Exempt and complying development

Development in NSW is regulated by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021.

The local environmental plan (LEP) manages the use of land through zoning which either permits or prohibits a development. Any development must be permitted by the property's zoning.

Identify zoning

Do I need development consent?

There are three classifications of development which determines whether consent is needed.

  • Exempt development - no approval required.

    Minor works such as a small deck, fencing or kitchen renovations may not require development consent.

  • Complying development - fast track approval.

    Building a new house or extension, adding a pool or granny flat may be eligible for a fast approval from Council or accredited certifier.

  • Development application - consent required.

If your development is not classified as exempt or complying development, you must submit a development application (DA). From November 2020, applications are submitted online via the NSW Government's planning e-portal.

Exempt development

Some minor building renovations or works don’t need planning or building approval. This is called 'exempt development'. Providing your building project meets specific development standards, development consent is not needed.

There are over 50 types of work classified as exempt development. Common examples include:

  • Air conditioning units.
  • Awnings and other shade structures.
  • Carports.
  • Cabanas, cubby houses, cubby houses, garden sheds, gazebos and greenhouses.
  • Decks, verandahs, terraces, balconies, pergolas .
  • Demolition.
  • Driveways and hard stand spaces.
  • Earthworks (excavation, fill, retaining walls).
  • Fences and gates.
  • Home-based child care.
  • Home business.
  • Minor building alterations (internal and external).
  • Paving and pathways.
  • Privacy screens, screen enclosures (eg. deck, balcony).
  • Readjustment of property boundaries.
  • Sky lights, roof windows and ventilators.
  • Solar panels - general requirements and specific standards ('solar energy systems').
  • Spas.
  • Water features.
  • Water tanks/heaters.

Complying development

Complying development is a fast track approval process for straightforward residential development that does not require a development application (DA). If your application meets specific development standards, approval (known as a Complying Development Certificate or CDC) can be granted in 20 days or less by Council or a private accredited certifier.

Types of complying development

  • A new single or two-storey house.
  • Internal and external alterations and additions to a house.
  • Internal and minor external alterations to residential accommodation other than a house (eg. apartment).
  • Carports, garages, driveways and hard stand spaces.
  • Decks, verandahs and pergolas.
  • Demolition (eg. demolishing an existing house).
  • Retaining walls.
  • Granny flats.
  • Solar panels - general requirements and specific standards ('solar energy systems').
  • Swimming pools.
  • Water tanks, water heaters and septic tanks.

Visit complying development to check if your development is complying development. The majority of complying development types can also be found in the State policy Codes SEPP (for residential developments – Parts 3, 4, 4A, 6, 7 and 8). Check Clauses 1.17A, 1.18 and 1.19 of the Codes SEPP to find out if complying development can be carried out on your land.

Pre-complying development consultation

Our certifiers can identify whether your work is complying development or requires a development application. This can save you time and money.

Apply for a pre-complying development consultation

After approval

The Guide to the Building Approvals Process will help you identify the next steps involved once a complying development certificate (CDC) has been issued for your development.

Granny flats (secondary dwellings)

Your granny flat (secondary dwelling) may be eligible for a CDC provided it meets the criteria for secondary dwellings in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009.

A CDC can only be issued for a secondary dwelling on land zoned R1, R2, R3, R4 or R5.

If your secondary dwelling is not classified as complying development, it will require a development application.