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The information in this fact sheet was last updated in April 2012.
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2.3b State Significant Development and State Significant Infrastructure
Applicant means the person or company who proposes a development, often called the developer or the proponent
Consent authority means the person responsible for deciding whether or not to approve an application for SSD. This can be the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure or the PAC
Director-General means the Director-General of the Department of Planning and Infrastructure
DGRs means the Director General's Environmental Assessment Requirements
Department means the Department of Planning and Infrastructure
Environment Minister means the NSW Minister for the Environment
EIS means Environmental Impact Statement
EPA means the NSW Environment Protection Authority
EPA Act means Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
EPA Regulation means Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000
LEC Act means the Land and Environment Court Act 1979
LEP means Local Environmental Plan
NPW Act means National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974
OEH means the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
PAC means Planning Assessment Commission
Planning Minister means the NSW Minister for Planning and Infrastructure
Proponent means the person or company who proposes a development, often called the developer or the applicant
SEPP means State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011
SIS means Species Impact Statement
SSD means State significant development
SSI means State significant infrastructure
The Part 3A system for assessing major projects was repealed in May 2011.1 It is replaced by two separate assessment pathways:
Projects that fall under either of these categories will be assessed by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure (the Department).
Projects that do not qualify as State significant under either of these categories remain with local councils for assessment.2
There are transitional provisions for dealing with Part 3A applications still in the system. The Planning Minister has delegated his approval functions to the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) so most remaining Part 3A applications that were not returned to local councils will be assessed by the PAC.
This fact sheet outlines the assessment and approval process for State significant development and State significant infrastructure.
2.3b.1.1 Useful web links
SSD and SSI projects are administered by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.
Click here to go to NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure's website, which includes a series of fact sheets.
2.3b.1.2 Useful legal texts
2.3b.1.3 Tracking SSD and SSI
The website of the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure allows the public to track the progress of SSD and SSI applications. The Department's development assessment tracking system allows you to:
Click here to go to the Department's tracking system.
2.3b.2 What is State significant development?
Generally, SSD includes large-scale or complex projects that may involve significant environmental impacts. A development can become SSD in one of two ways:3
The State and Regional Development SEPP sets out categories of development that will qualify as SSD.6 It also includes certain sites where any type of development is considered to be SSD due to the significance of the site. Such sites include Sydney Olympic Park, Redfern-Waterloo and Barangaroo.7
Where the Planning Minister believes that a particular development should be assessed as SSD, he or she can 'call in' the development by publishing an order in the NSW Government Gazette. However, the Minister must first obtain and make publicly available advice from the Planning Assessment Commission about the State or regional planning significance of the development.8
2.3b.2.1 Development categories under the State and Regional Development SEPP
Some of the categories of development that qualify as SSD include:9
Most categories contain a number of requirements and thresholds that must be met before the project can be classified as SSD. For example, some developments must satisfy a minimum capital investment value or employ a minimum number of people. If the project does not meet the threshold requirements, it will not be considered to be SSD.
2.3b.3 How is a SSD project processed?
2.3b.3.1 Applicant applies for the Director-General's Requirements
The assessment process is initiated when the applicant lodges an online request for the Director-General's Environmental Assessment Requirements (DGRs). The DGRs set out what the applicant needs to cover in their environmental impact assessment.
At this stage, a decision must be made as to whether the proposed development qualifies as SSD. If it does, the DGRs will be issued, if it does not, the DGRs will not be issued and the development will most likely be assessed by the local council.10
2.3b.3.2 Director-General sets environmental assessment requirements
DGRs are sometimes referred to as Environmental Assessment Requirements (EARs).
In preparing the DGRs, the Director-General must consult with relevant public authorities such as the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and the local council in the area where the project is to take place, to ensure that all key issues are identified and assessed.11
The Director-General has to issue the DGRs within 28 days. The DGRs will be placed on the Department of Planning and Infrastructure's website within 5 days of issue. Those agencies that are consulted by the Director-General have 14 days to provide their recommended requirements.12
In some circumstances the Director-General can waive the requirement for an application for DGRs. However, the DGRs cannot be waived if the SSD is on land that is part of a critical habitat, or if the SSD is likely to significantly affect threatened species, populations or ecological communities, or their habitats. The Director-General also cannot waive the requirement for DGRs if specific authorisations are required under other Acts, such as a mining lease under the Mining Act.13
Where the DGRs are waived, the applicant will still need to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) that meets the general EIS requirements set out below.
