The Difference Between a Development Application and a Complying Development Certificate

Planning approval

One of the most common questions we receive is about the difference between Development Approval and a Complying Development Certificate. When you are planning to build or renovate, having your plans approved is one of the first steps to take. There are two ways to approach the approval process, each with their own benefits and limitations. You can gain approval through your local council using a Development Application or you can approach a private builder certifier, like us, for a Complying Development Certificate.

Development Application Approval

A Development Application (DA) approval is a planning approval based on local council regulations. You submit an application to your local council with information about building plans, project timings, materials to be used, the impact that may be caused during construction etc. The specific requirements that need to be addressed will vary from council to council, so it’s essential to get in touch with your local council to clarify. For some projects, it will be necessary to have building plans approved through a DA, however it can be a lengthy, more-involved process. You see, once you have building plans approved by the council, you must obtain a Construction Certificate and appoint a Principal Certifying Authority before any work can commence. To get a Construction Certificate, you need detailed building plans and engineering specifications. This is why many people use a Complying Development Certificate if they can.

Complying Development Approval

A Complying Development Certificate (CDC) is a DA and Construction Certificate rolled into one, provided by a private building certifier like East Coast Building Consultants. This process eliminates the need to involve the council, fast-tracking the building approval process. Complying development is not always an option as building plans must meet certain state planning policies to be approved in this way. In NSW, building plans must meet the requirements set out in the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 2008. Straightforward renovations and builds usually meet state policies which is why CDC’s have become a popular choice. In saying this, building plans that are not as straightforward will have a higher chance of approval through a Development Application, as councils are not restricted to policy requirements, and can be more lenient.

DA and CDC – a Comparison

  Development Application Complying Development Certificate
Approximate Time Up to 3 months Up to 4-6 weeks
Building Plan Requirements Up to interpretation by local council Must comply with specific state policies
  • More leniency with building plans
  • All build projects can be accepted for approval via council.
  • Lower cost
  • Much faster than council approval
  • Not a lengthy approval process
  • Combines DA and Construction Certificate
  • Can take a long time
  • Can delay build project
  • More paperwork required.
  • More expensive
  • No leniency in requirements.


If you are unsure about which path to follow for approval of your building plans, talk to your builder or a private building certifier. They will be able to advise you on what approval process is best suited for your build project.