What Is Complying Development? a Brief Guide

September 6, 2023

Complying Development Approval in NSW is required prior to starting any construction works, and if not completed appropriately, can be quite complex. Without an informed professional’s guidance, the process can be daunting, timely in nature and, if not done properly, can result in delays in the construction process.

Obtaining a complying development approval can be made easy. In Sydney, it is best to find experts in acquiring complying development approval and will ensure that your project’s requirements are taken care of.

However, before making any decisions about who can help guide you towards complying development approval, it is important to know what exactly you’re applying for. Understanding the process and the requirements needed is key in ensuring that whatever team you hire is doing a good job.

What is complying development?

A complying development is a fast-track approval for simple and straightforward residential, commercial and industrial developments in NSW. It is a combined planning and construction approval that can be determined through a 14-day assessment done by a council or private accredited certifier, ensuring the upcoming development is aligned with current legislation and policies. It is established so that certain types of development meet predetermined criteria as outlined in the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP).

What is the purpose of complying development in NSW? It’s simple, this process ensures:

  • Efficiency in expediting the approval process for minor and straightforward projects.
  • Consistency in the way applicants obtain and authorities assess for approval.
  • Less administrative burden due to predetermined standards that allow for resourcefulness in council
  • Cost savings as it reduces time and expenses associated with the lengthy application process.

Some general examples of developments which require approval include:

  • simple renovations to a home
  • granny flat
  • construction of a swimming pool
  • property extensions (usually up to 2 storeys)
  • construction of a garage or carport
  • new industrial building
  • alterations and additions to industrial and commercial buildings
  • the demolition of a building

How do you apply for complying development approval?

In NSW, applying for complying development approval is available online for most councils, but not all. If you live in a council that does not facilitate online complying development applications, then you will have to apply directly to your local council or a private accredited certifier on the Building Professionals Board’s Register.

To apply online, you must follow these steps:

  • Contact the local council about applying for a Complying Development Certificate (CDC). They will most likely recommend that you apply with the following documents:
    • Site plan
    • Design plans
    • Certificate of title
    • Survey plan
    • Accredited building product/system
    • BASIX Certificate
    • BCA Performance Requirements Compliance Statement
    • Compliance certificates relied
    • Documentation for a temporary structure
    • Engineering report regarding support of an adjoining wall
    • Fire safety measures
    • Owner’s consent

It is important to note that requirements from council depend on the type of project at hand, the council may require different documents from those mentioned above.

Where is complying development restricted?

There are exclusions and restrictions when it comes to complying development under the general housing code and rural housing code. This means that some developments may not be able to go ahead.


  • Land within a heritage conservation (not including a detached outbuilding or swimming pool)
  • Land reserved for a public purpose by an environmental planning instrument
  • Sites identified as Class 1 or 2 Acid Sulphate Soils
  • Sites with an area less than 200 square metres
  • Sites with an area less than 6 metres width
  • Sites or land within a riverfront area
  • Sites or and within a protected area
  • Sites or land within a flood-prone area
  • Land that is in the 25 ANEF contour or a higher ANEF contour (this is only unless the development is only for the erection of ancillary development, the alteration of or an addition to ancillary development or a dwelling house)
  • “Special area” (Water NSW Act 2014)


  • the erection of a roof terrace on the topmost roof of an existing or new dwelling house or outbuilding,
  • the erection of a building over a registered easement

It's important to note that while complying development offers an efficient approval pathway for specific projects, it's only suitable for some types of development. Projects that do not meet the specific criteria or might impact the environment, heritage, or community significantly may still need to go through the traditional development application process, which involves a more thorough assessment by the local council.

When obtaining relevant documentation for approval in NSW, be sure to select a team that is skilled, up-to-date and informed with local council. With that, they will ensure that any application is thoroughly completed with all of the relevant documents, avoiding setbacks or lengthy delays.




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