The NSW Department for Planning and Infrastructure (Department) recently released an outline of proposed changes to code-based approvals for residential, commercial and industrial projects. This article outlines the proposed changes.


On 21 October 2012, the Department issued a media release outlining its proposed changes to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (EP&A Regulation).  On exhibition until 9 November 2012, the proposed changes will increase the range of exempt and complying developments for which code-based approvals are available.

These changes appear to represent a first step in the Government’s planned shift to strategic planning, announced in the NSW Government Green Paper, A New Planning System for NSW.  A more detailed discussion of the Green Paper is contained here.


Code-based planning allows the assessment of development which satisfies certain criteria to be fast-tracked.  The Codes SEPP, which was created in 2008, classifies development as either exempt development (development which does not require planning approval) or complying development, which an accredited certifier may approve within ten days.  The proposed changes will expand the types of residential, commercial and industrial development classified as either exempt or complying development.


Provided a proposed development meets the requirements of applicable environmental planning instruments, the proposed changes will allow 10-day approvals for:

  • new industrial buildings up to 20,000m2 on land zoned for industrial development;
  • additions to existing shops where floor space is proposed to be increased by up to 50% of the existing floor area or 1000m2, whichever is less;
  • additions to existing commercial offices of up to 50% of the current floor area or 2500m2, whichever is less; and
  • more than 240 different combinations of building use changes.

For new buildings larger than 5000m2, approval will need to be sought from NSW Roads and Maritime Services’ to ensure compatibility with surrounding road networks.

In addition, a wider range of exempt development types is being proposed so that minor development, such as advertising, signage and outdoor dining may take place without the requirement for development approval.


Other proposed changes include:

  • new notification requirements so that neighbours must be notified before an application for a complying development certificate is approved;
  • various changes to residential development, such as allowing detached studios without rear lanes to be complying development and strengthening the privacy screen requirements for second-storey windows;
  • a new fire safety code which facilitates fire upgrades to buildings; and
  • strengthening the conditions of complying development certificates in relation to a range of matters, including developer contributions and security bonds.


The Department’s proposed changes to the Codes SEPP and EP&A Regulation seek to implement some of the measures foreshadowed in the NSW Government Green Paper in respect of code-based planning and reduce the red tape associated with planning approval for simple development applications.  Feedback is currently being sought on the proposed changes.  Submissions may be made by emailing the Department at, or in writing addressed to:

Submission on Codes SEPP amendments

GPO Box 39

Sydney  NSW  2001