2.3b.3.3 Environmental Impact Statement is prepared
The applicant must then prepare an environmental impact statement that meets the requirements that have been set by the Director-General. In addition to addressing the DGRs, an EIS must include the following:14
The applicant will often consult with local council, Government Agencies and the community when preparing the EIS.
2.3b.3.4 Project application
Once the applicant has completed the EIS, it is sent to the Director-General together with a development application.15
The Department has posted a checklist which applicants seeking consent can refer to.
The Department may reject the development application within 14 days of receiving it if it is illegible, unclear, or incomplete.16 If after 90 days the consent authority has not determined the application, the development application is deemed to have been refused.17
2.3b.3.5 Public exhibition and submissions
If the Director-General is satisfied that the development application and the EIS are in the approved form and meet the Department's requirements, the Director-General must place the development application and EIS on public exhibition as soon as practicable after receiving it.18
Public notice of the application must be published in a local newspaper and on the website of the Department.19 A copy of the notice must also be given to people owning or occupying adjoining land detailing the proposed development and the submission period.20
The minimum exhibition period for SSD is 30 days.21
Click here to access the Department of Planning and Infrastructure's list of SSD proposals on exhibition.
During this exhibition period, any person can make a written submission to the Director-General about the project.22 It is important for objectors to make written submissions on time as this preserves objector appeal rights later on (see Appeals, below). It is important that any reasons for objections to the development are clearly stated.23 For more information on writing submissions, see Fact Sheet 10.1.
Once the exhibition period has closed, the Director-General must either pass the submissions or a summary of the submissions to the applicant.24 The submissions will also be made available on the Department's website within 10 days of the submission period closing.
The Director-General may decide to ask the applicant to respond to some or all of the issues raised in the submissions, however this is discretionary.25 If a response is required, the applicant will have 21 days (unless the Director-General sets a different time) to lodge a response. This response will also be placed on the Department's website.26
If the applicant proposes minor changes, the Department will take steps to finalise the assessment.27 If the changes are deemed to be significant, the amended development application and EIS will be placed on public exhibition again.28
The Department lists all new applications for SSD and SSI open for public comment on its website. Each week, EDO NSW publishes an email bulletin which includes a list of the new projects which have been listed for public comment during the past week.Click here to subscribe to EDO NSW Bulletin.
2.3b.3.5.1 Public access to documents
SSD applications and documents relating to them must be made available on the Department's website.29 You should be able to access:
The public has a right to copy and inspect these documents during the minimum 30 days that they are exhibited.30
Please refer to our Access to Information Fact Sheet for further information about obtaining documents from public authorities.
The Planning Minister has the power to decide all SSD projects.31
However, the Minister may delegate this power to either the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC), the Director-General of Planning or, theoretically, to any other public authority.32
The Minister has delegated the consent authority for all SSD project applications lodged by private developers to the PAC and Department of Planning and Infrastructure. The Minister will continue to determine all SSD applications lodged by public authorities.33
Under the terms of the current delegation, the PAC will determine larger and more controversial projects (that is, applications that have received more than 25 public submissions) and all SSD applications where a reportable political donation has been made.
Senior Department of Planning and Infrastructure staff will assess less controversial projects, (that is, projects that have attracted fewer than 25 public submissions objecting to the proposal where the local council has not objected).34
When assessing SSD projects, the decision-maker must take into account (where relevant) the following:35
The decision-maker will then decide whether or not to approve the project.
If the project is approved, the decision maker can attach such conditions as they think necessary to the consent.37 For example, approvals can be conditional upon the applicant acquiring and retiring biodiversity credits or subject to the applicant complying with a BioBanking statement.38 Conditions are often aimed at avoiding or minimising any adverse impacts of the development.
