Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Role of planning authorities

The planning and development control process under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) is important in the management of land contamination. It aims to ensure that land is not allowed to be put to a use that is inappropriate because of the presence of contamination and incorporates mechanisms to ensure that:

  • planning authorities consider contamination issues when they are making rezoning and development decisions
  • local councils provide information about land contamination on planning certificates that they issue under section 149 of the EP&A Act
  • land remediation is facilitated and controlled through State Environmental Planning Policy 55 - Remediation of Land (SEPP55).

State Environmental Planning Policy 55 - Remediation of Land (SEPP55)

Under SEPP55, planning authorities are required to consider, at the development approval and rezoning stage, the potential for contamination to adversely affect the suitability of a site for its proposed use. The policy states that land must not be developed if it is unsuitable for a proposed use because it is contaminated. If the land is unsuitable, remediation must take place before the land is developed. SEPP55:

  • makes remediation permissible across NSW
  • defines when consent is required
  • requires all remediation to comply with standards
  • ensures land which is going through the development consent process is investigated if contamination is suspected (for instance, based on site history)
  • requires councils to be notified of all remediation proposals.

Guidelines

Managing Land Contamination: Planning Guidelines: SEPP55 - Remediation of Land (Department of Urban Affairs and Planning and NSW EPA 1998) aims to establish 'best practice' for managing land contamination through the planning and development control process. The guidelines provide advice to planning authorities on the early identification of contaminated sites, consideration of contamination in rezoning and development applications, recording and use of information, and ways to prevent contamination and reduce the environmental impact of remediation activities.

A revised version of the guidelines is being finalised by the NSW Department of Planning and the EPA to reflect the changes in the underlying regulatory framework since 1998 and clarify advice.

Section 149 certificates

Section 5 of the above land contamination planning guidelines contain information on the use of section 149 certificates under the EP&A Act. In summary, s.149(2) planning certificates must record that:

  • the land is declared significantly contaminated by the EPA under the CLM Act
  • the land is subject to management order issued by the EPA under the CLM Act
  • a voluntary management proposal for a site has been approved
  • the land is subject to an ongoing maintenance order
  • the land is the subject of a site audit statement if a copy of such a statement has been provided.

Councils may also use s.149(5) certificates to record other information, particularly anything else of a factual nature about contamination which the local council deems appropriate.

Page last updated: 24 June 2013