Making an Application

Planning Act 2016

Please note that the Planning Act 2016 comes into effect on 3 July 2017. Applications lodged prior to 3 July 2017 will continue to be assessed under Sustainable Planning Act 2009 in accordance with sections 285-289 of Planning Act 2016.

References to the Sustainable Planning Act will be changed and updated to the Planning Act 2016 in due course.  Information on the new Planning Act 2016 can be found at

Preparing and Lodging a Development Application

When preparing your application you must meet the requirements of Section 260 of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 for your application to be considered properly made. If your application does not meet these criteria, assessment cannot start.

The application must be:

  • made to the Assessment Manager on the approved IDAS form or electronically
  • provided with all supporting information (stated on the IDAS form as mandatory information)
  • lodged with the appropriate fee (see fees and charges)
  • accompanied (where required) by the consent of the owner of the land
  • accompanied (where required) by evidence of an allocation or entitlement to a State Resource, or evidence that the application may proceed in the absence of an allocation or entitlement to the resource.

Guide to lodgement

The following is a guide to lodging a development application:

  1. Check the property designation to determine how your proposed development would be assessed against the CairnsPlan 2016.
  2. Review if the proposed use is code or impact assessable and the relevant codes and Planning Scheme Policies.
  3. Prepare preliminary designs.
  4. If you are personally preparing the application, discuss your proposal with a Town Planner at Council's Planner of the Day counter, or seek pre-lodgement advice to determine if there any issues with the proposal.
  5. Alternately you may wish to consider engaging a town planning consultant to assist with the preparation of the application.
  6. Finalise plans and supporting documents.
  7. Complete IDAS forms and ensure all mandatory requirements of the forms have been met.
  8. Review development assessment checklist to ensure all relevant information is included with the application.
  9. Lodge your application online, in person or by post.

'Not properly made' applications

The Act states that if the application is considered "not properly made", the Assessment Manager must give the applicant a notice stating all of the following:

  • the application is "not a properly made" application
  • the reasons why the application is "not a properly made" application
  • the next step to ensure that the application will comply with the Act

Lodging your application

You can lodge your development application in person at Council's Chambers at 119-145 Spence Street, Cairns or lodge your development application online. Applications by mail should be addressed to:

Attention: Manager, Strategic Planning & Approvals
Cairns Regional Council
PO Box 359
Cairns Qld 4870

Pre-lodgement advice

Council's pre-lodgement service is a free* service available. (* A fee is charged when referral to a Council Committee meeting is requested.)

The pre-lodgement service provides an opportunity for the enquirer and Council officers to informally consider the key issues relevant to the assessment of a prepared proposal prior to lodging an application.

As a minimum, a person using this service should:

For more detailed projects, a pre-lodgement meeting can be requested.

Any person utilising this service should accept that:

  • A pre-lodgement enables informal discussion and advice only. It does not constitute a detailed assessment and does not guarantee in any way the outcome of any subsequent assessment process.
  • Advice will be given on issues detailed by the enquirer. Other issues may be raised by officers during the assessment process. The enquirer cannot rely on Council officers to identify areas of non-compliance during the pre-lodgement process.

Need planning help?

A planning officer is available from 9am to 4pm daily at Council's Administration Centre (119-145 Spence Street, Cairns) to assist with you any general planning enquiries.

Alternatively you can email the Planner of the Day at

If you need more information, you can call us on (07) 4044 3044.

Fast Track Applications

Council's "fast track" application service enables simple applications, specifically those of a domestic scale, to be issued expeditiously.

The simple Fast Track Application checklist ( PDF, 0.09 MB ) assists building certifiers, builders, and first time applicants to submit applications which are well made (ie, contain all the necessary information).

Applications that are eligible for the "fast track" approval process will be assessed in less than half the time allowed for under the relevant legislation.

Have your say on a Development Application

How to Make a Submission

Residents can support or oppose proposed development by making a formal submission, even if they do not live in the area. A submission is a written explanation supporting or opposing a development proposal.

Submissions must:

  • be in writing and signed by each person who is listed as supporting it; and
  • include the name and address of each person who signs it; and
  • state what aspects of the plan or proposed development you support or oppose and why; and
  • be received by Council during the formal public notification period.

Council needs to understand the reasons behind your submission. For example, if you think the type of development proposed for your area is unsuitable, you need to say why it is unsuitable, not simply that you do not like it.

