NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Overview of the planning system

Guidance for homeowners and businesses affected by natural disasters

The following information on the NSW planning system has been prepared to assist homeowners and businesses to understand what approvals may be required for their rebuild.

Is approval required?

Yes, all fully constructed dwellings (with occupation certificate) that require rebuilding will require approval.

Where should you start?

We recommend you contact your local Council’s planning and development service staff who will be able to help you step through the process as it applies to your individual circumstances. Council will be able to provide any records available and discuss the best approval options for the rebuild.

Local development

Local development is the most common type of development in NSW, with projects ranging from home extensions to medium sized commercial, retail and industrial development.

A development is considered to be local development if a local environmental plan (LEP) or State environmental planning policy (SEPP) states that development consent is required before the development can take place.

To find out if your development requires council approval or what information needs to be submitted with your development application, contact your local council.

Lodging a Development Application

People needing to lodge a Development Application with their Council to rebuild their home, may require a referral to other state government agencies, seeking concurrence or integrated approval, before the DA can be determined by council.

For example if your dwelling has a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) of BAL-40 or BAL-FZ, your application will need to be referred to NSW Rural Fire Service. You are able to check with your council to determine if concurrence or an integrated approval is required.

Complying development

Complying development is a fast-track approval process for straightforward residential, commercial and industrial development. Complying development generally includes larger building works than exempt development. For this reason, ‘sign off’ by a building professional (known as a certifying authority) is needed. Provided the proposal fully meets specific development standards, it can be determined by a council or accredited certifier without the need for a full development application.

If the application meets certain criteria (identified in the State Policy for exempt and complying development), it can be determined by a certifier (council or an accredited certifier) and approval can be issued within 20 days.

Examples of complying development include building a one or two storey home, building a granny flat or secondary dwelling or building earthworks and structural supports.

There are additional requirements for complying development on bushfire prone land and complying development cannot be undertaken in areas of Bushfire Attack Level 40 (BAL-40) or the Flame Zone. See more about development in bushfire prone land on the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) website.

There are also development standards that prevent certain types of complying development from being carried out on flood prone land.

For further information on complying development, visit the NSW Planning Portal or contact codes@planning.nsw.gov.au

Exempt development – no council approval needed

Exempt development is very low impact development that can be done for certain residential, commercial and industrial properties, without planning approval.

Examples of development that can be exempt development are balconies and decks, demolition, carports and fences. Provided that the proposed works meet the development standards (identified in the State Policy for exempt and complying development), approval may not be needed. Additional requirements may apply for exempt development on bushfire prone land – for example, if a deck is being installed as exempt development on bushfire prone land and is less than 5m from a dwelling, it must be constructed of non-combustible material.

For further information on exempt development, including fact sheets on what can be done without council approval, visit the NSW Planning Portal or contact codes@planning.nsw.gov.au

Planning for Bushfire Protection

Planning for Bushfire Protection (PBP) provides guidelines and requirements for developing in bushfire prone areas in NSW All new development on bushfire prone land needs to comply with PBP. The aim of PBP is to provide for the protection of human life and to minimise the impacts on property from the threat of bushfire. More information on the PBP can be found on the RFS website.

Page last updated: 08/11/2022