Our planning system has an important role to play in the fight against COVID-19 – to keep the economy moving, support our communities and keep people in jobs. We responded quickly by adapting the planning system to ensure continued productivity, investment and community wellbeing.
We're cutting red tape and simplifying the planning system to fast-track planning projects and allow for new construction jobs and construction work to continue where possible.
On 25 March 2021, the NSW Government extended the prescribed period for the temporary planning measures until 31 March 2022.
The extension is part of the NSW Government's efforts to support the State's economic recovery, protect the health and safety of the community and ensure businesses are able to adapt and respond to changing needs.
The extension continues the following measures:
The department is currently reviewing these measures and updates will be provided as this review progresses.
On 30 July 2021, the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces signed a new Order, the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development—Construction Work Days) Order (No 3) 2021 (Order), which allows construction works to occur Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
The new Order follows the recent pause on construction activity, which was necessary to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. The Order will ensure the continued safe delivery of new homes, transport, job-generating projects and community facilities. This is necessary to help the industry get back on its feet and support the economy.
While the Order extends the days construction work can occur, the industry will still need to adhere to any requirements specified in any orders made under the Public Health Act 2010. If there is an inconsistency between this Order and a public health order, the public health order prevails.
The Order seeks to find the right balance between protecting the public health needs of the general community and providing continued support to the building and construction industry, to ensure they can continue operate during the pandemic in accordance with public health requirements and the necessary social distancing and hygiene practices. The Order allows work to be staggered across the week in a way that minimises the risk of workers being affected by COVID-19.
Extended construction work days and hours for development authorised under the Infrastructure Construction Work Days Order and Health Services Facilities Order continues as per their respective orders.
On 25 March 2020, the NSW Government introduced the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020, which made changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
The changes allow the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to make an order for development to be carried out without the normal planning approval in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These measures will be kept in place during the prescribed pandemic period, and reviewed as new issues arise.
The current list of Ministerial Orders below will be updated progressively.
On 12 August 2020, the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces made the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development-Vehicle Sanitsation Stations) Order 2020, which allows development (including temporary building works) for the purpose of a vehicle sanitisation station to be carried out without further development consent as long as certain conditions are met.
Vehicle sanitisation stations provide for a professional sanitisation service to point to point vehicles such as taxis, ride shares and community transport vehicles to protect the health of passengers and drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Order only allows a vehicle sanitisation station to be carried out without further consent if:
Transport for NSW will oversee the day to day operation of Vehicle Sanitisation Stations. More information can be found on the Sanitation Stations page on the Transport for NSW website.
On 29 May 2020 the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces made the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (COVID-19 Development—Temporary Cycleways) Order 2020 which allows six temporary cycleways to be installed in the City of Sydney.
The measure provides additional transport options for commuters returning to the CBD for work. It supports the NSW Government's COVIDSafe Transport Plan which identifies ‘more cycling and walking options’ as one of seven key measures to maintain health and safety on the NSW transport system.
The Government has a commitment to ensure health and safety is maintained on its transport system whilst COVID-19 restrictions are eased, including measures to support social distancing.
Temporary cycleways provide a viable alternative to public transport for commuters in and around Sydney’s CBD. The Order will help to encourage cycling as an alternative means of commuting to work in the CBD and assist in reducing an expected increase in road congestion. It will also relieve pressure on train, bus, ferry and light rail systems and support social distancing on public transport.
Six new cycleways allowed by the Order include:
These new temporary connections will form important links with the existing cycle network and are part of the City’s broader planned bike network and the NSW Government’s Principal Bike Network.
Work on the new cycleways will be shared between the City of Sydney and Transport for NSW.
Allowing development to be carried out on weekends and public holidays ensures workers can practice social distancing without a loss of productivity or jobs on construction projects.
In December 2020, the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces made the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development – Infrastructure Construction Work Days No. 2) Order 2020.
The Order applies to any approved public infrastructure project and replaces the previous Order made on 8 April 2020 which extended weekend and public holidays construction work day hours to include public infrastructure projects.
Construction sites must take all feasible and reasonable measures to minimise noise and noisy works like rock breaking, rock hammering, sheet piling, pile driving or similar activities are not permitted on weekends and public holidays.
Compliance with this Order will be closely monitored and reviewed if there any adverse impacts on the community or from a public health perspective.
The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces made the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development – Takeaway Food and Beverages) Order 2020 on 31 March 2020.
