Building application records

Building application records

Building and development applications

The City of Sydney Archives maintains records to building and development applications, as well as similar types of property records.

Consent documents, such as approved uses of buildings, are normally found on the files relating to a building. Development consents may also be available in the printed annual volumes of Proceedings of the Council. They go back as far as 1946.

The Archives do not have application records for every building in the City. They will only be available if an application was submitted to the City and the records have survived and been archived.

Access to the records

The City's policy on public access to archival records is on our site. It is not necessary to fill in a form for access to the archival records. However, you will have to put your request in writing and send it to us by email, fax or letter, or drop it in to us at Town Hall House. Address details are below.

Your request should include your name, mailing address and a business-hours phone number. This can be a mobile number. A contact email address is very helpful as we prefer to respond this way and may need to send you digital copies of documents.

We need the correct street address of the requested property or properties. It is essential you give us the correct address as the records are indexed in this way. It is helpful to give additional information such as the building name of a commercial property. We do not need lot or DP numbers.

Please supply us with a brief explanation of what you are trying to find out about this property and any details of the records, such as files and plans, you have found in the Archives Investigator or that you have selected from a list we may have sent you.

To see plans of a building that are likely to show current internal layouts, you will need authorisation from the building's owner. It is your responsibility to locate the owner and obtain consent.

For security reasons we also limit access to plans of major buildings. For buildings owned by corporate bodies such as commercial entities or strata bodies, authority from the secretary, managing agent or similar person is sufficient.

If you are the owner please state this in your request, and attach a copy of a document that is adequate proof, such as a current rates notice addressed to you. Bring the original when you visit to inspect the records. If you are a professional or firm working on a project for the building owner, please state this in your request. In all other cases we will need to see a letter or email from the building owner or their authorised agent before you can inspect or make copies of the plans.

Responding to your request

We usually respond to your request within 10 working days. It may take a little longer during busier periods. If we need additional information we will contact you to obtain this before searching. We will also get back to you if we cannot locate any records.

If all goes well our response will indicate what records are available and how you can visit the Archives office to inspect them and make copies.

A confirmed appointment is necessary before you can come in to inspect the records. Digital or paper copies of documents, including plans, are available unless the documents are very fragile. For more information about copying archival records, including costs, see services for researchers.

Records that are available

Plans of buildings submitted as part of an application

Not all plans are intended to show what was actually approved to be built or altered – some show what the developer or owner wanted the City to agree to. Not every application includes plans. Plans are available from 1909 to the present day.

Folders of documents such as letters, memoranda, forms

These relate to applications for approval about particular properties. Unlike most other councils, the City has not created general purpose property files for each street address. However such files do often exist for the areas of Glebe and South Sydney that are now within the City's boundaries. These files are available from 1941 to the present day.

Street cards

Street cards list any building and development applications for a given street address. Go to the Planning Street Cards page on this site. They usually date from 1908 until the 1970s, although sometimes can be found up until the early 1990s.

Searching for records

All the available property application records (plans and files) held by the Archives, up to about 1978, are listed in our on-line catalogue Archives Investigator. To locate your records, we recommend you follow this search strategy:

  1. Select the Structured Search option.
  2. Select 'Function'.
  3. Tick Function 10 – Building and development regulation – and click the option 'view activities comprising the selected functions'.
  4. Tick Activity 28 – Building applications – and Activity 29 – Development applications – and use the search box to enter your search term. Select "all words" rather than "exact phrase".
  5. This will return building and development records associated with the search term (address) you have entered. If you don't find what you expect, try a more general search term. For example. if "12-20 George St" is unsuccessful, try "12 George".
  6. For each record you identify, click on it to see more details. The details screen will tell you the type of record you have found (building application, development application, plan) and the 'records series' it belongs to.
  7. Cut and paste the details screens of each selected record into your e-mail to the Archives, so we are clear about what records you wish to see.

Records from the period after 1978 (after 1968 if searching in Glebe)

These records are catalogued only in the City's TRIM records management system, even if they have been archived. Ask the Archives department for a list.


02 9265 9618

Level 21 Town Hall House
456 Kent St
Sydney NSW 2000

City of Sydney Archives
GPO Box 1591
Sydney 2001

Image: Domain Apartments in Woolloomooloo, 1970s. ArchivePix SRC20519. 

Last updated: Monday, 23 November 2015