Heritage and Development

Heritage and development

Development, as defined in section 1.5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 includes (but is not limited to) the use of land, the subdivision of land, the erection of a building, the carrying out of a work and demolition, and in this context is used to describe any change to a place.

Heritage sites (including heritage items, properties within heritage conservation area and archaeological sites) demonstrate evidence of the past and are protected so that they are maintained for the enjoyment, education and understanding of future generations. Heritage listing does not mean that a property cannot change or adapt to meet the needs of the current and future occupants and users. However, any changes must be carefully considered and be designed and undertaken in a manner that does not adversely affect the heritage significance of the place. Similarly, development in heritage conservation areas needs to reflect the existing or desired character, which includes retention of period buildings.

To ensure that heritage significance is retained (or enhanced), there are certain parameters and requirements placed on development affecting heritage properties. When contemplating changes to a heritage place, you should consult the following legislation, plans and documentation to help inform your proposal:

  • The applicable Development Control Plan applying to the area provides further and detailed guidance about different type of land use and development and provides controls for development on heritage items, in the vicinity of heritage items, and within heritage conservation areas. These should be read carefully before development is designed to understand Council’s expectations and requirements.
  • Although it is non-statutory, the ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (Burra Charter) provides the best practice heritage approach for all aspects of heritage and conservation and is a useful reference guide to consult when undertaking any development on heritage sites.

In addition, there are State Environmental Planning Policies that provide for exempt and complying development pathways for certain types of minor development (see below).

The following sections provide further guidance for approval pathways and certain types of development specifically applying to heritage places.

Exempt and complying development

State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (the Codes SEPP) provides for exempt development for which no approval is required and complying development which provides a simplified approval process.

Exempt development

General information about exempt development is available from the Exempt Development section of this website. The following additional information on exempt development is specific to heritage properties.

There are numerous types of exempt development that can be undertaken on some heritage sites within certain parameters, including:

  • Air-conditioning units
  • Barbecues and other outdoor cooking structures
  • Cabanas, cubby houses and garden sheds etc.
  • Change of use of premises
  • Fences
  • Flagpoles
  • Home businesses, home industries and home occupations
  • Privacy screens
  • Signage

Clause 1.16 of the Codes SEPP contains the general requirements for exempt development and Part 2 contains the range of exempt development and the parameters and development standards applying to each exempt development type.

The following activities ARE NOT exempt development on heritage sites (see Maintenance and Minor Works for more information):

  • Exterior painting (including new colour schemes and painting of previously unpainted surfaces, such as brickwork)
  • Roof replacement.

Please note that exempt development for the installation of solar panels is contained within clause 2.41(4) of State Environmental Planning Policy (Transport and Infrastructure) 2021. In accordance with this clause, installation of solar panels on heritage items and within heritage conservation areas can be undertaken without approval subject to certain conditions being met (including not being visible from any road at the point where the road adjoins the property boundary concerned).

Complying development

General information about complying development is available from the Complying Development section of this website. The following additional information on complying development is specific to heritage properties.
Complying development is not available as an approval pathway for locally listed heritage items or archaeological sites as per clause 1.17A(1)(d) of the Codes SEPP. However, for properties on the State Heritage Register, in certain circumstances, and where there is an existing exemption for minor works under the NSW Heritage Act 1977 in place, some minor forms of complying development may be available. See clause 1.17A(2) of the Codes SEPP (link above) and the Standard Exemptions section of the Heritage NSW website for more information.

Building of new dwellings in heritage conservation areas is not permissible under complying development. However, there are certain forms of minor development (including internal alterations) that are possible within heritage conservation areas under certain complying development codes. See Parts 3 to 8 inclusive of the Codes SEPP for more information.

Maintenance and minor works

Maintenance and certain types of minor works can obtain an exemption from development consent but do require written permission from Council, in accordance with clause 5.10(3) of the WLEP 2010. Under this clause, development consent is not required for works that Council is satisfied are of a minor nature or for maintenance and that do not adversely affect the heritage significance of the heritage item, area or site.

