Planning and building approvals

Planning and building approvals

Development categories

Unless an exemption has been provided, consent is required before development can be carried out in the local area under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, which defines development as:

  • the use of land
  • the subdivision of land
  • the erection of a building
  • the carrying out of work
  • demolition
  • or any other matter controlled by an environmental planning instrument.

Other categories of development

  • Exempt development is minor works that do not need approval but must comply with specific standard provisions.
  • Complying development is a subset of local works that has low environmental impact and can be certified when it complies with set standards. Separate procedures for complying developments provide a faster assessment system. A complying development certificate may be issued by either the City of Sydney or an accredited certifier.
  • State significant development is identified by the state government as being important to the state or region. The Planning Minister is the consent authority for this category.
  • Integrated development is where separate approvals are required under other laws such as the Heritage Act 1977 or the Roads Act 1993. Such applications are referred to the relevant authority to gain approval conditions early in the process. If the City gives consent, the conditions obtained from other relevant authorities will be included in the determination.

Please note: approval from another authority is not a guarantee that the City will approve your DA.

DA assessment

Development applications (DAs) and any subsequent applications for related building or construction work, such as a construction certificate, are assessed under section 79C(1) of the Act. There are other matters considered when we assess a DA.

  • Any environmental planning instrument provisions, which includes draft planning instruments placed on exhibition for which the consent authority has received notification.
  • Any development control plan (DCP) provisions and any regulations that apply to the land related to the DA.
  • The likely effects of the development on the natural and built environment, and local social and economic impacts.
  • The suitability of the site for the development.
  • Any submissions made in accordance with the Act or its regulations.
  • The public interest.

Matters previously left to the building approval (BA) stage for final resolution and all conditions of consent must be addressed at the DA stage. For example, DA drawings and additional information provided with the DA have to be presented in detail to the City before consent may be provided.

Principal certifying authority

The principal certifying authority (PCA) is responsible for all requirements being met under the Act after a construction certificate has been issued. Building or subdivision work cannot start until the City has been notified that a PCA has been appointed to the development project. The City also needs to be appointed the PCA for works on land that will be dedicated to the City.

The PCA can be either the City or a private accredited certifier. The key role of the PCA is to oversee the construction phase of a development and certify that inspections have taken place, and that construction will meet all appropriate standards such as the Building Code of Australia.

Different stages of each development will have different building approval requirements depending on the scope of the project. For example, when building or subdivision work is about to start, the developers need to advise the City with a building and subdivision work notice application. The necessary applications to get approval for different stages of the project can be downloaded below.

Building certificate

This form needs to completed and submitted to get a building certificate for an existing building or structure if it was erected without the required approval.

Compliance and occupation certificates

Also known as part 4A certificates, these certificates may be required in addition to a construction certificate at different stages of the project.

A compliance certificate confirms that the building works or development aspects are acceptable. It can also be used to get a building classified under the Building Code of Australia.

An occupation certificate gives approval to use or occupy a building in conjunction with the development consent or a complying development certificate.

Construction certificate

After development consent has been provided the developer needs a construction certificate before any building work can start. The only exception is when a complying development certificate has been issued instead. A construction certificate replaces the Council issued and stamped building application approval but there are some significant differences. Essentially a construction certificate verifies that:

  • the detailed construction plans and specifications of the development are consistent with the development consent and comply with the Building Code of Australia
  • all required contributions and fees have been paid
  • all development consent conditions have been met.

For more information about getting a construction certificate, please download the construction certificate application guide below.

Digital copies

We require digital copies of applications, including plans and documentation.

Please note: This requirement became compulsory from 6 January 2014.

Crane permit

If a crane, which includes scissor lifts, booms and cherry pickers, is needed on the development site at least 2 days' notice must be provided.

The application may require additional information such as a traffic/pedestrian control plan if public access around the site is likely to be affected.

Driveways, footpaths and roadways

Before you can dig a hole on the road or footpath, build a driveway or construct a footpath, certain permits need to be obtained from the City. Go to Public domain works for more information.

