The Development Framework

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The Development Framework

State and local planning legislation and policies set the rules that control what development can occur on your land. The planning system has a hierarchical structure with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 sitting at the top of the hierarchy, as shown below.

Development Framework.png


The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 sets up the framework for the planning system. It specifies how rules affecting development are made and how development is assessed against those rules.

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 details certain processes that must be followed by councils when assessing a Development Application.


Environmental planning instruments (known as EPIs) provide controls and requirements for specific land use types and localities.

There are two types of environmental planning instruments, being state environmental planning policies (known as SEPPs) and local environmental plans (known as LEPs). 

State environmental planning policies are prepared by the State Government. They provide for development permissibility and set controls for developments or matters that are of importance to the whole State. 

You can view SEPPs that are in force here.

Local environmental plans are prepared by councils. They zone land, provide for development permissibility and set local controls. Local environmental plans guide planning decisions for local government areas. They do this through zoning and development standards and requirements, which provides a framework for the way land can be used.

To find out more about local environmental plans and to view Council's local environmental plan please visit Council's Local Environmental Plan page.  

Development control plans (known as DCPs) support the controls outlined in the Local Environment Plan (LEP).  To find out more about Council's development control plan please visit the Coffs Harbour Development Control Plan 2015 page

Development proposals, unless they can be undertaken without consent or as exempt development, require approval from Council before they can proceed. This approval is known as development consent. To obtain development consent you must lodge a Development Application with Council. In some cases, you can also obtain this consent by applying for a Complying Development Certificate with Council. 

  • Development without consent
    Not all development requires consent before work can start. This includes some low-impact or routine activities such as home businesses in a residential zone, environmental protection works in an environmental conservation zone, or markets in a public recreation zone. The Local Environmental Plan and/or State Environmental Planning Policies that apply to the area or activity will list all developments that are 'permitted without consent'.

    However, some of these developments (or activities) may still need a licence, permit or other approval from a public authority and may need to undergo an environmental assessment before approval can be given.


    The NSW Planning Portal provides useful information on Development without consent.

  • Exempt Development

    Some small scale and low impact developments (e.g. residential decks, fences, BBQs, pergolas, privacy screens) can be constructed without any planning approval.

    The NSW Planning Portal provides useful information on Exempt Development.

    If your proposal does not meet all of the Exempt Development provisions, you are required to obtain approval before you can start any work.

  • Complying Development

    Complying Development is a combined planning and construction approval for straightforward development that can be determined through a fast-track assessment by an accredited certifier. 

    Complying Development applies to homes, businesses and industry and allows for a range of things like the construction of a new dwelling house, alterations and additions to a house, new industrial buildings, demolition of a building, and changes to a business use.

    A proposal must meet all of the relevant development standards nominated (e.g. height limits, floor space ratio, distances to boundaries) and comply with the Building Code of Australia.

    If your proposal does not meet of the Complying Development provisions, you are required to obtain approval by submitting a Development Application.

    The NSW Planning Portal provides useful information on Complying Development.

When a Development Application is required

For development that cannot be undertaken without consent or as exempt or complying development a Development Application must be submitted to Council. Developments subject to a Development Application can be categorised as follows:

Local and Regional Development can also be:

  • Integrated Development

    Certain development applications require approval (such as a permit or license) from a NSW Government agency (also called an approval body) before a determination can be made by Council. These are called integrated development. If applications are nominated as Integrated Development, Council will refer the development application to the necessary approval body so that there is an integrated assessment of the proposal.

    The NSW Planning Portal provides useful information on Integrated Development


For more information about preparing a development application please visit the Preparing your Development Application page.