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 other property records, including subdivision files. Some of these records date back as far as 1909.

Building and development applications were generated for properties if an application was submitted (DA) and building work carried out (BA). If there is to be a change in use of a building, a DA was, and is, required. DAs cover what was proposed by the applicant and was approved by Council. BAs cover the erection of a building and alterations to it. If these records survived and were archived, they will be available for access.

Consent documents, such as approved uses of buildings, are normally found on the files relating to a building.

City 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 They will only be available if an application was submitted to the City and the records have survived and been archived.

What does a BA or DA tell you?

  • the name/s of the previous owner
  • the previous use/s of the building
  • current use at time of application
  • the name of the architect/s
  • a description of the works to the building
  • the cost of the works to the building

Applications may also include relevant information about the surrounding area, building inspectors' and surveyors' reports, Council decisions concerning the application, correspondence and inspectors' reports about the work when carried out. Occasionally, a photograph may be attached to a file.

The main records series covering these applications are:

Council kept registers and written descriptions of the BAs from 1879, but it appears it did not start creating files until 1908. Many of the early records have been culled – early BA descriptions and pre-1940s BA files were destroyed in the 1950s and 60s. DA files are held from 1954. Approved building plans date back to 1909.

Development consents may also be available in the printed annual volumes of Proceedings of the Council. They go back as far as 1946.

Other related records


City Archives holds registers which relate to building and development applications. So even if the application file does not survive, you may find some information in the registers.

Before computerised systems were introduced, all BAs and DAs were indexed by street address in the planning street cards. See link above for access.

Plans of buildings submitted as part of an application

From 1909, Council required duplicates of plans to be attached to BAs. These plans can be ornate, detailed architectural drawings, elevations and sections or they can be rough sketches for minor alterations and additions.

The plans have been indexed on Archives Investigator. The plans are not available online, however many have been digitised and can be supplied on request. Remember, some proposals were not approved. The plans only show what the developer or owner wanted the City to agree to. Not every application file includes plans.


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.

While some DA files may not have survived, you still may discover correspondence relating to the proposals, especially of the development proposal was large or complex. These are 2 relevant series:

Files in both these series are indexed in Archives Investigator.

Absorbed councils: BA and DA files, registers and plans

We also hold records, application files, registers and plans relating to other council areas which have been absorbed into the City of Sydney. Check the records listing in Archives Investigator so see exactly what records are held:

Search tips

All the available property application records (plans and files) held by City Archives up to the late 1970s, and in some cases the early 1980s, are listed in our online catalogue Archives Investigator. To locate your records, we recommend you follow this search strategy:

  1. Choose 'advanced search'.
  2. Select 'record item'.
  3. Enter search terms in the title field. For example, '12 George'. Do not include 'street', 'st', 'road', 'rd' and so on.
  4. Selected 'all words' from the dropdown list.

You can also limit the results by also including the series number in the series number field. For example, '126' for BA plans, '62' for DA files or '59' for BA files.

A date range can also be included.

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 City Archives for a list. Plans for recent decades may be held in the active files of Council. Our archivists can advise.

Access to the records

All of these records are available from City Archives. To arrange access contact City Archives to make an appointment.

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

Last updated: Thursday, 10 October 2019