Section 68 applications

Section 68 of the Local Government Act covers numerous activities including:

  • waste management (excluding sewage management systems)
  • community land activities (excluding public entertainment)
  • swinging or hoisting items over public roadways.

To get permission to undertake the above activities among others (further listed on the form below) you need to complete and lodge a section 68 application.

Stormwater drainage connections

To connect to a gully pit, utility holes or underground pipes for stormwater drainage, permission needs to be obtained first. Go to Public domain works for more information.

Please note: if drainage will be discharged by gravity from downpipes to the kerb, a road opening permit is required instead.

Subdivision and strata certificates

Subdividing land also comes under the Act. When development consent has been given a subdivision certificate is required.

Strata subdivisions also require development approval as well as approval under the Strata Schemes (Freehold Development) Act 1973 or the Strata Schemes (Leasehold Development) Act 1986.

The strata certificate may be issued by the City or if the DA consent was given after 1 June 2000, under certain circumstances a private accredited certifier may issue the certificate.

Swimming pools

The Swimming Pools Act 1992 requires a certificate of compliance or exemption be issued for swimming pools that are located or proposed on residential premises or tourist/visitor accommodation facilities not on public land.

Temporary structures

There are 3 different approval applications to erect temporary structures.

The Council/Crown land application covers requests where tents, marquees, stages, mobile television screens, stalls and so on are required for an event.

The other 2 forms cover temporary structure approval for hoardings, scaffoldings, façade retention, shoring and ground anchors as well as a separate form to renew approval for existing temporary structures such as hoardings and scaffoldings.

Temporary works and works zones

If the development requires temporary obstruction to the public using footpaths or roadways at least 2 days' notice must be provided to the City. A traffic/pedestrian control plan may also be required with the application.

If there is inadequate parking on or around the site to allow for the loading and unloading of materials, or if machinery such as demolition and excavation equipment may impact local traffic, a Works Zone application may be required.

The application will be referred to the Local Pedestrian, Cycling and Traffic Calming Committe for final approval.

If you are proposing to swing or hoist goods from a works zone using a lift, hoist or crane (including crane towers), then you must obtain a separate approval from the City's Building Approvals Unit under section 68 of the Local Government Act 1993. You must submit a hoisting activity over a public road application for this approval.

For more information about hoisting activities, please contact the City's Building Approvals Unit on 02 9265 9333 or email


For further information about planning and building approvals, please contact:

Planning Assessment Unit
02 9265 9363

Building Services Unit
02 9265 9751

Or send an email to clearly marked to the attention of the relevant unit.


The NSW Department of Planning provides more information on legislation and planning issues:

Department of Planning

Downloads Document Downloads
Building and subdivision work notice (PCA: City of Sydney) PDF 188.5 KB Download
Building certificate application PDF 191.3 KB Download
Compliance certificate application PDF 161.0 KB Download
Complying development certificate application PDF 395.8 KB Download
Construction certificate application PDF 399.9 KB Download
Construction certificate application guide PDF 972.4 KB Download
Contract for certification work PDF 617.1 KB Download
Council/Crown land temporary structure application PDF 166.8 KB Download
Hoisting activity over a public road application PDF 633.9 KB Download
Vehicular crossing (driveways) application PDF 129.7 KB Download
Footpath levels and gradients approval application PDF 147.4 KB Download
Occupation certificate application PDF 175.9 KB Download
Road opening application PDF 198.3 KB Download
Application for approval - Section 68 LGA 1993 PDF 225.2 KB Download
Application for approval to install a system of sewage management PDF 182.4 KB Download
Application for approval to operate a system of sewage management PDF 165.2 KB Download
Stormwater drainage connection approval application PDF 125.3 KB Download
Subdivision (including strata schemes) certificate application PDF 172.3 KB Download
Swimming pool certificate application PDF 179.6 KB Download
Temporary structure application - hoardings, scaffolding and other PDF 255.9 KB Download
Application to renew existing temporary structures PDF 137.9 KB Download
Temporary works application PDF 201.9 KB Download
Works zone application PDF 1.2 MB Download

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Last updated: Tuesday, 5 August 2014