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What is development assessment?

Development assessment is when a proposed development is assessed against a set assessment category and assessment requirements.

Local governments are mostly responsible for development assessment in their own region. However, sometimes other development assessment processes occur depending on the type of development. See development assessment in Queensland and categories of development for more detail.

  • State government is responsible for setting the categories of development which local government applies through their local planning schemes. The categories are:

    • prohibited development
    • accepted development
    • assessable development (code assessable and impact assessable).

    Local government is generally responsible for regulating land use and new development. This occurs through their own local planning scheme. Each local government decides:

    • which development in their area needs assessment
    • the assessment requirements that proposed development must be assessed against.

    Assessing a development application

    Development approval is not required if a proposed development falls into the accepted development category.

    When a development approval is required, a development application is lodged with the assessment manager.The development application is assessed following the process set out in the Development Assessment Rules, also known as the DA Rules.

    Local government is usually responsible for assessing and deciding a development application as the assessment manager. However, the state government becomes involved if additional development assessment is required. This occurs either as the assessment manager or a referral agency through the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA). The Planning Regulation 2017 sets the assessment category when the state government becomes involved.

    When the state government assesses a development application, the State Development Assessment Provisions (SDAP) are used.

    Exemptions from lodging a development application

    In limited circumstances, if a proposed development has an inappropriate categorisation of development, or if the effect of a proposed development is considered to be inconsequential, an exemption certificate may be issued.

    Learn more about exemption certificates.

    Community feedback

    The community may make comment on some types of development proposals. Find out more about how to have your say on a development application.

    Reasons for decisions on development applications must be published on the relevant local government website or this website if SARA is the assessment manager. This ensures transparency and accountability.

    Anyone who has had their say on a development proposal can appeal the decision, provided their submission was ‘properly made’ - meaning it's in writing, signed, specific and made by the due date.

  • The Planning Act 2016 sets out five different types of development:

    • reconfiguring a lot: subdividing land or carrying out other actions, such as merging lots or rearranging boundaries.
    • making a material change of use: a new use of a building, structure or land, or intensifying an existing use.
    • carrying out building work: building a house, garage or extending an existing building or structure.
    • carrying out operational work: making changes to the land itself.
    • carrying out plumbing and drainage work: providing domestic plumbing and drainage to a house. Plumbing and drainage matters are generally managed by local governments and are regulated under the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018.

    Development approval is often required before development can occur. This is known as assessable development. It requires a development application to be lodged, assessed and approved before the development can start.

    You can find more information about development applications and how they are lodged and processed.

    Some development can be undertaken without a development application being required. This is known as accepted development.

    See categories of development for more details. The state government has prepared a fact sheet to assist with what constitutes a support worker in relation to community residences .

  • There are several parties involved in the development assessment process:

    • the applicant
    • the assessment manager
    • a referral agency
    • a submitter.

    The applicant is the person who makes the development application. The applicant may be the owner of the property which is the subject of the development application, or may be a planning consultant or agent acting on behalf of the owner.

    The assessment manager is the entity responsible for assessing and deciding a development application. Usually this is the relevant local government. The Planning Regulation 2017 identifies the assessment manager for the various types of developments.If a development application requires public notification, the assessment manager is also responsible for reviewing any submissions made about the application during the notification period. Find out how to have your say.

    referral agency is an entity that is not the assessment manager, but has a role in assessing a development application. The State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA) is a common referral agency, but other agencies may also be involved, such as port authorities and utilities providers. A referral agency may be a concurrence or advice agency:

    • concurrence agency can direct an assessment manager to carry forward certain conditions on a development approval or refuse a development application
    • advice agency only has the power to give advice.

    submitter is a person who makes a properly made submission about a development application when the development application requires public notification. A properly made submission  is written, signed, related to the topic and submitted by the due date. The submission may be in favour of the proposed development or opposed to it, or aspects of it.

  • A development approval may be:

    • a preliminary approval (including a variation approval)
    • a development permit
    • a combination of the two, in the case of a complex development application containing multiple developments.

    Preliminary approval: this approves the development but does not authorise for the development to go ahead.

    The applicant will still need to submit a development application when they are ready to go ahead, and this may or may not be approved. The benefit to the applicant of the preliminary approval is that it may give them the confidence to explore the concept further.

    For variation approvals, this varies the local categorising instrument (i.e. local planning scheme) and therefore effectively becomes what the future development permit applications will be assessed against.

    Development permit: this allows the development to proceed with or without conditions.

  • The Planning Act stipulates specific rules for how the assessment manager may decide a development application anywhere in Queensland.

    The decision rules differ for code-assessable development and impact-assessable development, as well as for development applications involving a variation request.

  • There are options available under the Planning Act to change an approval once it has been given. The process and requirements for seeking a change to an approval will depend on the timing of the request and also the nature of the changes proposed.

    Development approvals will always have a currency period – that is, the length of time given before having to start the development.

    Development approvals can lapse if development has not started within the currency period. The Planning Act does provide the ability to request an extension of time if needed.

Last updated: 25 May 2022