NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Coastal design guidelines

The NSW coastline is a spectacular natural resource and place of cultural significance. It is there for us all to enjoy and we have a responsibility to ensure its on-going protection.

That is why the department is updating the NSW Coastal Design Guidelines (the Guidelines).

The updated Guidelines will give councils, communities and industry modern solutions that balance the needs of growing communities with our responsibility to preserve our coastline.

They will guide decisions on:

  • Requests for changes to planning rules in coastal communities (planning proposals)
  • Appropriate design for homes and buildings
  • Managing growing coastal communities.

A renewed focus on connecting and collaborating with Aboriginal communities is central to the Guidelines to ensure that land use planning and design begins with respect for Country and Aboriginal heritage.

The update to the Guidelines is a commitment made under the Marine Estate Management Strategy 2018-2028.

The Guidelines aim to ensure that development in coastal areas is appropriate and sensitive to its environment through best practice strategic planning and approach to urban design.

The draft Guidelines were exhibited for public comment from 29 July to 9 September 2022.

We will now review feedback to the exhibition, which will help inform the final Coastal Design Guidelines.

Visit the Planning Portal to view the draft Guidelines.

Using the Coastal Design Guidelines

The Guidelines will be used in strategic planning to inform planning rules along the NSW coast. Planning proposals in the NSW coastal zone must be consistent with, and give effect to Chapter 3 of the Guidelines. This is an existing requirement through Local Planning Direction 4.2: Coastal Management.

The urban design guidance in Chapter 4 in the draft Guidelines can also be used to inform:

  • Master plans
  • Business case
  • Development applications including coastal subdivisions
  • Infrastructure development.

Councils, government agencies, developers and other stakeholders should enlist urban design, architecture and landscape architecture professionals to make best use of the Guidelines.

Where can I find more information?

  • You can find more information about the Coastal Design Guidelines on the department’s Marine estate management page.
  • You can also find out more about the projects taking place under Marine Estate Management Strategy on the NSW Marine Estate website.
  • Contact the policy team via email

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should use the Coastal Design Guidelines?

The following groups should use the Guidelines for planning proposals in the coastal zone.

  • Councils, landowners, and developers when preparing a planning proposal
  • Local councils in assessing planning proposals

The Guidelines support plan making authorities to assess and determine planning proposals.

The Guidelines can also be used by designers, architects and landscapers to create best practice urban designs in the coastal zone.

Are the Coastal Design Guidelines mandatory?

Yes, chapter 3 of the Coastal Design Guidelines applies to all planning proposals in the coastal zone.

Chapter 4 of the Guidelines relates to urban design and is optional for use in the coastal zone.

Why are we updating the Coastal Design Guidelines?

The NSW coastline is a precious resource and we are creating healthy coastal habitats with sustainable use and development. Updating the Guidelines is an action funded under initiative 2 of the NSW Marine Estate Management Strategy 2018-2028.

The update ensures the Guidelines are consistent with the coastal management framework that commenced in 2016.

What will the updated Guidelines do?

The Coastal Design Guidelines will:

  • reflect the new coastal management framework
  • focus on place-based planning
  • provide clear guidance directly relevant to planning proposals
  • balance the environmental, economic, social and cultural values of the coastal zone
  • ensure that land use and design begins with respect for Country and Aboriginal heritage
  • guide planning for coastal hazards
Where do the Coastal Design Guidelines apply?

The Guidelines apply to the entire NSW coastal zone. The NSW coastal zone consists of the coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests area, coastal vulnerability area, coastal environment area and coastal use areas. View these areas on the department’s spatial viewer.

Will there be community consultation for future planning proposals?

Yes, community consultation is an essential part of the planning proposal process. A planning proposal must outline the community consultation that will be undertaken.

What is a Local Planning Direction?

Local Planning Directions are a list of directives issued by the Minister of Planning under section 9.1(2) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. These apply to planning proposals lodged with the Department of Planning and Environment, which include proposals for new or amended Local Environment Plans.

How do the Guidelines support local communities?

The Guidelines help preserve our coast for current and future generations. They will:

  • ensure development seeks to achieve a balance between the environmental, economic, social and cultural values along the coast
  • cater to growing communities and their changing needs
  • help support important coastal industries such as fishing, boating and tourism
  • support diverse housing supply in suitable locations.
How do the Guidelines develop connections with Country?

Planners and designers must consider Country in their plans. The Guidelines refer to the Connecting with Country Draft Framework. This develops connections with Country for built environment projects in NSW.

How does this relate to the urban design guidance from the NSW Government Architect?

The Guidelines complement the Government Architect's Better Placed and Greener Places frameworks. The Coastal Design Guidelines provide specific urban design guidance for the coastal zone.

Page last updated: 02/11/2022