Planning and Development Activities in NSW: How to Change the Use of a Property

Date: Jun 04, 2010
Document Type: Newsletter

In New South Wales, planning and development activities are carried out under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW). The legislation creates a complex system of state, regional and local planning.


Planning Certificates

In order to determine the uses to which a property may be put, it is necessary to obtain a certificate under section 149 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW). This certificate may be obtained from the local council which governs the area in which the land is located. Section 149 planning certificates contain a statement as to the particular zoning of a property. They also contain a table which sets out uses of the land that are permitted without development consent, uses of the land that are permitted with development consent and uses which are prohibited.

Section 149 planning certificates also provide details about all of the environmental planning instruments which apply to the land. It is important to review all applicable planning instruments as some planning instruments may modify the operation of other instruments. For example, a local environmental plan may seem to allow a particular land use which is actually restricted or even prohibited by a state environmental planning policy that applies to that property.


Changes of Use

If you are interested in changing the use of a property, it is important to check the requirements of the relevant local council. For example, the City of Sydney requires applicants to lodge a development application in relation to any development (including a change in use of the land, the erection of a building, the carrying out of work, etc.). There are, of course, exceptions. Some minor development does not require any approval, while other types of development (called complying developments) require a certificate prior to commencing the use, rather than a development application.

Development applications typically require the applicant to set out details regarding the proposed development, including the existing use of the land, hours of operation, number of staff, loading facilities, information about goods to be made or stored, and the number of existing and proposed car spaces. It is also necessary to provide detailed site plans.

Development applications are assessed against the provisions in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW). In general, local councils consider matters such as:

  • relevant planning instruments and policies;
  • the likely impacts of the proposed development;
  • the suitability of the site;
  • any submissions; and
  • the public interest.

Appeal processes are available in the event of an unfavourable decision.


Other Requirements

In addition to lodging a development application, local councils may also have additional requirements. For example, it may be necessary to obtain a construction certificate certifying that the detailed construction plans and specifications for the development are consistent with the development consent and the Building Code of Australia.

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