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What is Exempt Development?

Some minor building renovations or works do not need any planning or building approval. This is called exempt development. Exempt development is very low impact development that can be done for certain residential, commercial and industrial properties.

Provided the proposed works are low impact and meet all of the relevant development standards identified in the State Environmental Planning Policies (also referred to as SEPPs), a planning or building approval may not be needed. State Environmental Planning Policies or SEPPs are environmental planning instruments that deal with matters of State or Regional environmental planning significance.

exempt development

Exempt development was introduced to NSW in 1993 and allows certain low-impact forms of development to be undertaken without undergoing the rigorous approvals process. In recent years, the Department of Planning has attempted to promote awareness of exempt development; both exempt development and the similar streamlined-approval process of Complying Development are intended to reduce the demands of numerous development applications.

If the type of development is listed in the Exempt Development Codes, and does not include land that prohibits exempt development and the development is carried out in accordance with the Exempt Development Code, then that development may be carried out without obtaining development consent.

Exempt Development must always be carried out under certain conditions, the most significant of which is that the development must be of minimal environmental impact. More specifically, exempt development cannot be carried out on land that is:

  • a critical habitat under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 or Fisheries Management Act 1994,
  • a wilderness area under the Wilderness Act 1987, and
  • a State heritage item listed on the State Heritage Register (SHR) or an interim heritage item under the Heritage Act 1977.

The development works must also comply with relevant provisions of the Building Code of Australia. If no relevant provisions exist, the works must be structurally adequate.

exempt development

What types of development can be exempt development?

A range of minor developments can be done to residential, commercial and industrial properties, as exempt development. The exempt and complying development policy divides exempt development into three groups:

  1. General Exempt Development (for a broad range of building work),
  2. Advertising and Signage Exempt Development (for common types of business signs and other signage),
  3. Temporary Uses and Structures (for temporary uses such as filming, builder’s sheds and tents and marquees used for specific events).

Although, the types of exempt development are extensive, the list below is only a small selection that includes many common improvements and uses such as:

  • Access ramps
  • Air-conditioning units
  • Carports
  • Fences
  • Fowl and poultry houses
  • Hot Water systems
  • Letterboxes
  • Playground Equipment
  • Rainwater Tanks
  • Tennis Courts
  • Sculptures and artworks

exempt development

Some exclusions for Exempt Development

As well as the general restrictions for exempt development, some development types have specific exclusions. These additional exclusions protect against negative impacts on land that is especially sensitive or has a special character.

For example, to protect the character of local heritage items, carports cannot be built in or on a local heritage item. To protect foreshore areas and environmentally sensitive areas, driveways and hardstand spaces cannot be built as exempt development. These exclusions are identified in the development standards for each development type.

exempt development

If your proposed development does not meet the requirements of exempt development, call us today on 1300 457400 to speak with one of our staff to discuss your approval pathway.

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