Elegant home interiors on our FAQ page - The Rubix Collective.

12. Do I always have to go through council?

No you dont...


Note: If your project is anywhere other than the Australian state of NSW, contact us at office@therubixcollective.com or call 02 9844 5847 and we will happily inform you of the process in your particular region. Given most of our projects are in NSW, the information below is relevant to that area.


In order to have your proposed plans construction ready, you must first gain approval from a relevant government body. For most residential projects and secondary dwellings 2 options will be available. The first is a one step process known as a Complying Development Certificate (CDC) and the other is a two-step process known as a Development Application (DA) and Construction Certificate (CC).


What is a Complying Development Certificate? – A CDC is a form of approval available on most residential sites that do not have special hazard zoning such as landslip or flood prone land. It can be applied to proposed new homes or alterations and additions.

A CDC offers an alternative to the traditional council assessed DA (Development Application) and CC (Construction Certificate) method.

To achieve a CDC, a private certifier is engaged to assess the proposal against a legislative document known as a SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy). The SEPP will outline numerous clauses that the proposal must comply with such as minimum boundary setbacks, minimum landscaped areas and maximum building heights.

The proposal must be 100% compliant to that instrument and no deviation is permitted.


What is a Development Application? – A DA seeks approval for development through the local council. Unless zoned under special circumstances, most residential lots will have an applicable Local Environment Plan (LEP) & a Development Control Plan (DCP).

A DCP is a large planning document, written by local council that outlines their preferences for all design and construction types across all zones in their shire. It is not legislation; therefore, it is acceptable, but not advised to challenge the clauses outlined in the DCP (within reason). The best course of action in this circumstance is to have a pre-lodgement meeting to gauge councils’ attitude on the proposal. An application may still be refused if it does not adhere to DCP guidelines.

The LEP is a legislative document and must be complied with unless the client is willing to take the matter to court.

If the proposal is approved, a Development Application will be granted. This does not yet permit the applicant to start work. The applicant may choose to hold onto the approval to proceed with the next stage later, proceed immediately with the CC stage, or alternatively they can sell their house and advertise it as having an approved DA.


What is a Construction Certificate? – After a DA is granted, a CC issued by a private certifier is necessary to break ground. A CC submission includes detailed plans with Engineer’s and other specialists’ overlays and the council conditions of consent marked on the architecturals.. This is a more straight-forward process than the DA application and is normally approved within a month. Once a CC is issued construction can start.

Note: A CDC incorporates the necessary work of a DA and a CC into one application.


DA/CC or CDC which is better? – This must be assessed on a case by case basis. Sometimes there will be no choice in the matter depending on the zoning, and sometimes the better choice is not known until the design is started. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.


CDC Advantages:


  1. Avoid Council Politics: As the name SEPP suggests, the policy is instituted on a State Government level, and overrules local council controls. This means that the project is not at the more subjective whim of a council town planner. Sometimes the council planner’s interpretation of a clause may be very different to another’s interpretation and this can cause conflict resulting in design compromises.
  1. Council Lead Time: Typical council approval time is 3 months. By comparison, the average approval time of a CDC is 4 weeks. This however may only be of benefit for those engaging a basic CDC. As can be seen in the indicative table below, the other three options are all finalized at roughly the same time since the detailed specification can be undertaken during the downtime of awaiting a DA determination

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  1. Cost: Savings vary depending on the scale of the project, but usually the private certifier fees are offset by the savings on council DA fees. The most significant cost variation is for the architectural package. A DA can require 5-10 more drawings than a CDC application. Therefore a CDC can be more than $1000 cheaper than a DA submission.
  2. Neighbours: The final benefit of the CDC is that the neighbours cannot object to the proposal as they can with a DA. This is because the controls specified by the SEPP are so non-contentious that CDC compliant designs are recognized to be designed democratically enough to not warrant any consideration to complaints.


DA Advantages:


  1. The DA option offers greater flexibility. A development application can be discussed with council and compromises made to achieve results not possible under the black-and-white, checkbox method of a CDC.
  2. Sometimes a proposal can be deemed not acceptable for a CDC only once the certifier has assessed it. This means that a DA must be pursued as a plan B after time and money has been wasted attempting to achieve a CDC.
  3. Controls such as front setbacks can be more lenient in the council DCP rather than the State’s SEPP.



We tend to seek DA approval more frequently in larger more complex projects where discussion is more open and compromises are possible. On simpler and smaller projects we find CDC’s are more common. We will help assess which is best once determining your brief, or after the initial round of sketches are done.

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