The Order allows mobile food and drink outlets (food trucks) to operate on any land at any time, if certain requirements are met. The full list of requirements is set out in the Order and includes:
This Order also allows ‘dark kitchens’ to be established in any existing commercial kitchen, such as those in community facilities, business premises, cooking schools and function centres, to allow for the preparation of food and meals to be delivered to those at home, in self isolation, or working on the frontline.
All other conditions including not obstructing vehicle or pedestrian access and taking steps to reduce noise still apply, and operators must ensure employees and customers practice social distancing.
Please refer to our Flexibility for restaurants, food trucks and 'dark kitchens' page for more information and examples of the Order being applied.
The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces made the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development – Temporary Workers’ Accommodation) Order 2020 on 31 March 2020.
The order allows for the immediate construction of two temporary workers’ accommodation sites on land adjacent to Bayswater and Liddell power stations.
To secure the State’s power supply, the accommodation will be used as a refuge from COVID-19 for workers of these two key power stations during the pandemic.
The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces made the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development – Temporary Housing) Order 2021 on 31 August 2021.
The order enables the erection and use of temporary housing on certain land in the Central Darling Shire local government area to provide accommodation to persons affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further changes have been made to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to support businesses and landowners who are dealing with business disruptions during the COVID 19 pandemic.
The changes include:
A change has also been made to the Subordinate Legislation Act 1989 to extend the operation of the current Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 until 1 March 2022 to allow for further consultation after the pandemic has passed.
In October 2020, the Standard Instrument (Local Environmental Plans) Amendment (Definitions) Order 2020 and the State Environmental Planning Policy Amendment (Definitions) 2020 were made to clarify the definition of “home business” and “home industry”.
The amendment removes uncertainty for home businesses and home industries. It allows small-scale online retail activities as part of home businesses and home industries, including online retail sales of items that were not produced on site.
The change to the definitions responds to the changing needs in retail and the economy, acknowledges the growth and increase in online or internet-based sales.
For more information, please refer to the Legislation NSW website for the Standard Instrument (Local Environmental Plans) Amendment (Definitions) Order 2020 and the State Environmental Planning Policy Amendment (Definitions) 2020.
Amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 will provide greater certainty to landowners, developers and the community about development that has been ‘physically commenced’.
In response to the impact of COVID-19 on the construction industry, it has become necessary to allow the construction industry more time to physically commence works to ensure that their respective development consents do not automatically lapse. New provisions will clarify that certain minor works do not satisfy the requirement for physical commencement. This will assist proponents to ensure that the commencement of works demonstrates a sufficient intent to complete the development.
The new provision will not apply to development approved prior to the commencement of the changes.
The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 removed the requirement for planning decision makers (such as councils) to display physical copies of some documents.
These documents will now be available online via the NSW Planning Portal or local council website.
To provide certainty, the Secretary of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has also approved the use of local council and state agency websites to display these documents. Councils do not need to provide physical copies at their offices.
Digital documents include development applications, Environmental Impact Statements on exhibition, registers of development consents, complying development certificates and construction certificates.
Documents available on the NSW Planning Portal include state significant development and state significant infrastructure applications and LEPs on exhibition. Documents available on council websites relate to localised planning matters, such as Development Applications and consent registers.
Current exhibition periods will be unaffected, and documentation that is required to be made physically available will be made available online for the duration of exhibition periods.
Please note: the NSW Planning Portal provides a range of digital services that enable the community, industry and councils to work together in a secure online environment on planning matters, such as Development Applications.
All digital services can be accessed from the safety of your home or office at any time. This supports the need for business continuity during the pandemic, lessening its impact to the NSW economy.
To see which services are available in your local government area, visit the NSW Planning Portal.
The State Environmental Planning Policy (COVID-19 Response) allows supermarkets and other retail outlets across the State to receive deliveries 24 hours a day.
The policy overrides local planning restrictions that limit the timing and frequency of truck deliveries to ensure consistent supply of essential goods to communities right across the State. Please note that retailers may be subject to other legislative requirements which may restrict trade on Christmas day, such as the Retail Trading Act 2008.
All planning panels will be required to hold public hearings and meetings online under a new regulation introduced on 30 April 2020 to ensure no delays in the system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 has been amended to set out the minimum requirements for holding public hearings and meetings using telephone and video conferencing. The regulation will be gazetted on Friday 1 May.
For more information visit the NSW Legislation website.
Stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 news and announcements.
Read more about changes to construction hours; planning notifications; development consents; deferred development consents and the meaning of physically commenced works; flexibility for food trucks and dark kitchens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Our frequently asked questions provide answers to questions relating to COVID-19.