NSW Department of Planning and Environment

COVID-19 response

Temporary measures in place to support the state’s economy and jobs will be made permanent.

Temporary measures in place to support the State’s economy and jobs will be made permanent as part of a plan to realise $3.1 billion over 10 years in gains for NSW.

As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NSW Government put a number of temporary planning measures in place.

Following an evaluation, the following planning measures were shown to have a public benefit and will be made permanent:

  • Extended opening hours for businesses including supermarkets: Most businesses in business areas will be able to open from 6am to 10pm with those in industrial zones able to be open for 24 hours
  • Businesses will continue to operate 24 hours a day for things like deliveries and non-trading activities in industrial and business zones
  • Dark kitchens and food trucks: Allowing dark kitchens to operate in existing commercial kitchens and food trucks to operate at any time (with some restricted times in residential areas)
  • Online public meetings and public planning panels will be made permanent to make it easier for the community to access. Planning panels and the Independent Planning Commission have the flexibility to hold hearings or meetings online, in person or as a hybrid of both.
  • Digital interviews and questioning: enforcement authorities will be able to continue to conduct interviews remotely via audio link or audio-visual link under various natural resources legislation.

Transport for NSW and the City of Sydney council have also sought the necessary approvals for permanent cycleways in locations where temporary cycleways were in place. These permanent cycleways have been undertaken under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

The department will continue to review the planning system to ensure it is best equipped to support communities and economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.

Ministerial Orders are no longer in place

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NSW Government introduced the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020, which made temporary changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the EP&A Act).

The temporary changes allowed the Minister for Planning to make an Order for development to be carried out without normal planning approval to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The temporary changes to the EP&A Act ended on 31 March 2022 and any temporary Orders that were made during this period no longer apply.

Construction work days and hours

The Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development Construction Work Days) Order 2022 (PDF, 400 KB) ended on Thursday, 31 March 2022.

Extended construction hours allowed under the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development - Infrastructure Construction Work Days) Order (No. 2) 2020 (PDF, 168 KB) and Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development - Health Services Facilities) Order (No. 2) 2020 (PDF, 182 KB) will also end on this date.

After 31 March 2022, construction work hours will be determined by the hours set out in the approved conditions of consent for each individual development. This means that construction work on weekends will only be allowed if authorised in the development consent.

Developments which want to extend the hours to undertake construction work will need to contact the relevant consent authority to discuss modifying the existing development consent and approved construction hours.

Frequently asked questions about construction hours and essential fire safety

Construction work days 
What will happen after 31 March 2022?

After 31 March 2022, construction work hours will be determined by the hours set in the approved conditions of consent for each individual development. This means that construction work on weekends will only be allowed if authorised in the development consent.

Why is construction happening during the night near my house?

After 31 March 2022, construction hours will be determined by the hours set in the approved conditions of consent for each individual development.

Development consents or approvals may authorise construction to occur outside normal hours. The consent authority (usually council) will consider the likely impacts on the community before allowing night work.

Where can I find out the approved ordinary construction hours for a development?

Approved construction hours can be obtained from your local council, or for major projects, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. They are often available on council websites or the NSW Planning Portal.

Is the inspection and maintenance of essential fire safety measures and the issuing of fire safety statements still required as we move into a COVID-19 normal environment?

Yes. However, inspectors and maintenance personnel will need to ensure they comply with public health advice.

The inspection, testing and maintenance of essential fire safety measures installed in certain buildings such as apartment buildings, nursing homes and commercial premises is necessary to ensure the safety of occupants. This is particularly important as some buildings may still be occupied for longer periods of time than usual. A fire safety statement verifies that the essential fire safety measures have been assessed and will operate to the required standard. An annual fire safety statement also verifies that the fire exit systems in the building have been inspected.

The failure to maintain essential fire safety measures and provide a fire safety statement to the relevant local council together and Fire and Rescue NSW when required is an offence under the Environmental Planning and Assessment (Development Certification and Fire Safety) Regulation 2021 This can result in significant fines being imposed on the owner of the building.

Where building owners are experiencing difficulties in complying with their statutory obligations due to COVID-19, they should contact the relevant local council to discuss their specific circumstances.

Do I have to provide internal access to my building/unit for an inspection of these essential fire safety measures?

Fire safety inspectors need to have access to a building internally and externally to inspect and assess all essential fire safety measures. However, inspectors should comply with public health advice and where necessary, use appropriate personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of building occupants and themselves.

Other planning changes

Updates were made to the NSW planning policies and legislation in response to COVID-19.

Temporary legislation changes to support businesses and landowners

Temporary changes were made to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to support businesses and landowners dealing with business disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. These temporary changes were in place between 25 March 2020 and 25 March 2022.

The changes included:

  • Lapsing periods for development consents and deferred commencement consents were extended to ensure approved projects can start once economic conditions have improved. Consents granted before 25 March 2020 will be extended by two years and all consents granted since 25 March 2020 will have a lapsing period of five years (which cannot be varied during the pandemic period). Since 25 March 2022, the lapsing period in a development consent can be varied to a period of less than five years.
  • Between 25 March 2020 and 25 March 2022, property owners relying on existing and continuing use rights who were forced to stop using their property during the pandemic, had the period to resume extended from one to three years. Since 25 March 2022, existing and continuing use rights have one year to resume.
  • Between 25 March 2020 and 25 March 2022, appeal periods for merit appeals to the courts were doubled to provide more flexibility for applicants and the community. Since 25 March 2022, the appeal period has returned to the previous time periods.
Changes to clarify the meaning of physically commenced works

The provisions in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 provide greater certainty to landowners, developers and the community about development that has ‘physically commenced’.

In response to the impact of COVID-19 on the construction industry, it was necessary to allow the construction industry more time to physically commence works to ensure that development consents do not automatically lapse. New provisions will clarify that certain minor works do not satisfy the requirement for physical commencement. This will ensure that the commencement of works demonstrates a sufficient intent to complete the development.

The provision does not apply to development approved prior 15 May 2020.

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