DA vs CDC: What are the main differences and which option is best for you?

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When you’re looking to build a new home or planning a significant renovation, you typically have two choices for obtaining approval for your plans: the Development Application (DA) or the Complying Development Certificate (CDC).

The DA involves submitting your plans to and receiving approval from the local council. The council will have a set of guidelines and parameters that will be used to assess your application. It’s also open to feedback from your direct neighbours and local community. A DA is a multi-stage process that includes the initial assessment, and then once the DA is completed a Construction Certificate (CC) must be submitted & approved before any building work can commence.

The entire DA process can take around 3-6 months on average, however this can vary significantly depending on requests for further information, or if changes need to be made to your plans.

On the other hand, a CDC is a combined planning and construction approval process. It’s designed to enable straightforward development applications to be fast-tracked. It can be conducted by either your local council or a private certifier. In the case of a CDC, your application is evaluated against a clear and stringent code. Failure to meet every aspect of the code will mean your CDC won’t be accepted. Unlike the DA, during the CDC process, neighbours and the local community don’t have the opportunity to provide feedback, and the approval time is typically around 2-3 months.

While the CDC is generally faster and more cost-effective due to fewer required specialist documents, the DA typically offers greater design flexibility to achieve your desired outcome. This is because a DA allows for greater creative leniency in some areas. For example, if your DA includes a balcony that technically doesn’t fit the guidelines, but when reviewed by council they determine it doesn’t affect other properties, it may be approved. However, in the case of a CDC, because it doesn’t fit the guidelines, your application would be rejected.

Although the CDC is quicker and more economical for straightforward builds meeting its guidelines, a DA becomes necessary if your project falls outside strict CDC criteria, involves heritage restrictions, or is situated in an environmentally sensitive area. Despite the longer duration of the DA process, it can proceed smoothly with detailed, professional documentation, especially when aligning with the somewhat flexible guidelines of a council’s development controls.

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