How Are Development Applications Assessed?

In New South Wales, there are a number of different systems for the assessment of development proposals.These assessment systems are specifically tailored to cater for varying size, nature and complexity of different project types.

These factors will determine which assessment system applies to a particular development. Broadly, there are two categories of development.

  • Development that requires approval
  • Development that does not require approval

Proposed developments that does not require approval

Minor development that does not require any approval is known as Exempt Development. It has minimal environmental impact and does not require Council approval. There are approximately 80 categories of exempt development, which include minor building alterations or additions. They do not require planning approval, as long as the works meet straightforward building standards. Use the Electronic Housing Code System to find out if your development proposal is considered 'exempt'. 

Complying development is other small-scale development that does not require consent but does require certification from Council or an Accredited Certifier prior to the works being carried out. Use the Electronic Housing Code System to find out if your development proposal is considered 'complying'. The application of complying development certification in the City of Botany Bay is limited due to constraints such as groundwater.  Check the maps of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 to find out if a Complying Development Certificate can be issued. 

Types of development that require approval

  • Local & Regional Development
  • Section 96 modifications to approved development
  • Integrated Development
  • Designated Development
  • State Significant Development

Local & Regional Development

The vast majority of Development Applications in New South Wales are for local and regional development and are assessed by local councils under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979.

Regional Development

Regional development is defined in Schedule 4A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. Regional development is development, which is notified and assessed by Council and then determined by the Sydney Region East Joint Regional Planning Panel. Regional development includes:

  • development with a capital investment value over $20 million
  • development with a capital investment value over $5 million, which is:
    • council related
    • lodged by or on behalf of the Crown (State of NSW)
    • private infrastructure and community facilities
    • eco-tourist facilities
  • extractive industries, waste facilities and marinas that are designated development
  • certain coastal subdivisions
  • development with a capital investment value between $10 million and $20 million, which are referred to the regional panel by the applicant after 120 days
  • Crown Development Applications (with a capital investment value under $5 million) referred to the regional panel by the Applicant or Council after 70 days from lodgement as undetermined, including where recommended conditions are in dispute

Local Development

Most development proposals in NSW require lodgement of a Development Application and consent from the local council. 

Section 96 Modifications

After development consent has been given for an application, an amendment to the consent can be sought through a section 96 modification of consent application. The modification sought must be substantially the same as the approved development.

Integrated Development

Some proposals not only require development consent from the Council or the Minister but also a permit or licence from a NSW Government Agency. In these cases, the Council or NSW Planning & Environment will refer the application to the necessary agency so that there is an integrated assessment of the proposal. Division 5 of Section 91 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 provides detailed information on the definition of integrated development. 

Designated Development

Development classed as 'designated' requires particular scrutiny because of its nature or potential environmental impacts. Designated development includes development that has a high potential to have adverse impacts because of their scale or nature or because of their location near sensitive environmental areas, such as wetlands. These 'designated developments' are listed in Schedule 3 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000.

Applicants must submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with the Development Application. The EIS provides a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of the development proposal. Prior to preparing an EIS, applicants must consult with the Secretary of NSW Planning & Environment and, in completing the EIS, must have regard to the Secretary's requirements in relation to the form, content and public availability of the EIS.

The application must be advertised for 30 days so that the public can comment

If someone objects to the proposal, in writing, and the application is approved, that person can appeal against the decision to the NSW Land and Environment Court.

State Significant Development

NSW Planning & Environment is predominantly responsible for assessing applications under the State significant assessment system for projects whose size, complexity, importance or potential impacts mean they are of State, rather than local or regional, significance.

To view development proposals currently being assessed by the Department and determinations already made, please visit the NSW Planning & Environment’s Development Assessments Register.