2.3b.3.7 Relevance of environmental planning instruments
The purpose of SSD provisions is to allow the State Government to determine whether or not consent should be granted to projects deemed to be of State or regional significance. This takes the decision out of the hands of local councils and local communities and is intended to allow for more strategic decision-making.
Planning at the local level is governed by local environmental plans (LEPs) and State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) which are both forms of environmental planning instruments (EPIs).
LEPs control what development can go where through a system of zones. The types of development that tend to qualify as SSD are often wholly or partially prohibited by the LEP. Some SEPPs also place restrictions on where certain types of development can be located.
For more information on EPIs, see EDO NSW 's Fact Sheet on LEPs and SEPPs.
SSD is still governed by EPIs to some extent. Where an EPI wholly prohibits the development on the relevant land, consent cannot be granted to that development.39 Where an EPI only partly prohibits the development, consent may be granted.40
However, a development application for SSD that is wholly or partly prohibited by an EPI can be accompanied by a proposed change to the EPI to permit the carrying out of the development.41 In other words, where the development would otherwise be prohibited, the developer can apply to have the EPI changed so that this prohibition no longer applies. The Director-General can also propose changes to a LEP for the purposes of permitting the development of an otherwise prohibited SSD.42
Where an LEP needs to be amended to facilitate SSD, only the Planning Assessment Commission can approve the amendment.43 Further, only the PAC can determine the development application for SSD that requires an amendment to a LEP.44
2.3b.3.8 Relevance of other environmental laws
Often, a project needs a number of approvals in addition to development consent. These approvals are often granted by other Government Departments such as the Office of Environment and Heritage or the Office of Water. For example, a proposal to build a power station might also require a licence to pollute and approval to access and take water. Many developments require a permit to clear native vegetation or to harm threatened species.
With SSD, many of these additional approvals are either unnecessary or subject to a requirement that the approval must be given consistently with the development consent, meaning there is no discretion to refuse the approval if it is necessary to carry out SSD.
The following authorisations are not required for SSD:45
The following authorisations are still required, but must be granted consistently with a development consent for SSD:58
SSD consents can be modified which means the applicant can seek to alter the project in some way after consent has been granted.
The applicant has to apply for a modification to the same consent authority that made the original decision.
Modifications can only be granted in certain circumstances, namely:
Whether or not the modification application will be publicly exhibited and opened up for public comment will depend on the modification.
Modifications involving the correction of minor errors or that will have only a minimal environmental impact do not need to be publicly notified and there will be no opportunity for the public to comment.68
Other modifications are required to be notified for at least 14 days in the same manner as the original application was notified.69
2.3b.4 What is State significant infrastructure?
State Significant Infrastructure (SSI) is another category of development. As with SSD, the types of development that qualify as SSI are listed in the SEPP (State and Regional Development) 2011.70 Development on specific sites can also become SSI.71
Some developments can be declared to be SSI because they are to be carried out by a public authority. Such developments would not normally need consent because the body carrying out the development (the proponent) is also the consent authority. However, if the proponent thinks the development requires an environmental impact statement, the development will be deemed to be SSI.72 These tend to be large-scale public infrastructure projects carried out by a State agency such as the Roads and Traffic Authority or Sydney Water.
There are different types of SSI. Critical SSI73 and Staged SSI are dealt with in more detail below (see 5.9 and 5.10).
2.3b.4.1 Categories of SSI
Some of the developments that can qualify as SSI include:74
Proposals that meet both SSD and SSI criteria will usually default to SSD assessment to ensure that the SSI process is restricted to public authorities undertaking infrastructure projects.75
2.3b.5 How are SSI projects assessed?
The assessment process for SSI is similar to but also different to the process for SSD.
