1. Starting the dialogue

Anyone considering building, landscaping or other works within Designated Areas is encouraged to approach the NCA at an early stage to discuss the proposal, before lodging an application for Works Approval.

These discussions centre on the requirements of the National Capital Plan, Policies or Guidelines which might affect a proposal. Please contact the NCA to initiate discussions.

2. Do I need a Works Approval?

Any alteration to buildings or structures, demolition, landscaping or excavation works in the Designated Areas requires the prior written approval of the NCA or 'Works Approval'. 

Click here to find out if you need a Works Approval from the NCA. 

3. Submission of sketch plans

A sketch design which shows the development intention may be submitted to the NCA for consideration and comment, before proceeding with detailed design development.

Discussions held with the NCA in the early stages of developing designs for a proposal will help identify any major issues that require resolution prior to works approval being granted.

4. Lodging an application

Applications are lodged using the NCA’s Works Application Electronic Lodgement (WAeL) portal. 

Click here for further information on lodging a Works Approval.

5. Consideration of applications

The NCA's Service Charter includes a commitment to finalise its consideration of formal applications within 15 working days. Major projects and those which require consultation or clearance from external agencies may take longer.  The NCA takes the following matters into account when assessing applications. 

a. The National Capital Plan 

The National Capital Plan (the Plan) is the strategic plan for Canberra and the Territory. It ensures that 'Canberra and the Territory are planned and developed in accordance with their national significance.' It is also the statutory planning instrument and contains detailed planning requirements for the Designated Areas and is the primary document that applications are assessed against. 

b. Guidelines and Policies

The NCA may assess proposals against approved master plans, development guidelines or policies to ensure the best outcomes for the National Capital. 

A list of approved Guidelines and Policies is available here.

c. External Consultation and Clearances

The NCA will not determine an application until all external consultation and clearances are resolved. Common reasons for external clearance are:

  • Land Custodian Approval
  • Development in areas listed on the Commonwealth or National Heritage lists, the applicant may be required to provide evidence of clearance or approval from the Department of the Environment.
  • Where projects involve established buildings, artworks, or designed landscape areas, obligations under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2002 must be met by the owner of the property.
  • Consultation with ACT Government agencies may also be required on vehicular access, traffic safety, waste management, storm water drainage, leasing and lease compliance, tree preservation, and verge landscaping and management.
  • Icon Water Approval prior to commencement. To ensure a safe and cost effective project, Icon Water approval is required for structures, ground development and excavation prior to submission to the NCA. You can read more about which plans require approval here or head straight to the Icon Water Building Approval page.

d. Public consultation requirements

The National Capital Plan sets out specific requirements for public consultation of dual occupancy residential development on detached house blocks and for telecommunications facilities which are likely to have a high visual impact in Designated Areas. There may also be public consultation requirements for all proposal which are assessed as not having a 'low' impact in accordance with the NCA's 'Commitment to Community Engagement'

Adjoining neighbours are also consulted on single dwelling residential development in Designated Areas.

6. Withdrawal of applications

The NCA reserves the right to withdraw inactive applications without notice if:

  • no correspondence has been received from the applicant for a period of three months; or
  • no contact has been made with the NCA by the applicant for a period of three months. 

7. Decisions and appeals

Once the NCA makes a decision on a Works Approval application, the applicant, and any submitters to proposals released for public consultation, will be promptly notified. There is no provision for planning appeal relating to the merits or otherwise of development proposals approved or not supported by the NCA. There is however, opportunity to challenge the decision administratively. This provides the opportunity for recourse under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 to determine whether a processes undertaken to inform a decision of the Authority has been made correctly.

8. Parliamentary Zone development

The Parliamentary Zone - the place of the people is the physical manifestation of Australian democratic government and the home of the nation's most important cultural and judicial institutions and symbols.

Because of this significance, works proposed within the Parliamentary Zone require the approval of the National Capital Authority and also require the approval of both Houses of Federal Parliament.

Works related to maintenance and repair and that are of temporary or minor nature do not require parliamentary approval.

The parliamentary approval process is coordinated by the Authority, but is separate from, and in addition to, the Authority's approval.