About Development Applications

What is a Development Application?

A development application is an application made for consent under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to carry out development and includes, unless expressly excluded, a complying development certificate.

Development is defined in section 1.5 of the Act and means:

  • the use of land, and
  • the subdivision of land, and
  • the erection of a building, and
  • the carrying out of a work, and
  • the demolition of a building or work, and
  • any other act, matter or thing that may be controlled by an environmental planning instrument,

but does not include any act, matter or thing excluded by the regulations.

A development application is therefore necessary to change the use of land, subdivide land, carry out building, landscaping and other work, unless what is proposed is exempt from the need for consent under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 or Council’s Development Control Plan.

Clause 23 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 provides that a development application may be made by the owner of the land to which the development application relates or by any other person with the consent, in writing, of the owner of that land.

Where land is the subject of a strata scheme under the Strata Schemes Development Act 2015, the owner is the owners' corporation for that scheme constituted under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015. In these cases, the consent of the owners' corporation is required if works are proposed on, or involve, common property.

What makes a good development?

Good developments, whether small or large, succeed because projects are well conceived as part of a thorough site analysis process, have been designed having regard to our planning rules and are well documented to enable us to carry out our assessments. For major applications, the process is not simple and may benefit from the employment of expert planners, architects and other experts.

It is good practice to consult with your neighbours or other persons or bodies that may be affected by your development. Issues can be identified at an early stage and addressed as part of your planning process.

You, or your architect, should not commence the design of a project until you have completed your site analysis, have read and fully understand the planning rules and have consulted with those who may be affected.

If you don't get it right on the plans you will not get it right on the site!

Why is this process so complex?

Prior to the commencement of privatisation of the building approval process on 1 July 1998 (Private Certification), councils across NSW could assess and determine the majority of dwelling house and smaller applications under a single Building Application.

Under the post-July 1998 system, all matters of environmental relevance must be considered at the DA stage. This means that we not only have to assess the suitability of your building but we need to consider a range of other matters which cannot be deferred to the construction certificate. These matters include, where applicable:

  • stormwater and drainage disposal
  • flooding
  • land contamination
  • acid sulphate soils
  • site suitability
  • geotechnical and construction impacts; and
  • heritage conservation

Incomplete or misleading applications

If you fail to do something you must legally do, your consent may be open to a legal challenge in the Land and Environment Court. Such challenges can be very costly in terms of lost time and legal costs.

If an application is made, which provides false or misleading information and results in development consent being granted, based on that false information, then not only can the consent be found void, if challenged, but the applicant can be prosecuted for providing that false and misleading information. See, clause 296 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021.

All current State Acts and Regulations can be accessed through the NSW Government's legislation website. Unfortunately, the process is a legal process as much as it is a merit assessment process. None can avoid the process without severe consequences.