A proponent must submit an application that describes the infrastructure project to the Director-General of Planning and Infrastructure.76
2.3b.5.2 Director-General sets the environmental assessment requirements
The Director-General will then prepare site-specific environmental assessment requirements (DGRs) which the proponent must address in an environmental impact statement (EIS).77 In preparing the DGRs, the Director-General must consult with relevant public authorities such as the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).78 Importantly, the Director-General can modify these requirements at a later date, simply by providing written notice of the modifications to the proponent.79
2.3b.5.3 Proponent prepares an environmental impact statement
The proponent then prepares and submits an EIS to the Director-General.80
The Director-General can ask the proponent to revise the EIS to address certain matters,81
2.3b.5.4 Public exhibition and submissions
Once the Director-General is satisfied with the EIS, it will be placed on public exhibition for a minimum of 30 days.82
During this exhibition period, any person or public authority may comment on the EIS.83
The Director-General must then submit either the submissions or a report on the issues raised by the submissions to the proponent and any other public authority that the Director-General considers appropriate, including the Office of Environment and Heritage if the SSI will require an environment protection licence (licence to pollute).84
The Director-General may require the proponent to respond to the issues raised by the submission and/or lodge a 'preferred infrastructure report' that outlines any proposed changes to the development to minimise its environmental impact or to deal with any other issue raised.85
If the Director-General believes that these proposed changes to the SSI are significant, he or she may make the preferred infrastructure report available to the public, but this is discretionary.86
2.3b.5.4.1 Public access to documents
Documents relating to SSI applications must be made publicly available on the Department's website or by an electronic link on the Department's website to the document on another website87 for a minimum of 30 days.88 You should have access to:89
Click here to access the Department of Planning and Infrastructure's list of SSI proposals on exhibition.
The Minister for Planning is the consent authority for all SSI projects.90
The Director-General is required to prepare an environmental assessment report which must be considered by the Minister during the decision-making process.91 The report must include:92
In addition to the Director-General's report, the Minister must also consider:93
The Planning Minister may then decide whether or not to approve the project. The Minister can approve the project with modifications, and can grant an approval subject to any conditions that the Minister thinks fit.94
For example, the Minister can make it a condition of consent that the proponent acquires BioBanking credits that are to be retired as part of the proposal, and to comply with the conditions of a BioBanking statement.95
See EDO NSW 's Fact Sheet on BioBanking for more information on BioBanking and biodiversity statements.
2.3b.5.6 Landholder's consent
SSI projects are often proposed over land that is privately owned. Where this is the case, landholder consent is required before the project can go ahead unless:96
If landholder consent is not required, the proponent must still notify the landholder of the proposal in writing no later than fourteen days after lodging the SSI application, or by an advertisement published in a newspaper circulating in the area in which the SSI is to be carried out at least fourteen days before the EIS relating to the SSI is placed on public exhibition.97
2.3b.5.7 Relevance of environmental planning instruments
Local environmental plans (LEPs) and State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) do not apply to SSI except in very limited circumstances. For example, where they apply to the declaration of infrastructure as SSI or as CSSI.98
2.3b.5.8 Relevance of other environmental laws
As with SSD, SSI projects do not require a range of additional authorisations that would ordinarily be needed before the project could proceed. For example, they do not require:99
In addition, where consent has been granted for a SSI development, a number of additional approvals mustbe granted if they are necessary for carrying out the approved SSI and are substantially consistent with the SSI approval, including:100
This means that once the Planning Minister approves a SSI project there is very little that other public authorities (such as the EPA) can do to prevent the project from being carried out.
SSI developments are not subject to the usual range of administrative orders which can be used by public authorities to enforce other environmental laws. For example, interim protection orders and stop work orders to protect threatened species, and environment protection notices to reduce pollution, cannot be issued against a critical infrastructure project.101
2.3b.5.9 Critical State Significant Infrastructure
Any SSI application can also be declared to be Critical State significant infrastructure (CSSI) if the Planning Minister believes the infrastructure is essential for the State for economic, environmental or social reasons.102 At the time of writing, there were two main categories of CSSI - projects forming part of the Pacific Highway upgrade, and rail infrastructure projects.103
2.3b.5.9.1 Land owner consent not required
Unlike most other forms of development, an application for a CSSI project can be lodged without the consent of landowners.104
2.3b.5.9.2 Exemption from other environmental laws
As with SSI, CSSI developments do not require a range of additional environmental approvals,105 while other approvals must be granted consistently with the CSSI approval.106 See 5.8 above.
