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Planning Approval Pathways

Local Development

Local development is the most common type of development in NSW and needs development approval.

What is local development?

Local development is the most common type of development in NSW and needs approval via a development application. Projects range from home extensions to medium-sized commercial, retail and industrial development.

A development is considered a local development if:

  • a local environment plan (LEP) or State environmental planning policy (SEPP) states that development consent is required before development can take place and;
  • a development is not considered to be Regionally or State Significant Development.
What are Local Environment Plans (LEPs)?

LEPs guide planning decisions for local government areas across NSW through development and zoning controls. LEPs outline what landowners can or cannot do with their land, including guidelines for building height or what a building is zoned for (housing, industry or recreation). LEPs are determined by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A). 

What is a State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP)?

SEPPs guide state-wide land use, including urban and regional development. They contain legal frameworks for planning provisions, which are designed to expedite planning and development processes. The department regularly review SEPPs to ensure they are up-to-date, effective and simple.

How do I apply?

Step 1: Find out if your proposed development needs consent

You will need to find out if your development needs consent by looking at the zoning tables in the relevant LEPs and SEPPs for the area of the proposed development.

You can enter your property address in the NSW Planning Portal Spatial Viewer to see what planning constraints and zoning rules affect your property. The Spatial Viewer is a digital mapping service providing easy-to-use, information-rich maps for every address and lot in NSW.

Each LEP or SEPP classifies development into one of the following categories:

  • development that does not need consent
  • development that needs consent
  • development that is prohibited.

If your development needs consent, a development application must be lodged with the local council.

Step 2: Lodge a Development Consent application

A Development Consent application is a formal request for approval to carry out a development. From July 2021, you must register for a NSW Planning Portal account to complete your online development form. Your development consent application must include:

  • a description of the development
  • the estimated cost of the development
  • a plan of the land
  • a sketch of development
  • environmental assessment, for example, environmental impact statement or statement of environment effects.

Development consents are issued by consent authority, usually local council and the Minister for Planning (if a SEPP specifies the Minister as the consent authority).

Start your Development Application  Track a Development Application

High-impact local development

The level of environmental assessment that must be provided with the development application will differ depending on the likely impacts of the development.

There are different procedures for applying for development consent depending on the level of environmental assessment and notification required. Appeal rights will differ depending on how a development is categorised. Local development categories include designated development, integrated development and advertised development (which falls under integrated development).

Designated development

Designated development is high-impact development that can affect the environment. This includes development likely to generate pollution or development located near environmentally sensitive areas like wetlands.

The 2 ways designated development are categorised are:

  • the class of development is listed as ‘designated development’ in Schedule 3 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 (EP&A), or
  • A LEP or SEPP declares a certain type of development to be designated.

Some examples of designated development include chemical factories, breweries and distilleries, large marinas, agricultural produce industries and sewerage treatment works. For the Regulation’s full list of designated development, read through Schedule 3 of the EP&A Regulation.

If a development application is categorised as designated development, the application:

  • must be accompanied by an environmental impact statement (EIS)
  • requires public notification for at least 28 days
  • can be the subject of a merits appeal to the Land and Environment Court by objectors.

An EIS for designated development must be prepared in accordance with the Planning Secretary’s requirements. To request the Planning Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs), an applicant must complete the Form A (PDF, 191 KB).

Integrated development

Integrated development can be development that needs a permit or licence approval, such as an aquaculture permit, mining lease, pollution licence or Aboriginal heritage impact permit.

Integrated development applications require an approval (permit or licence) listed in Section 4.46 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. These approvals are granted by NSW Government agencies (approval body), like the Environmental Protection Authority, before a development consent decision can be made by the local council (consent authority).

Council will refer the development application to the necessary approval body so that there is an integrated assessment of the proposal. Council must not approve the development application if the public authority recommends refusal.

The council may determine the development application without the advice from the relevant approval body if advice is not received within:

Advertised development

Advertised development is integrated development requiring approval under the Heritage Act 1977 (NSW), the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) or the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW). It also includes threatened species development, which requires a species impact statement and Class 1 aquaculture development.

The consent authority (local council or the Minster for Planning) must give the public notice of advertised development applications. The notification period for advertised development is 14 days or 28 days for integrated development and threatened species development.

Concurrence and referrals

Concurrence is when agreement from a referral authority must be obtained before the council can determine a development application. This is underpinned by the State Environmental Planning Policy (Concurrences) 2018 (Concurrence SEPP).

The Planning Secretary now has power to act in place of an approval body under s4.47(4A) of the EP&A Act (a referral) to prevent delays in the assessment of a development application in certain circumstances, as outlined in clause 70AA of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations 2021.

It supports broader reforms that make the development application process more efficient and allows the Secretary to step in to resolve delays. This service is expected to save applicants up to 11 days compared to current assessment times.

We have launched an online concurrence and referral service through the NSW Planning Portal. To access the concurrence and referral service, refer to the steps below:

  1. Register for, or log into, your NSW Planning Portal account
  2. Once logged in, select the relevant application from your dashboard.
  3. View, track or make payments online to state agencies related to your development application from this location.

Register and access the concurrence and referral service

If you need assistance using the online concurrence and referral service, please view our relevant guides or contact ServiceNSW on 1300 305 695 for additional support.

Relevant legislation


Last updated: 13/03/2024