There are 9 different planning approval pathways in NSW. The size and scale of the development will determine which of the assessment pathways is appropriate.
Many types of minor home renovations and small building projects such as the erection of a carport, balcony, deck or garden shed don't need a planning or building approval. These types of projects are called exempt development. As long as the building project meets specific development standards and land requirements, no planning or building approval is needed.
Other straightforward, low impact residential, commercial and industrial developments that do require planning approval may qualify for a fast track approval process known as complying development. If the application meets specific standards and land requirements a Complying Development Certificate (CDC) can be obtained through your local Council or an accredited certifier without the need for a full development application.
Find out more about all 9 planning approval pathways in NSW:
The organisation that assesses and determines a development application (DA) or complying development certificate (CDC) is called the consent authority. The consent authority is guided by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act), the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (EP&A Reg), and a number of State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) and Local Environmental Plans (LEPs).
Environmental Planning and Assessment Act
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) sets out the laws under which planning in NSW takes place. The main parts of the EP&A Act that relate to development assessment and approval are Part 4 (Development Assessment) and Part 5 (Environmental assessment).
The Minister responsible for the Act is the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces.
Environmental Planning and Assessment Act Regulation
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act Regulation sets out how certain functions under the EP&A Act should be carried out, fees associated with development assessment and other procedures.
Schedule 3 of the EP&A Regulation defines the types of designated development that will have a high impact (e.g. likely to generate pollution), or are located in or near an environmentally sensitive area (e.g. a wetland), and warrant a detailed environmental impact statement.
Environmental Planning Instruments (SEPPs) and (LEPs)
Environmental planning instruments are statutory plans made under Part 3 of the EP&A Act that guide development and land use. These plans include State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) and Local Environmental Plans (LEPs).
State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) can specify planning controls for certain areas and/or types of development.
SEPPs can also identify:
- the development assessment system that applies to developments (e.g. whether a development is State significant)
- the type of environmental assessment that is required (e.g. whether an environmental impact statement is required).
Key SEPPs relating to the assessment system include:
- State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011
- State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Development) 2005
- State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007
- State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007
- State Environmental Planning Policy (Building Sustainability Index: BASIX) 2004.
Local Environmental Plans list the types of development that are allowed in each zone of a local government area, and those that do not need development consent.
The Standard Instrument Local Environmental Plan sets out the format and structure that councils should follow when making a LEP.
All SEPPs and LEPs are available from the Legislation NSW website.
Page last updated: 01/03/2023