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Development Application (DA)

What does it mean?

Before making any changes to a building in Australia you may need to submit a Development Application (DA).


TheBull says...

Rennovating your home or investment property isn’t as simple as grabbing your tools, a couple of mates and a slab of beer. In most cases you need to go through the formal process of applying for and obtaining a Development Application (DA) and construction certificate before you can even think about renovating.

When do you need to lodge DAs?

Development Applications (DAs) are applications to a consent authority - usually your local Council - for permission to undertake development. If successful, you get a development consent.

To use the City of Sydney as an example, ‘development’ is defined as the use of land, the subdivision of land, the erection of a building, the carrying out of work, the demolition, or any other matter controlled by an environmental planning instrument. Broadly, it encompasses construction work or to change the use of premises.

Although a DA is generally required if you are making any changes to a building, some minor developments – such as landscaping, fences and painting – are referred to as ‘Exempt Development’ and do not require consent. You’ll have to check with your local council, but see the box below for some common examples of exempt developments.

Examples of ‘Exempt Developments’

Development typeStandards
Ancillary development (paving, landscaping and gardening). • Any ancillary surface or paving is not to cover more than 25m2.
Barbecues • Maximum of 1 barbecue structure per dwelling.
Domestic apparatus (including TV aerials, retractable clothes lines, solar panels and flues).• Maximum height of 1.8metres and maximum area of 2 m2.
• For domestic use only.
Fences • Maximum height of 1.8 metres.
• Constructed of timber, metal or lightweight materials (not masonry).
Minor internal alterations • Applies only to the replacement of doors, wall, ceiling or floor linings; renovation of bathrooms and kitchens.
• Work shall not change room configurations.
Façade repairs (such as painting, plastering, cement rendering, cladding, attaching fittings and decorative work). • The repairs are non-structural.
• There is no change to the external appearance of the building.
• There are no new fittings or attachments to the building.

Adapted from Central Sydney DCP 1996, Section 13 – Exempt and Complying Development.
Note: Check with your local council for their list of exempt developments and standards.

Most Councils have application forms downloadable from their websites. It's advisable to read the form carefully to ensure that you prepare and submit the appropriate items with your application. And ask for help. A pre-lodgement meeting with Council's planning staff will alert you to problems that may occur with your application, and help you to solve them.

Generally, in your application you’ll need consent from all the registered owners, details of the proposed development, a statement of environmental effects and six sets of drawings; in some cases you’ll also need a statement of heritage impact. When submitting your DA it is essential that you check the appropriate fees and complete the form correctly, so as to avoid delays.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget about applying for a Construction Certificate - previously known as a Building Application – if you’re undertaking any building or structural work. It will certify that the construction plans comply with the Building Code of Australia and is required prior to commencing work.


Waiting periods vary enormously from Council to Council, and depends on the complexity of the application concerned. Councils are allowed a 40-day processing timeline after lodgement of a DA, after which an applicant can appeal to the Land and Environment Court if the application has not been determined. However many Councils take their time. The latest State-wide mean is about 54 processing days.

It's probably a good idea to speak to your neighbours first because Councils will look more closely at applications that are opposed by neighbours. Better to find out their concerns upfront so you can look at ways to solve them – it may be harder for neighbours to complain if you’ve alerted them to the development upfront and obtained their buy-in.


All DAs are assessed against the provisions in The Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979. When assessing your application, Councils will look at the impacts of the development, its suitability and also the public interest.

If you’re lucky enough to get your DA approved, you’ll receive a ‘notice of determination’, which will detail the conditions you must comply with. You should also receive a construction certificate if the project involves any construction. If, on the other hand, you have your DA declined, it’s not the end of the road. You can apply to Council for a review of the refusal. You can also lodge an appeal to the Land and Environment Court. You have 12 months to do this.





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