NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Regionally significant development

What is regionally significant development?

Regionally significant development refers to development of a larger investment value, scale and / or complexity that requires it to be determined by an independent panel of experts. These independent expert panels are the Sydney District and Regional Planning Panels (the Planning Panels). The Planning Panels determine whether a regionally significant development application is approved or refused.

Developments that are defined as ‘regionally significant’ are listed in Schedule 6 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Planning Systems) 2021, as well as some specific sections in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021.Typical regionally significant developments include:

  • development with a capital investment value (CIV) over $30 million
  • development with a CIV over $5 million which is:
    • council related
    • lodged by or on behalf of the Crown (State of NSW)
    • private infrastructure and community facilities
    • eco-tourist facilities.
  • extractive industries, waste facilities and marinas that are designated development
  • coastal protection works where there is no certified coastal management program
  • certain coastal subdivisions
  • development with a CIV between $10 million and $30 million which is referred to the Planning Panel by the applicant after 120 days.

Any development within the City of Sydney Council area is not considered to be regionally significant.

What are the Planning Panels?

The Sydney District and Regional Planning Panels (the Planning Panels) were established in 2009 under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

There are five Sydney District and four Regional Planning Panels across NSW.

The Sydney District Planning Panels comprise: Sydney Central City, Sydney Northern City, Sydney Eastern City, Sydney Southern City and Sydney Western City. 

The Regional Planning Panels comprise: Hunter Central Coast, Northern, Western and Southern.

Each Planning Panel is made up of a minimum of three members: a panel Chair and two regular panel members appointed by the Minister for Planning. A further two members nominated by the relevant council may also sit on the Planning Panel. The department’s Regionally Significant Development Team convenes and administers the nine Planning Panels.

The Planning Panels independently determine whether a regionally significant development application is approved or refused. The Planning Panels also conduct reviews for or determine certain strategic land use planning applications, including Aboriginal land planning applications.

The Sydney District and Regional Planning Panels website provides further information about developments being assessed by the Panels as well as the operation of the Panels.

When does a regionally significant development get identified?

At or before a development is lodged, the local council may identify the application as regionally significant. The local council then continues to assess and publicly exhibit the development application as usual. However, the council presents its professional assessment of the development to the relevant Planning Panel, instead of the local council. The panel determines if the development should be approved or refused.

Faster Regionally Significant Development Assessment Pilot Program with councils

The NSW Government provided funding to selected councils to implement new processes set by the department to speed up the assessment of regionally significant development assessments. By incentivising councils to make faster assessments, the department has sought to unblock key regionally significant housing and other developments for NSW.

Phase 1 of the Faster Regionally Specific Development Assessment Pilot Grant Program was provided to 13 local councils in the 2021-22 financial year. Phase 2 of the pilot was provided to a further 7 local councils in the 2022 calendar year. The 20 local councils were selected based on the following criteria:

  • Historically high volume of regionally significant development applications
  • Projected high number of new regionally significant development applications expected
  • Capacity to improved assessment times relative to the department’s target timeframes; and/or
  • Capacity to maintain an already high standard of assessment timeframes.

The 20 pilot councils are responsible for 30-40% of all regionally significant development applications in any one year. 

$7 million of funding was allocated evenly to each of the councils, in return for their uptake of new processes and achieving certain assessment timeframe targets. To meet these targets, the councils used the funding to appoint and upskill staff, improve technology, develop guidelines and engage Planning Panels earlier in the assessment process.

The results from the pilot councils to date have been significant, with pilot councils improving the timeframes for regionally significant developments by 30%, which is double the improvement seen in non-pilot councils. Given the success of the first 2 phases of the pilot program, and the process changes put in place, the NSW Government intends to expand the program in the 2023 calendar year to more councils, particularly in regional NSW.

The existing 20 councils involved in the pilot are: Bayside, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Central Coast, Cumberland, Willoughby, Lake Macquarie, Liverpool, Newcastle, Randwick, Sutherland Shire, The Hills Shire, Waverley, Blacktown, Burwood, Camden, Georges River, North Sydney, and Parramatta.

Relevant legislation

For further information, please email the Regionally Significant DA team at enquiry@planningpanels.nsw.gov.au.

Page last updated: 01/03/2023