Development of a minor nature or for maintenance is:

  1. Development that would be exempt development or development permitted without consent under State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) or State Environmental Planning Policy (Transport and Infrastructure) 2021 (ISEPP) except for the heritage affectation of the subject land, or
  2. Development that exceeds the exempt development standards specified in the Codes SEPP or ISEPP by a small degree and that is assessed by Council officers as not adversely affecting the heritage significance of the heritage place, or
  3. Other development not specified in the Codes SEPP that is considered by Council officers to be minor with no adverse heritage impact, or
  4. Maintenance that complies with the definition within the WLEP 2010 Dictionary:

maintenance, in relation to a heritage item, Aboriginal object or Aboriginal place of heritage significance, or a building, work, archaeological site, tree or place within a heritage conservation area, means ongoing protective care, but does not include the removal or disturbance of existing fabric, alterations (such as carrying out extensions or additions) or the introduction of new materials or technology.

Types of works or activities for which a heritage exemption may be granted include:

  • Exterior re-painting (including new colour schemes)
  • Like-for-like roof replacement
  • Minor landscaping and paving
  • Front fences
  • Some internal alterations that don’t involve changes to room configurations.

Routine maintenance which does not involve a change to the building or site (such as lawn mowing, cleaning, inspection of gutters) does not require development consent or reference to Council. Where a heritage item specifically includes the garden, the ordinary day to day maintenance and replanting of garden beds does not require approval. The removal of significant mature trees, however, or changing the form of a garden designed in a certain style, would require consent.

To request a heritage exemption, send an email to heritage@wsc.nsw.gov.au with the following information:

  • Name and contact details of applicant.
  • Detailed description of proposed works.
  • Any plans of the proposed works (if available).
  • Brief statement justifying why you consider the works to be minor and why the proposal will not have an adverse impact on the heritage significance of the heritage place.
  • Site plan showing site boundaries, streets, street names, existing buildings on the site, existing vegetation (if in the vicinity of the proposed works). The location of the proposed works (if in a specific area) should also be indicated. The plan should be to scale or if it’s hand-drawn it should include approximate dimensions.
  • Colour photographs (preferably in electronic format and not embedded into a PDF or other document) showing the heritage item from the outside (e.g. from the street, if visible) and photos of the area subject to the minor works request. If it is a roof, it should include photographs of existing gutters and downpipes.
    If applying for a new colour scheme, details of proposed colour scheme, including colour name(s) and brand.

Exemptions are also available for items on the State Heritage Register through Heritage NSW. See the Standard Exemptions section of the Heritage NSW website for more information.

You must await a written response from Council before any works are undertaken.


All demolition for any building on a heritage site requires Council consent.

Demolition of heritage items and period buildings in heritage conservation areas is strongly discouraged. However, sometimes there are structures on heritage sites that are not themselves of heritage significance that may be able to be demolished subject to assessment and Council consent.

In some instances the retention of heritage items may be potentially harmful to the community, or would entail such an unreasonable cost that restoration or maintenance of the property or building is insupportable. Under these circumstances Council may consider approving demolition and would impose a condition of consent requiring a photographic and written archival recording of the building prior to demolition. This ensures that a record of the building’s existence is made and retained.

Extensions and alterations

Except for certain types of exempt and complying development (under the Codes SEPP), alterations and additions to heritage items and within heritage conservation areas require consent.

One of the main considerations in assessing an application for an extension or alteration is to ensure that the significance of the building or property is not diminished by the proposed works. This can depend on a number of factors including:

  • Size and scale of the proposed extension
  • Location of the extension on the site
  • Architectural merit
  • Materials and finishes
  • Visual impact upon the streetscape.

Extensions do not have to replicate the style and proportions of the heritage building but new work should be compatible with the building and not detract from nor diminish its significance.

Further assistance

If you still have questions after reading the above information, please make an appointment to speak with Council’s Duty Planner. Alternatively, you might consider engaging the services of a heritage consultant, heritage architect or a town planning consultant to assist you with your development.