100% Council Approvals

Sydney Residential Architect

Green Square Design
Development Application or Complying Development Certificate?

Building approval can generally be obtained through two different processes; a Development Application or a Complying Development Certificate. Understanding the distinct regulatory framework of the DA and CDC, and how each can best assist or hinder a project is the key to deciding which approval process will more appropriately apply.


  • This process involves submitting to your local council for determination.
  • Council has certain development controls and building guidelines eg maximum building height, floor area, minimum setbacks & landscape. These are generally required to be complied with, however scope to deviate from those controls is permissable under certain circumstances and certain site conditions. Understanding council's controls and objectives is paramount when seeking a variation to building controls
  • Development controls vary between Councils.
  • Almost all DA's require neighbour notifications. This 2 week notification process gives the opportunity for neighbouring properties to have input on the application. Council is required to consider all objections submitted and request the applicant to address them if valid.
  • The DA process generally takes 8-12 weeks for approval. However some applications can take much longer for various reasons, and unfortunately may include council delays due to redtape.
  • Once a DA has been approved it is necessary to obtain a Construction Certificate in order to start construction. This may be obtained through Council or a private certifier
  • The DA process can be subject to individual objectivity depending on which planner at council is assessing your project. This usually relates to matters which are open to intepretation for example how well the proposal fits within the existing streetscape character.


  • A complying development is a single application to Council or a private certifier, which, if fully compliant, grants building permission for building work to commence almost immediately (after notice of commencement to adjoining neighbours).
  • A set of building development controls (ie maximum height, floor area, required setbacks etc) provides the framework and guidelines which will need to be adhered to. The building controls are statewide, ie one set of controls for all applications in NSW. The controls are strict and full compliance is required.
  • Although a notification period of 10 days is required under the planning policy, it does not give neighbours the power to object to the application. The notification simply advises that a complying development application has been submitted and is under assesssment. The purpose of the notification period is to begin dialogue between the applicant and the neighbouring properties directly affected.
  • Compliance with Council's stormwater guidelines and requirements is still required.


  • A complying development application (CDC) is definately a more expedient and efficient process to obtain building approval. If time and associated holding costs are of the essence, then this approval process would best suit.
  • Sites with specific constraints or unique features would benefit from a site specific assessment by council through a development application. This includes sites which have considerable topographical slope, are irregular in shape, or narrow in width. The strict compliance framework of the CDC is not particularly suited to unconventional sites.
  • Where Council controls place a heavy emphasis on the streetscape character, in particular where designs must conform with the predominant built character and the proposal does not fit within that strict form, a CDC can be a means to circumvent this.
  • Some of the controls under the CDC are quite restrictive, and can require compromising some aspects of the design in order to comply.