NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Outdoor events SEPP

The Department of Planning and Environment has played an important role in the NSW Government’s rapid response to the pandemic. The department has made it easier and faster for all councils to use their land for outdoor events over summer.

The department also exhibited changes to assist the City of Sydney Council to set up an event space in Cathedral Square to hold a series of performances through a streamlined planning process.

Statewide temporary use of council land

The department has amended the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) to include an exempt development provision for temporary outdoor community events. The amendment will allow the use of council land for outdoor community events and associated temporary structures, such as stages or tents, from 21 December 2020 until 18 April 2021.

This means that councils who wish to hold events will not need to prepare a development application but will assess and manage the outdoor community events against their internal policies (e.g. events or public arts policy) and any approval process required under other legislation.

This amendment assists councils that may not have temporary use measures in their local environmental plans by providing an exempt development pathway to use their land to support local communities and businesses.

The temporary measure aligns with the NSW Government’s Summer Fund to help councils provide free events, activities or experiences to enliven local public spaces this summer.

For more information about the temporary use of council land for outdoor community events, please read our Frequently asked questions (PDF, 151 KB).

Outdoor events at Cathedral Square

The City of Sydney Council requested the department’s assistance to deliver its Making Sydney 24-hour Alfresco City Program to encourage economic recovery in Sydney.

As part of the program, Council is proposing to run a variety of outdoor events including music, dance and theatre performances in Sydney CBD.

The City of Sydney Council sought an exempt development pathway to facilitate the outdoor performances in Cathedral Square, including a stage, seating areas food and drink stalls etc, from 1 January until 1 April 2021.

At Council’s request, the department made the Outdoor Events SEPP to amend the Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012 (Sydney LEP) to allow the event and associated structures to occur as exempt development during this time.

The Council will use their outdoor venue management event approval process to assess event plans for Cathedral Square. This will manage issues such as noise, access, security, amenity, and traffic. Council’s approval process will also manage the operating hours of performances, food and drink sales and the installation and removal of event-related structures.

Following assessment and any approvals required under other legislation, the Council will be in operational control of the events.

Consultation and feedback

An Explanation of Intended Effect (EIE) on the proposed amendment for outdoor events at Cathedral Square was on public exhibition from 24 November until 7 December 2020.

View the EIE and submissions

Frequently asked questions

What type of community outdoor events may councils hold?

Councils will determine how to use their land for outdoor community events depending on the space available and local needs. This could include a night market, outdoor cinema, festival, or street arts.

What type of outdoor events will be held at Cathedral Square?

The City of Sydney Council’s Making Sydney 24-Hour Alfresco City Program proposes a series of limited capacity outdoor summer events with orchestra and theatre performances, live bands and festival activity. Please contact City of Sydney for details on the event program.

Why do we need the amendment?

The SEPP provides a fast-track planning pathway for outdoor events to be carried out as exempt development over summer. Some council’s local environmental plans do not include the temporary use of land as exempt development, or do not have adequate days to provide for the additional demand over summer to support increased domestic tourism.

Many events were cancelled due to the pandemic and additional outdoor spaces will allow community events to be held in a safe environment with required social distancing.

The NSW Government recognises that the arts and cultural sector may benefit from these measures to help the industry to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

What requirements do councils need to follow?

The exempt development provision does not override the requirements for approvals under other Acts, such as the Local Government Act 1993, Roads Act 1993, the Plan of Management (if it is Crown land), the Food Act 2003 and Liquor Act 2007 if food and liquor licences are required.

Councils also need to ensure that the construction of temporary structures comply with the relevant building standards in the Building Code of Australia and development standards in the Codes SEPP.

What will happen after the events end?

The exempt development provisions only apply for three months at Cathedral Square and four months for the temporary use of council land in other areas. After this, any temporary structures must be removed and the local provisions in councils' LEP will recommence.

More information

  • If you have any questions about the events at Cathedral Square, please email Council.
  • For more information on the Outdoor Events SEPP, please call our information centre on 1300 305 695. If English isn't your first language and you prefer an interpreter, please call 131 450. Ask for an interpreter in your language and then request to be connected to our information centre.

Image banner: City of Sydney’s biannual Living Colour display, Cathedral Square, Sydney. Photo by Katherine Griffiths / City of Sydney

Page last updated: 17/11/2022