There are four (4) main planning pathways in NSW, including:

  1. Exempt Development
  2. Development Permitted Without Consent
  3. Complying Development
  4. Development With Consent

Exempt development is the carrying out of development that does not require development consent, environmental impact assessment, authority approval or a certificate to be carried out.

The only type of development that can be carried out as exempt development is for work declared as such by an environmental planning instrument “because of its minor impact” (Section 1.6 of EP&A Act 1979).

For schools, exempt development is declared under both Section 3.39 and Schedule 5 of the Transport & Infrastructure SEPP and includes a wide range of work, such as (but not limited to):

  • Landscaping
  • Tree removal (of trees posing risk to human health or safety or damage to infrastructure)
  • Play equipment
  • Paths, ramps, fences, gates, stairs
  • Shade structures
  • Sporting fields
  • Amenities building, workshop or shed
  • Portable classroom (limited in use to 4 years)
  • Building alterations (internal and external)
  • Car parks
  • Fire fighting emergency equipment
  • Portable offices

A school can use exempt development in many circumstances, although some of the above works are limited by specific development standards (such as portable classrooms required to be single storey and set back 5m from a residential boundary).

Consideration must be given to some additional matters in order to ensure the works are of a “minor impact” and do not trigger additional requirements, including:

  • Building Code of Australia – all works must meet the Deemed to Satisfy provisions of the BCA
  • Heritage – If the site contains a heritage item or conservation area, all works must not result in an impact on an item or area that is “more than minimal impact”
  • Tree Removal – works cannot result in the removal of trees that require a consent/permit unless you have that consent/permit has been issued
  • Bushfire – works may still require assessment or approval under the Rural Fires Act 1997 if carried out on a site partially or wholly mapped as bushfire prone land
  • Waterbody – works may require a Controlled Activity Approval under the Water Management Act 2000 if carried out within 40m of the top of bank of a waterbody

In most cases, you will need specialist advice to address the relevant controls.

It is recommended that if a school is carrying out exempt development, it be appropriately documented prior to being carried out. This provides certainty to the school, but also a means to identify to any interested party how the work was carried out lawfully at that point in time.

SchoolPlan can help to clarify if the works you are proposing are capable of being carried out as exempt development – or ask an expert today!