Steele Law: Expert planning lawyers


Planning law focusses on the regulation of ‘Development’ which in this context refers to the use of land for a particular purpose.  For example, the construction of a new building or the use of an existing building on land can constitute development. In NSW, most development requires approval under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EPA Act). This approval is referred to as a ‘development consent’.

Depending on the nature and scale of particular development, development consent may be granted by the relevant local council, an independent specialist planning approval body, or by the Minister for Planning.

Some development, which complies with certain pre-determined criteria (known as ‘development standards’), can proceed without consent at all (in the case of ‘exempt development’) or under a streamlined approval process in accordance a ‘Complying Development Certificate’ granted by a local council or a private certifier (in the case of ‘Complying Development’).

The types of development which can be carried out on particular land varies in accordance with the applicable ‘land use zoning’. Land use zoning is regulated under ‘Local Environmental Plans’ prepared by the relevant local council. For some development, the land use zoning imposed under a Local Environmental Plan can be overridden by the provisions of a 'State Environmental Planning Policy'.

The process of obtaining a Development Consent (or Complying Development Certificate) typically commences with the lodging of a Development Application (DA). Depending on the nature of the proposed development, a DA may need to be accompanied by an assessment of the likely environmental impacts of the development.

Planning analysis

The process of determining the appropriate planning approval pathway for development requires careful analysis and synthesis of the applicable State and Local Planning Controls and any critical Site Constraints. The key steps in the analysis are summarised in the following chart.

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How we can help

At Steele Law, we can help you navigate the complicated planning approval system in NSW.  Based in Sydney, we’ve assisted clients across the country, providing them valuable assistance on a wide range of planning law matters. We can help you obtain consent for your development by:

  • determining the best planning approval pathway;
  • reviewing your DA and environmental assessment (if required) to ensure that it is legally robust;
  • drafting and negotiating a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA);
  • drafting a Planning Proposal;
  • preparing a 'SEPP 1 / Clause 4.6 Variation' application;
  • where appropriate, retaining technical experts under legal professional privilege to advise upon the merits of the development;
  • assisting you with compliance issues including responding to statutory investigations;
  • representing you at any public hearing held by an independent specialist planning approval body; and
  • advising and representing you in any legal appeal (either brought by you or an objector to the proposed development).

We can also help you to object to applications for development consent by:

  • reviewing the DA and environmental assessment (if applicable) to identify any legal errors and possible merits issues;
  • drafting or reviewing written objections to the proposed development;
  • presenting objections at any public hearing held by an independent specialist planning approval body; and
  • advising and representing you in any legal appeal brought by you in respect of the application.

Our experience

Examples of projects upon which we have worked which demonstrate our planning law experience can be found here.

Contact us for more information.