Do I need approval?

Generally, if you are proposing to use land, subdivide land, erect a building, carry out a work or undertake a demolition, you will require approval from Council. Use the information in this section of the website to help you determine the approval requirements for your proposal.

1. Exempt Development

Some works can be carried out around your home or work place without applying for Council approval. This is known as "exempt development" and generally includes minor works that have low environmental impact. 

Exempt Development Frequently Asked Questions:

Can exempt development be carried out on my land?

Exempt development can be carried out in most parts of the Shire.

In many cases, a particular development will be only be prevented from being exempt development because it exceeds pre-determined size requirements, and not because of the location of your property.

The requirements for exempt development are included in State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 - NSW Legislation which is also known as the Codes SEPP. If you have difficulty working out whether exempt development can be carried out on your land, please contact Council on (02) 6340 2040 and ask for assistance.

Does my proposal qualify for exempt development?

A comprehensive list of development types that can be carried out without approval is included in State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008. The State Government has prepared a website to assist landowners in determining whether your proposal can be carried out without Council approval.

What if my development does not qualify as exempt development?

If your development doesn't qualify as exempt development, you may be able to apply for a Complying Development Certificate. 

2. Complying Development

Certain types of small scale residential, commercial and industrial development can be carried out as complying development. To qualify for complying development, the proposed works must comply with the requirements of the Building Code of Australia and satisfy all of the pre-determined requirements outlined in State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008, which is also known as the Codes SEPP. 

The six categories of Complying Development:

New houses

The General Housing Code includes requirements for the construction of single and two-storey dwellings and ancillary development including swimming pools, garages and fences. The Rural Housing Code includes requirements for the construction of single and two storey dwellings and ancillary development in rural areas.

Housing Alterations

The Housing Alterations Code includes requirements for internal and external alterations and additions to existing dwelling houses.

Bed & Breakfasts

The General Development Code includes requirements for bed and breakfast accommodation.

Commercial & Industrial

The General Commercial and Industrial Code includes requirements for internal building alterations, change of use proposals, mechanical ventilation systems, shop front and awning alterations to commercial and industrial premises.


The Subdivisions Code includes requirements for strata subdivisions of certain buildings.


The Demolition Code includes requirements for demolitions of various structures.


If your proposal can be carried out as complying development, you have two options:
1. Lodge a Complying Development Certificate Application(PDF, 169KB) with Cowra Council.
2. Lodge a Complying Development Certificate Application with a Private Certifier. For more information on Private Certifiers, please see the FAQ section below.

Complying Development Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the advantages of a Complying Development?

Less Paperwork – you do not need to lodge a Development Application (DA) or Construction Certificate (CC).

Start Building Quicker – complying developments can be approved in 10 days by Council or your chosen Private Certifier. This compares with an average approval time of 40 days for DA’s.

Reduce CostsĀ­ – The application process is cheaper than lodging a DA or CC.

No neighbour notification – The Council or Private Certifier is not required to notify your neighbours of the development. This removes the risk of a neighbour objecting to your proposal.

Meets BASIX requirements – the requirements for the Complying Development Code also meet the water and energy saving demands on BASIX.

What is a Private Certifier and why would I need one?

What are certifying authorities?

Certifying authorities are responsible for the approval and inspection of building works. They issue the certificates you need to build including Complying Development Certificates and Construction Certificates. In most cases, the certifying authority is either the local council, however you can also choose to engage a Private Certifier to act as the certifying authority. Private Certifiers are essentially private practitioners accredited to act as public officials.

Why would I engage a Private Certifier for my Complying Development?

A Private Certifier can process your Complying Development Certificate in the same amount of time as Council with competitive rates and fees. The decision to choose a Private Certifier over Council for your Complying Development Certificate is completely up to you. A list of Private Certifier's who service the local area can be found on the Building Professionals Board website.

Where can I find further information?

The Building Professionals Board website contains further information about certifying authorities. Alternatively, you can telephone Council on (02) 6340 2040 and ask to speak to one of Council's Building Surveyors.


3. Development Approvals

Development that is not exempt or complying development will require the lodgement of a Development Application with Council. Learn more about Development Applications here.

4. Other Approvals

Your proposal may require other approvals if it involves:

  • Works within a public road, nature strip, footway, bridge or public reserve.
  • Land affected by an Interim Heritage Order or land that is identified on the State Heritage Register.
  • Bushfire Prone Land.
  • Land in a national park.
  • Potential pollution generating activities.
  • Plumbing and drainage.
  • Installation or modification of an on-site waste management system.
  • Works affecting an Aboriginal heritage item.
  • Activities requiring a water licence.

If your proposal fits into one of these categories, it is suggested that you contact Council on (02) 6340 2040 to discuss any approval requirements.