Planning, Development & Heritage

The NSW planning system is currently under review and the law in this area could change significantly in the near future

View current opportunities to have your say about planning, development and heritage now

Planning and development is regulated under NSW laws and policies generally known as planning law. Planning law and environmental law are closely linked, as all planning and development has the potential to impact the environment. Sometimes, the environmental impacts of a development need to be assessed before the development can proceed.

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) is the primary law that regulates building and development in NSW, and the regulations, plans and policies made under it guide the way that development can be carried out. There are generally three types of opportunities for the public to have a say about building and development:

See our Fact Sheets on NSW Planning Law for more information on how planning and development is regulated.

Responding to government proposals

The national, State and local governments regularly invite input from the community on proposed changes to environmental laws. 

  • To comment on draft plans and policies regulating building and development, visit the NSW Department of Planning and Environment's website. The types of plans and policies made can include strategic planning for certain regions, draft legislation, plans for infrastructure precincts, and industry policies. The public can submit comments to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure. To read more about plans and policies, see our Fact Sheet on LEPs and SEPPs.

Responding to applications

Comments from the community are also invited on things like development applications and environment protection licences, which have the potential to impact on the environment and heritage.

  • To comment on development applications that are notified in your local area, visit your local council’s website – DAs are often notified in a local newspaper and on the council’s website. Note that public comment is not invited for all developments assessed by the local council, and some types of development do not require public notification or involvement. For more information on development assessment processes, see our Fact Sheet on DAs and consents.
  • To see if you can speak at a council meeting, contact your local council. If you have made a submission on a proposed development, you may have a chance to have your say at the council meeting where the development is being considered. For more information about speaking at a council meeting, see How can I have my say?.
  • To comment on applications for environment protection licences, visit the EPA website. Many types of development require environment protection licences. The EPA must consider these comments in deciding whether to grant a licence. This includes any public submissions made under the development assessment process.

Notifications about opportunities to comment on proposals are often required to be published. The NSW Government is required to publish notices for some proposals in a locally circulating newspaper, and sometimes a newspaper that circulates throughout NSW (often The Land). You can keep an eye on the papers to make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity to comment. 

Monitoring and enforcement

Both governments and proponents have responsibility for monitoring the impacts of building and development on the environment and heritage. You can also monitor the impacts of building and development on the environment, such as water and air quality.

Before reporting suspected breaches of environmental laws you will require evidence. It is also important to remember that the law contains certain exceptions and defences to offences. The most common defence is that a person has a permit or licence to take the action which would otherwise be an offence, such as auch as an environment protection licence (a licence to pollute) or an Aboriginal heritage impact permit (AHIP). If you are unsure whether an action is an offence or not, call the Environment Line on 131 555.

You should report any suspected breaches of the offences that are set out below to the Australian Environment Department for offences relating to national laws, or the Department of Planning and Environment and the Office of Environment and Heritage in NSW.

National and State enforcement authorities can issue stop work notices in many cases where unauthorised activities are occurring that harm the environment and heritage.

    • Carrying out building or development work without the required approval.
    • Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a nationally listed migratory species.
    • Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a place that is listed on the WorldCommonwealth, or National heritage lists.
    • Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on the world heritage values of a World Heritage property without approval.
  • To report a suspected breach of NSW environmental law, contact the Environment Line on 131 555. Examples of illegal activity include:

Under certain environmental laws, any person has the right to bring proceedings in a Court to remedy or restrain a breach. In NSW, this is mainly to the Land and Environment Court. For breaches of the EPBC Act, it is the Federal Court. See How can I have my say? for more information. You should contact the EDO NSW Environmental Law Line to request some initial legal advice if you would like to take this step. 

Shaping environmental laws

Many environmental laws merely set out the framework for protecting the environment and rely on community involvement for proper protection. You can proactively seek to improve environmental laws through these processes.

  • To nominate a place that you think is of national heritage value and should be placed on the Commonwealth Heritage List, contact the Australian Environment Department. The nomination must set out how the place meets the Commonwealth Heritage criteria. For more information, you can request a Nomination Kit from the Australian Heritage Council.
  • To nominate a place that you wish to be declared as an Aboriginal place by the NSW Minister for the Environment, contact the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. An Aboriginal place is a place which is or was of special significance for Aboriginal culture, and which is also recognised as 'significant' by the Minister for the Environment. For more information about Aboriginal cultural heritage, see our Fact Sheet on Aboriginal cultural heritage.
  • Apply to the Australian Government Environment Minister for protection for a specified area or object in Australia or Australian waters that is significant to Indigenous people. An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person or group, or someone on their behalf, can apply.
  • Join the NSW Boards and Committees register, which is a list of people interested in serving on NSW Government boards and committees, such as reserve trusts for the protection of certain areas of environmental and heritage significance.
  • Contact your local council to speak to them about joining a committee. Many councils have community advisory and consultative committees which may act as a liaison between the council and the community, or advise the council on matters such as the environment, heritage, and building and development.

General

The national, State and local governments provide continuing opportunities to be involved in the laws designed to protect the environment.