Plans (DCPs)
  • Relevant State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP)
  • Relevant Regional Environmental Planning Policies (REPP)
  • Land title details/particulars
  • Previous applications and approvals for the site and immediate neighbours

At this stage the most important tool at your disposal is to contact your local council and make full use of their development advisory services.

3. DA Preparation


After all the necessary planning and organisation has been completed, it becomes time to prepare your proposal for lodgement. It is important at this step to ensure that all required documentation is completed and compliant in order to get your DA approved as smoothly as possible.

Most local councils have a DA Lodgement Checklist that you can follow to ensure that all relevant documentation is present prior to lodgement.

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4. Lodging the DA

blog - development application

Once all necessary architectural plans, reports and certificates are prepared, your proposal is ready for lodgement.

The lodgement process itself involved completing the council-specific DA forms; which differ based on the type of proposal.

  • Verified consent is required from the owner/s of the property which includes the details of the proposed development
  • Estimated cost of works:
    • Costs are divided into three brackets
        -  Equal to or less than $100 000 - $150 000 (depending on the council)
        -  Greater than above and equal to or less than $3 million
        -  Greater than $3 million
    • The method of cost assessment depends on the estimated cost of works, with proposals costing over $3 million requiring a detailed cost report by a quantity surveyor.
  • Statement of Environmental Effects
  • Scaled drawings
  • Declaration of affiliation - to ensure no bias or donations would impact on the application process

Once the application form has been completed and the appropriate fess have been paid, it is then up for council assessment.

5. DA Assessment


Once the DA is lodged with council, it will take anywhere between 21-90 days for a decision to be made, depending on the council. By 2019, NSW Government estimates that 90% of housing approvals will be determined within 40 days of lodgement. This time can be extended by the following:

  • Requests for Information (RFI) – amended plans or additional information must be satisfied within 21 days of the request
  • Integrated development – proposal requires approval from other government bodies

One of three decisions can be made on your proposal once council had reached a conclusion

  1. Approval the application 
  2. Refusal of the application 
  3. Defer the application and request the applicant to submit amend plans or additional information


Once the proposal is approved, a Construction Certificate (CC) will be issued by either your local council or a private certifier prior to any construction taking place.

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