NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Education and child care facilities

In December 2021, the department made changes to Chapter 3 of the Transport and Infrastructure SEPP to improve planning processes for better delivery of great schools, TAFEs and universities.

The key changes:

  • speed up planning processes by allowing more facilities to be built without a development application as long as it complies with strict rules
  • make it easier to understand that student housing is allowed on schools and tertiary institution campuses
  • address concerns about the impact of child-care centres in low density residential zones (R2 zones).

The changes are part of a larger NSW Government program to ensure faster delivery of government and infrastructure projects.

Information on the changes and a report on the submissions received is available on the NSW Planning Portal.

Planning for early childhood education and care facilities

The planning rules for early childhood education and care facilities:

  • aligns the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Facilities with the NSW planning system
  • simplify the planning approval process by allowing certain child care facilities to be provided without the need for a development application as long as it complies with strict rules
  • allow child care centres to temporarily relocate (through an exempt development process) in the event of an emergency.

In 2017 all local environmental plans were changed to allow child care centres to be built in low density residential areas so facilities can be built closer to homes. The recent review tightened the rules to ensure they are built in the right places.

The Child Care Planning Guideline helps child care providers, developers and councils deliver new, high-quality early childhood education and care facilities. It includes national and state planning controls as well as best practice design guidance.

Child Care Planning Guideline

Watch the video spoken by Gabby Holden, Head of Early Learning Service Development, Uniting.


Planning for schools

The planning rules make it much easier for public and registered non-government schools to improve and expand schools. This includes upgrades to sports fields, building a new library, and offering before and after school care services.

Development without consent for registered non-government schools

Some small developments can be done by registered non-government schools without development consent. An environmental impact assessment for the proposed activity is still required. Development that significantly increases student numbers cannot be done without consent.

The Code of Practice for Part 5 activities (PDF, 254 KB) was developed to make sure registered non-government school operators properly assess environmental impact. The code sets out requirements for consulting with the community and government on proposed school developments.

Design quality principles

Quality design is an important part of planning. It makes sure that new schools enhance communities, deliver greater energy efficiency and contribute to healthy lifestyles for children. The planning rules introduce guidance and design requirements for schools to ensure that facilities are well-designed, appropriately located, and meet the needs of the community.

The NSW Government Architect developed the Design Guide for Schools (PDF, 1.2 MB). The design guide supports the Design Quality Principles in Chapter 3 and the delivery of good school design across NSW.

Planning for universities and TAFEs

The planning rules allow TAFEs and universities to change their facilities to meet the growing number of people seeking tertiary qualifications. The rules allow for development with consent, without consent and as exempt and complying development.

More information

Please view the below documents for more information on the planning rules for education and child care facilities.

Page last updated: 24/02/2023