2.3b.5.10 Staged Infrastructure
Staged Infrastructure refers to an application for SSI that sets out concept proposals for the proposed infrastructure107 and where separate proposals for different parts of the development will require separate approvals from the Minister.108
This means the Minister has the power to consider applications that only have detailed proposals for the first stage of the development.109
However, the granting of an approval for the first stage of development does not authorise the development of further stages unless subsequent, detailed applications have been submitted for the Minister's approval.110
There are different appeal rights for SSD, SSI and CSSI. Appeal rights also vary for proponents and third parties.
The following table summarises the appeal rights for SSD, SSI and CSSI. The text below should be consulted for more detail concerning these appeal rights.
All appeals are heard by the Land and Environment Court .
2.3b.6.1 Explanation of terms
The information below uses the following terms:
For more information on these terms, and the appeal process in the Land and Environment Court, see Fact Sheets 2.4 and 2.5.
2.3b.6.2 Proponent appeals
2.3b.6.2.1 SSD approvals
A proponent who is dissatisfied with the Minister's refusal to approve or modify an SSD application can appeal the merits of the decision in the Land and Environment Court (Class 1).113 Any appeal must be brought within 6 months of the proponent receiving notice of the decision, or a deemed refusal.114
However merits appeals are not available if the decision was made by the PAC after the PAC held a public hearing.115
A proponent can bring judicial review proceedings against a decision regarding SSD.116 Any proceedings must be commenced within 3 months after public notice of the decision was given.117
2.3b.6.2.2 SSI approvals
A proponent who is dissatisfied with a decision in relation to an SSI application cannot appeal on the merits at all. Judicial review has to be brought within 3 months of the proponent receiving notice of the decision, or a deemed refusal.118
2.3b.6.2.3 CSSI approvals
Proponents can't bring merits appeals to challenge decisions about critical SSI.
Judicial review is only available in relation to CSSI if they are brought within 3 months after public notice of the decision was given.119
2.3b.6.3 Third party appeals
2.3b.6.3.1 SSD approvals
EDO NSW acted for Ned Haughton - a student and environmental activist challenging the Minister for Planning's approvals of two new coal or gas fired power stations - Bayswater B Power Station and the Mount Piper Power Station Extension.
The power stations were approved under the now repealed Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979(EPA Act) .They were categorised as 'critical infrastructure projects'- a category very similar to the CSSI in that the approvals could not be challenged by third party objectors without the Planning Minister's approval.
Mr Haughton sought the Minister's approval to challenge the development consents but was unsuccessful. He was therefore forced to challenge the legality of the sections of the EPA Act which sought to restrict his right to bring a judicial review case before the Court.On this issue, Mr Haughton was successful. The Court found that the EPA Act could not remove the jurisdiction of the Court and that any person can bring proceedings to address alleged breaches of the Act.
Merits appeals are permitted for a third party in relation to SSD but only if that person is an objector (that is, lodged a submission objecting to the development during the exhibition period). An objector can appeal against a decision regarding SSD provided the appeal is brought within 28 days of the date on which notice of the determination was given to the objector.120 However, this right only applies to SSD projects that would have been 'designated development' had they not been declared to be SSD.121
Merits appeals are not available if the decision was made after the PAC held a public hearing.122
A third party can bring judicial review proceedings challenging the legal validity of a decision regarding SSD.123 Any proceedings must be commenced within 3 months after public notice of the decision was given.124
2.3b.6.3.2 SSI approvals
An objector who is dissatisfied with a decision in relation to an SSI application cannot appeal on the merits.
A third party can only bring judicial review proceedings against a SSI approval if the SSI is not for critical infrastructure. Any proceedings must be commenced within 3 months after public notice of the decision was given.125
2.3b.6.3.3 CSSI approvals
Third parties are not permitted to commence merit appeals concerning decisions relating to CSSI.126
Third parties can only bring judicial review proceedings in relation to CSSI if the proceedings are brought, or approved by, the Planning Minister.127 If proceedings are brought, they must be commenced within 3 months after public notice of the decision was given.128