A person who makes a 'properly made submission' is called the 'submitter'.  Once Council considers all submissions, a copy of the decision is sent to everyone who wrote a submission; or the first person on the list of 'submitters' if the submission was signed by several people.

Submissions can be made on developments that are 'impact assessable'. Normally these are complex developments, or those that Council thinks might impact on neighbours, or be potentially unsuitable for an area. Developments that are straightforward, or considered generally suitable, are listed as 'code assessable'. Residents can make a submission on code assessable developments, however, the submitter will not have any formal rights under the Sustainable Planning Act.

You can make a submission in writing to:

Attention Manager Development Assessment
Cairns Regional Council
PO Box 359
Cairns Qld 4870

A submission form is available to assist in lodging your submission. You can download and use the PDF version of the submission form ( PDF, 0.55 MB )

Submissions can also be emailed to

It is important that in addition to the information required above, the submission clearly details which development application you are making a submission about. View details of Development Applications here.

Submissions are not confidential. Submissions are made available for viewing or purchase through the public scrutiny process [s 728(1) of Sustainable Planning Act]. For more information see

After your Development is Approved

Post-development approval checks

Before you begin work you must:

  • get all operational works and compliance assessment approvals;
  • comply with the relevant conditions of approval, including timing requirements;
  • pay your Infrastructure Charges;
  • appoint a licensed builder and building certifier;
  • make sure that your site is safe and environmental controls are in place;
  • arrange a pre-start meeting with Council engineers.

This list is a general guide only.

Process chart

The following flow chart shows where you are now in the overall process.

Fees are applicable for some stages in the process. Check current fees and charges.

Council engineers may undertake random audits of development sites to ensure conditions of development are complied with and development is in accordance with approvals.

Determine if development approval is required the application will then go through the following process.

  1. Application lodged with Council - Council grants development approval subject to conditions
  2. Prior to commencement - Check conditions to see if you are affected by any of the conditions prior to commencement of works, or prior to lodgement of building approval
  3. Operational works applications lodged - Get all operational works and compliance assessment applications required by the conditions of approval.
  4. Obtain building approval - Appoint a building certifier to assess the building application. Approval of the building application must be obtained prior to commencement of works on site. Ensure you satisfy all conditions prior to commencement of works/or prior to building approval, or prior to commencement of building work
  5. Appoint builder - Sign a contract with a licensed builder and make sure that the builder has appropriate insurance
  6. Appoint a building certifier - Sign an agreement with an accredited building certifier to do the building inspections
  7. Pre-start meetings - Contact Council engineers from the Development Assessment Team to arrange a pre-start meeting appointment. At this time the engineer will require details of the engineering consultant (RPEQ) and timing for the construction period (if required for engineering works on site)
  8. Building or reconfiguration work - Comply with all approval conditions
  9. On maintenance - Consulting engineer to contact Council engineers from the Development Assessment Team to arrange an on maintenance inspection. Payment of on maintenance security deposit may apply
  10. Plan Sealing (for reconfiguration applications) - Lodge survey plan with council for signing and sealing
  11. Off maintenance inspection - Twelve months after the on maintenance inspection, engineering consultant to seek joint off maintenance inspection with Council’s engineers. This will determine if assets are acceptable to be handed over to Council. A final acceptance letter will be given at this time. Where any securities are held for maintenance purposes, these will be released upon final acceptance
  12. Titles Office (for reconfiguration applications) - Lodge the sealed plan with the Titles Office.
  13. Occupation and use - Make sure you comply with development approval conditions relating to ongoing use

How can I tell if I can put my carport up to the front boundary?

Before you submit a building application, contact a Council building officer to ascertain if a Siting Dispensation may be required as there is a 6 metre setback under the QDC.

I’ve heard I may be in a "character precinct" (hillslopes or character precinct), what does this mean?

Firstly check with Town Planning and if you are in a character precinct an application will need to be submitted and approved to Town Planning prior to lodging your building application.

Preparing and Lodging a Development Application

A simple step by step guide to preparing a properly made Development Application. More

Pre-lodgement advice

Get assistance or more information from a Council Planning Officer. You can also discuss your development proposal before making an Application. More

Fast Track Applications

Lodging a simple Development Application? Learn how to “Fast Track” your Approval. More

Have your say on a Development Application

The community can make a submission either for or against a Development. Learn more about the submission process and make a submission here. More

After your Development is Approved

You may not be able to start work straight away once your development is approved. Learn more about what needs to be done once a Development is approved. More

Last updated: 12 June 2017