What is best for you? Council vs. Private Certifier

What is best for you? Council vs. Private Certifier



One of the most asked about topics that often comes up when starting the planning process is “What’s the difference between a Development Application (DA) and a Complying Development Certificate (CDC)? 

It is important to note that before any work can commence on your new development, either a DA application needs to be lodge with council or CDC application needs to be lodged with an approved private certifier, and approved by either entity you lodged with. 


What are DAs and CDCs? And what is the difference between them?

DAs (A Development Application) is the application made to your local council seeking consent to carry out a development.

CDC (A Complying Development Certificate) is an alternative method of obtaining a consent to carry out a development. 

There are two major differences between DA and CDC. One is speed, the second is flexibility, or the lack of it. Some people refer to CDC as a fast track approval process. Once you have all the required paperwork ready for submission, a private certifier will generally provide you with CDC approval within a week. This is great when you have a straight forward build that meets the CDC guidelines. After all, time is money. Please note CDC guidelines are a little more restrictive than council guidelines, in general, but not overly so. They are rigid, totally inflexible and there is no avenue for exceptions to be made. If your plans meet CDC guidelines, they will be approved. If they do not meet CDC guidelines, they WILL NOT be approved.

If your dream home falls outside the scope of CDC guidelines, you will have no option but to submit your application to council for a DA. Fortunately, most councils have improved their time frame for approval down to 4 to 6 weeks but some people have experienced approval times of up to 3 months. Hence, if you can design your dream home to meet CDC guidelines, you will save a significant amount of time on the approval process.

You should also note that CDC guidelines are universal throughout NSW whereas Council guidelines can vary from council to council. Even though these guidelines may vary, they will generally not be large variations. So what may be a suitable for one council may not necessarily be suitable for another council.

Council guidelines may be a little more generous that CDC and council, with valid reasoning, may allow exceptions that exceed their guidelines but please note, approval outside their scope is not guaranteed. Council may still reject the application, especially if your build excessively exceeds their requirements.

In conclusion, if you want a quick and relatively easy approval process, design your home to meet CDC guidelines. If you require a design that does not comply with CDC guidelines, there is a good chance you will be able to get it through council, within reason of course.


How do you know which avenue is the most appropriate for your build?

Any professional build should be able to quickly determine whether your home will meet CDC guidelines and advise you accordingly.

Alternatively, if you have gone to an independent (professional) architect, they will have designed your home to meet one of these guidelines. If you want to avoid the trials and tribulations of dealing with council, let your architect know that you want your home build to CDC guidelines.

If you go directly to a professional builder, they will advise you of everything mentioned above and guide you accordingly. Sometimes, this is the best way to move forward as professional builders will have or be aligned with an architect that specialises in meeting these codes. Please see “why you shouldn’t use an independent architect”.


When do I need to decide which path I will go down for my development application?

The decision for a development application will need to be finalised in the early stages of planning your development. It is advisable but no essential to decide on which path to take at the beginning of the process. If you design your home and discover that it does not meet CDC guidelines, you will have no choice but to move forward with a DA through council or potential add cost to have your design modified to CDC standards.

As mentioned previously, if you go through a professional builder, your home will be designed to meet the appropriate code from the beginning, saving you time and money.


Is there anyone who can help me with my development application

If you decide to build with a professional builder, the good news is they will guide you through the entire building process from beginning to end. If your chosen path is CDC and you use your builder’s designer, they will often complete the process on your behalf, as part of the service, leaving you free to concentrate on colours and finishes, worry free.



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