There are 9 different planning approval pathways in NSW. The size and scale of a development will determine which of the assessment pathways applies.
Many types of minor home renovations and small building projects such as the erection of a carport, balcony, deck or garden shed do not need a planning or building approval. These types of projects are called exempt development. If a building project meets specific development standards and land requirements, no planning or building approval is needed.
Other straightforward, low impact residential, commercial and industrial developments that do require planning approval may qualify for a fast track approval process known as complying development. If an application meets specific standards and land requirements a complying development certificate (CDC) can be obtained through your local Council or an accredited certifier without the need for a full development application (DA).
Find out more about all 9 planning approval pathways in NSW:
The organisation that assesses and determines a DA or CDC is called the consent authority.
The consent authority is guided by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act), the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 (EP&A Regulation), state environmental planning policies (SEPPs) and local environmental plans (LEPs).
Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
The EP&A Act sets out the laws for urban and regional planning in NSW. It also sets up how development is assessed according to those laws.
The main parts of the EP&A Act that relate to development assessment and approval are Part 4 (Development assessment) and Part 5 (Environmental assessment).
The minister responsible for the EP&A Act is the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces.
Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021
The EP&A Regulation sets out consent authorities should carry out certain functions and procedures under the EP&A Act. It also specifies the fees associated with lodging and assessing applications.
Schedule 3 to the EP&A Regulation defines development that will have a high impact (for example if it is likely to generate significant pollution) or are in or near an environmentally sensitive area (for example a wetland). This is known as designated development and warrants a detailed environmental impact statement.
Environmental planning instruments
Environmental planning instruments are statutory plans made under Part 3 of the EP&A Act that guide development and land use. These plans include SEPPs and LEPs.
SEPPs specify planning controls for certain areas and/or types of development.
SEPPs can also identify:
- the development assessment system that applies to developments (for example whether a development is state significant development)
- the type of environmental assessment that is required (for example whether an environmental impact statement is required).
Key SEPPs relating to the assessment system include:
- State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008
- State Environmental Planning Policy (Planning Systems) 2021
- State Environmental Planning Policy (Transport and Infrastructure) 2021
- State Environmental Planning Policy (Resources and Energy) 2021.
LEPs list development types that are allowed in each zone of a local government area, those that are prohibited, and types of development that do not need development consent.
The Standard Instrument Local Environmental Plan sets out the format and structure that councils should follow when making a LEP.
All SEPPs and LEPs are available from NSW legislation.