How a development application is assessed


Information in this topic is worded in a general way to suit the circumstances in all Australian states and territories.

You will find an explanation of words in italics in 1.2 Planning language.


The steps to be followed by a planning authority (usually the local council) in assessing a development application are set out in the state or territory planning legislation. The assessment is based on whether or not the proposed development matches the strategic land use plan and the land use controls that apply to both the land use proposed and the development site on which it is to be located.
Most development applications are assessed by local Councils under the land use controls contained in their planning schemes. In some cases, a regional plan may also apply and if so, its provisions override the planning scheme if the land use controls are in conflict.

Variations exist between each of the states and territories, but the basic steps in assessing development applications are:

• establish the definition of land use proposed from the list of possible uses in the planning scheme;

• establish the zone of the development site by looking at the planning scheme maps;

• see if any overlays apply to the development site by looking at the planning scheme maps;

• establish the category of development from the development tables in the planning scheme and whether public notification is required;

• inspect the development site and surrounding area to observe any special characteristics of the area or the development site;

• compare the development against the land use controls in the planning scheme applying to the use and the development site; the characteristics of the development site in its locality; any submissions received from the community; and any input received from specialists and referral agencies; and

• determine whether the development application should be recommended for approval, approval with conditions, or refusal based on the assessment referred to in item 6 above.

If the proposed development fits with the strategic land use plan and complies with all the land use controls that apply to it, then approval of the development application can be expected, usually with conditions. Conditions of approval can be legally enforced if necessary and so give certainty about the way the development will be designed, constructed and carried out.
If the proposed development fits with the strategic land use plan but doesn’t meet all of the land use controls that apply to it, then the planning authority may ask the applicant to modify the proposed development before it is approved. For example, the initial development application may not provide enough car parking spaces for the proposed development.
If the proposed development does not fit with the strategic land use plan, then the applicant needs to prove there is sufficient justification for the development to be approved based on planning principles. If sufficient justification cannot be proved to the satisfaction of the planning authority, then refusal of the development application can be expected.
Planning decisions can be highly complex and involve trade-offs between the interests of different stakeholders. As a result, there are various channels available to have planning decisions reviewed. For example, the planning legislation sets out appeal rights for applicants against the planning authority’s decision to refuse development approval, against conditions imposed, or if the decision on the development application is unduly delayed. The planning legislation also set out rights of appeal for submitters dissatisfied with the planning authority’s decision.

Related topics:
1.2 Planning language
1.5 Key stakeholders in the planning system
1.6 Legal framework for planning decisions
1.7 Planning Tools

More on-line resources:

Planning scheme and development applications:
• Your local council’s website

Planning legislation, planning process, and planning instruments in each state or territory:

We will build this list over time and invite you to contact us with suggested links you are aware of that can be added to this page.

Want to know more?
Is there something more you want to know about this topic? Contact us with your ideas for future inclusion in TOWN PLANNING FOR EVERYONE resources.

©The Planning Academy 2011
Last updated: 9 Dec 2013

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