Is your Com­ply­ing Devel­op­ment Cer­tifi­cate valid?

In the recent deci­sion of Wol­londil­ly Shire Coun­cil v Kennedy [2023] NSWLEC 53 the Land and Envi­ron­ment Court has held that the fail­ure by a cer­ti­fi­er or con­sent author­i­ty to include the pur­pose’ of devel­op­ment in a Com­ply­ing Devel­op­ment Cer­tifi­cate could ren­der that cer­tifi­cate invalid. 


  • A com­ply­ing devel­op­ment cer­tifi­cate can only be issued for a per­mit­ted purpose.
  • Cer­ti­fiers and con­sent author­i­ties should take all nec­es­sary steps to sat­is­fy them­selves that the devel­op­ment is com­ply­ing before issu­ing a com­ply­ing devel­op­ment certificate. 
  • The issuance of a com­ply­ing devel­op­ment cer­tifi­cate does not pro­tect a landown­er from pro­ceed­ings com­menced by coun­cil to declare that com­ply­ing devel­op­ment cer­tifi­cate invalid.


On 28 Octo­ber 2021, a cer­ti­fi­er issued a com­ply­ing devel­op­ment cer­tifi­cate (CDC) to a landown­er, autho­ris­ing the con­struc­tion of a detached shed’ on land locat­ed in Caw­dor, NSW. The pro­posed shed, with an area of almost 1,400 m², was intend­ed by the landown­er to be used to store his car col­lec­tion. How­ev­er, the cer­ti­fi­er was not aware of the landown­er’s inten­tion in this regard. Fol­low­ing a com­plaint by a neigh­bour dur­ing the con­struc­tion of the shed, the local coun­cil sent an offi­cer to investigate. 

The Coun­cil com­menced pro­ceed­ings in the Land and Envi­ron­ment Court chal­leng­ing the valid­i­ty of the CDC on numer­ous grounds. Of par­tic­u­lar note, the Coun­cil alleged that the CDC pur­port­ed to autho­rise the car­ry­ing out of devel­op­ment which was not con­sid­ered com­ply­ing devel­op­ment with­in the mean­ing of cl 3A.5 of Part 3A Rur­al Hous­ing Code’ of the State Envi­ron­men­tal Plan­ning Pol­i­cy (Exempt and Com­ply­ing Devel­op­ment Code) 2008 (NSW) (Codes SEPP).

This was on the basis that the CDC did not iden­ti­fy the pur­pose for the shed and accord­ing­ly the devel­op­ment pur­port­ed to be approved by the CDC could not be char­ac­terised as com­ply­ing devel­op­ment which may be car­ried out on the land for the pur­pose of s 4.6 of the EPA Act and the Codes SEPP.

How to Con­strue the CDC

The Court first­ly had to con­sid­er the prop­er man­ner in which to con­strue the CDC. In doing so, Pain J made the fol­low­ing com­ments and findings:

  1. Devel­op­ment con­sent, as defined by s 1.4 of the EPA Act, includes a CDC unless express­ly excluded.
  2. A CDC oper­ates in rem and its terms should be clear on its face, or at the most, by ref­er­ence to doc­u­ments oth­er­wise incor­po­rat­ed into it, in lim­it­ed cir­cum­stances [45].
  3. Extrin­sic evi­dence, such as con­ver­sa­tions and emails between peo­ple before a CDC is issued can­not assist in con­stru­ing a CDC [46].