Complying Development


Complying Development: What it is and why you should consider it before setting out on your renovation/building journey.


We’ve all heard the nightmarish stories that go with the development application process. You’ve seen mates grow haggard from the experience of dealing with infuriating and seemingly endless red tape, bewildering council requirements, time-consuming documentation and lodging of forms, inexplicably long delays, and ever mounting, often unanticipated costs. Even a couple of episodes of Grand Designs are enough to have even the most well prepared and determined renovator wondering whether it’s all worth all the stress, time, money and uncertain outcomes.

But then, into all that expense, confusion and delay flies the Complying Development  Certificate (CDC) like an avenging angel of home builders, a patron saint of the renovator, reducing costs, wait times and those huge piles of documentation.

Thanks to Complying Development, approval for many straightforward building works like extensions and renovations, garages, swimming pools, studios, and granny flats to name a few, can be fast tracked so that a once endless uphill slog is transformed into a slightly more breezy stroll in the park.

It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? Sure, it’s easy to be seduced by words like “fast track” and “two week turnaround” and “no council approval needed”. And yes, of course there are an assortment of restrictions and conditions under which the Code can operate. But, generally speaking, it really does present a far better alternative to the DA track for a range of projects.


Ok, let’s back up a bit:


What is Complying Development?


The Exempt and Complying Development Code is part of the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy of 2008, most recently updated in August 2016. There are a number of aims stated in the policy, but, as far as our interests are concerned, the one that matters most is that which


“aims to provide streamlined assessment processes for development that complies with specified development standards”


While a traditional Development Application involves submitting drawing and written supporting documents to local Council describing your renovation in order to obtain Development Approval, Complying Development is a code based assessment. Essentially, if your project can tick all the required boxes with the appropriate documentation then development approval is guaranteed and may be issued by local council or via a private certifier.This predetermined “checklist” based approach makes for a pretty straightforward process and eliminates the need for things like shadow diagrams and assorted other reporting.


Permissable building types

So what kinds of things are on the checklist?


Well, the criteria are still relatively complex and we’d definitely recommend you get your architect or private certifier to guide you through the conditions to make sure your project is eligible. For a more comprehensive list of eligibility standards, check out our rough guide or more details here and in the meantime, here’s an idea of what you can expect:

  • A lot size of 200m2 or greater for a new home or alteration, such as a separate studio

  • A lot size of 450m2 for a secondary dwelling, such as a granny flat

  • Minimum setbacks from boundaries

  • Minimum site widths

  • Specific zoning requirements under the Standard Local Environmental Plan. Don’t know your R1 from your RU5? Don’t worry – that’s what architects and certifiers are for.


A lot of options are accommodated by a CDC but that is not to say that you would have free reign. There are a number of key restrictions to be aware of including, but not limited to:

  • Maximum building heights – 8.5m and two storeys. There is no way around this – you could have designs drawn up by Glen Mercutt himself and you still wouldn’t get it through. There is no allowance for merit-based assessment in Complying Development.

  • Ecologically sensitive areas are a no go, so if you’ve got your eye on a river-front dune which is home to rare nesting birds or some such, forget it. The same principle applies to heritage sites.

  • Easements – Don’t be thinking you can build over someone else’s registered easement. While the rules on neighbour notification and input are more forgiving under Complying Development, an easement is still an easement.  

In some cases the code may result in a more restrictive development than if you were to proceed through a traditional DA approval process. However, we have recently worked on a couple of feasibilities for properties where the floor area permissible through a CDC would be substantially more than that available through councils floor space ratio controls.

On balance, chances are that Complying Development will for many developments present a far more streamlined, economical and efficient way of managing your new home or renovation approval than the traditional Development Application process. 


How do I lodge a fast track (complying) development?


If you think Complying Development might be the way to go for your project and want to know more, check out our rough guide or drop us a line here We have the skills and resources to move your project forward as a complying development.




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