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Complying Development

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (the Codes SEPP) has been amended to significantly expand the range of exempt and complying development across the State and increase the number of properties to which the Codes SEPP applies.

The Codes SEPP is an important policy initiative put in place by the NSW Government to remove red tape for lower risk and low impact development, and directly results in significant time and cost savings for home owners and small business.

Complying development on bush fire prone land

As of February 2011, lower risk bush fire prone land will no longer be excluded from the Codes SEPP. The Department of Planning (DoP) and the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) have worked together to introduce a new system which allows complying development on some bush fire prone land, but importantly maintains a rigorous assessment regime for managing bush fire risk.

Clause 1.19 of the Codes SEPP has been amended so that land identified as being 'bush fire prone' is no longer listed as a land exemption meaning these areas are no longer excluded from the application of one or more codes. Instead, specified development requirements and development standards have been added to the General Housing Code and the Rural Housing Code that apply to new development (including alterations and additions) undertaken on low risk bush fire prone land.

The development standards have been designed to ensure that:

  • complying development is not allowed on high risk bush fire prone land (i.e. BAL [Bushfire Attack Level] 40 or BAL Flame Zone)  
  • only a 'suitably qualified consultant' or the local council can endorse the BAL under the Planning for Bush Fire Protection Guidelines 2006. The NSW RFS is also able to endorse the nominated BAL until 25 February 2012.  
  • once the BAL is known, the Principle Certifying Authority i.e. Council or private accredited certifier must certify that the proposal complies with AS 3959-2009 Construction of buildings in bush fire prone land.

These changes mean that complying development under the Codes SEPP can be undertaken on lower risk bush fire prone land (up to and including BAL-29) where the appropriate construction requirements for bush fire prone land and all other relevant development standards have been met.


The home owner and/or the building designer should obtain all relevant information relating to the property before designing new works. This could save time and money later in the process by avoiding the need for expensive changes to the plans.

A s.149 certificate can be obtained from your local council which will provide relevant or necessary information advising whether the property has been mapped as bush fire prone land. If the bush fire prone land mapping for the relevant local government area has been recently amended, then an examination of the new mapping itself may be required, as there can sometimes be a time lag before the revised 'bush fire prone' status is captured within the s149 certificate.

If the property is on land that is bush fire prone, a 'BAL Risk Assessment Certificate' must be obtained from a 'suitably qualified consultant' (or the local council or NSW RFS). Please Note: The certificate is only required for land assessed up to and including BAL 29 under the Codes SEPP - Assessments over BAL 40 and BAL FZ should apply for lodge a development application. The BAL Risk Assessment Certificate confirms the BAL for the land on which the development is proposed. The endorsement of the BAL by a suitably qualified consultant (or the local council or NSW RFS) is required as part of satisfying the development standards for complying development on bush fire prone land.

Once the BAL is identified, the building designer can ensure work is designed to comply with AS 3959-2009 Construction of buildings in bush fire prone land, and all other relevant development standards contained in the Codes SEPP.

The process for undertaking complying development on bush fire prone land is outlined in the table below:

Application Process for Bush Fire Prone Land

Complying Development

For those who wish to obtain a BAL Risk Assessments Certificate from the NSW RFS you will need to download and complete the BAL Risk Assessment Application Kit. The completed kit and appropriate documentation and assessment fees must then be sent to the NSW RFS for review.

Provided the appropriate documentation has been provided, the NSW RFS will assess and issue a BAL Risk Assessment Certificate within 21 days of the receipt of all the correct information.

How to apply

For those wishing to gain approval to build using the complying development process, the NSW RFS has prepared a number of documents and information tools. The following tools will assist in the understanding and preparation of the appropriate information:

  • User Guide for Complying Development This document has been developed to assist applicants in understanding the bush fire requirements for 'Complying Development' under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) - the Codes SEPP. It provides a guide to the NSW RFS involvement in the process, interpretation, timeframes, submission requirements and applicant's responsibilities. This document is intended to be a comprehensive 'one-stop-shop' for Complying Development on bush fire prone land, and also incorporates all of the policy and guideline documents as listed separately below.  
  • Building Best Practice Guide This document is designed to provide the community with advice regarding what the NSW RFS recommends as best practice for developing in bush fire prone areas. All development on bush fire prone land should comply with the relevant recommendations and requirements identified.  
  • BAL Risk Assessment Application Kit
    This document has been developed to assist applicants in determining whether their proposed development can potentially be considered 'Complying Development' under the Codes SEPP. It provides a guide to the assessment process and submission requirements whilst also providing an application form for submission. A BAL risk assessment information sheet is also available.

Qualified Consultants

Determining the Bush Fire Attack Level (BAL) ensures that development is undertaken in such a way that risk to people and property is minimised. It is a requirement that a person who has suitable qualifications and experience undertakes the assessment. This could be either the local council or a person identified as being a 'suitably qualified consultant'. The NSW Rural Fire Service may also determine the appropriate BAL for the first 12 months of the operation of this policy (until 25 February 2012).

When considering Complying Development, applicants should undertake a preliminary assessment using the BAL Risk Assessment Application Kit before contacting a qualified consultant, local Council or NSW RFS for advice regarding the level of bush fire risk.

For more information about complying development in a bush fire prone area please contact a qualified consultant, your local Council or the NSW RFS Planning and Environmental Services Centre hotline number 1300 NSW RFS (1300 679 737).