Could COVID-19 actually help you fast-track your property development?

Town Planning
Could COVID-19 actually help you fast-track your property development?

When experts make the statement that now is a good time to be planning and preparing for the future, it's never been more prevalent than for those wishing to develop property. 

Recent key advocacy stances and pushes from the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), the Property Council of Australia and the Urban Development institute of Australia (among others) have resulted in a more streamlined Development Application (DA) process of late, which is providing many more advantages to moving ahead with new development. 

This has resulted in the State Government creating the following response and recovery initiatives to support Councils and communities: 


1. Planning System Acceleration Program.

The red tape is being cut and the planning system is being simplified to fast-track planning projects and allow for new construction jobs and construction work to continue where possible.  

 Never before has the planning industry been more pressured or forced to respond to the way in which we conduct our daily business. The Covid-19 pandemic and remote working life has led to both State and Local Government implementing quick responsive changes to move to online platforms to process applications.

On 1 July 2020, Councils throughout Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast and the Illawarra will be required to start accepting and processing DAs and other applications via the NSW Planning Portal. It will be mandatory for all greater metropolitan councils to process all applications via ePlanning by the end of 2020. The remaining councils must process all applications through the NSW Planning Portal by 1 July 2021.

In addition to ePlanning, changes have been made to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (EP&A Regulation) in moving the requirement for publication of planning notifications from print to online.  All planning panels are required to hold public hearings and meetings online under a new regulation introduced on 30 April 2020 to ensure no delays in the system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further to fast tracking the planning system in general, specific criteria has been created by the NSW state Government to identify and progress projects through the program. Three essential criteria will be used to identify priority projects for prioritisation through the

assessment process of the planning system, which are: jobs, timing and public benefit. In late April 2020, the Minister for Planning and Open Spaces Rob Stokes (in conjunction with the NSW Premier and NSW) announced the first tranche of accelerated projects through the Planning System Acceleration Program. The list of projects can be accessed here -


2. Ministerial Orders 

 During March and April 2020, the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces issued various orders under the new Emergency Measures Act to provide flexibility in the way that business is conducted and help ensure economic activity can continue. Some of these orders in brief are -

Flexibility in retail operating hours and for home business and home industries

Retail premises that can remain open, can trade and operate beyond their approved hours subject to meeting a standard ‘to take steps to reduce noise’. This would mean that these shops could open, take deliveries and remove waste 24 hours a day. This order also provides for home businesses and home industries.


Health Service Facilities

This Order permits government Health assets to be repurposed to support the pandemic response, and suspends any conditions that may restrict construction including hours of construction and noise controls.


Construction Work Days

Allows for certain construction, demolition and other building work to be carried out on weekends and public holidays where work was previously limited to weekday hours and doesn’t involve high noise generating works.  


Takeaway Food and Beverages

Enables the use of existing premises to prepare and sell food, beverages and other goods for persons to consume off the premises.


A full list of the Covid-19 Ministerial Orders 2020 can be found here -



3. Stimulus for Social Housing 

Minister for Water, Property and Housing, Melinda Pavey, in mid-April 2020 announced a $60.5 million stimulus program that aims to deliver important public housing upgrades and

new product supply. The package will deliver maintenance works and upgrades on public housing properties, including 50 per cent in regional NSW.

This announcement comes at a critical time to help generate vital employment and economic relief during the Covid-19 pandemic. See the Minister’s release here.




The planning system has a crucial role supporting and stimulating recovery and the PIA is urging planners to focus on the enduring public benefit of urgent planning decisions. With the introduction of these new initiatives, orders and policies, MMJ’S Town Planners are witnessing a new found urgency among local councils and range of efficiencies, from video conferencing and the use of electronic documentation processing requirements, seem to be benefiting our clients with faster turnarounds on DA approvals. 

"It makes sound economic sense to have development applications lodged and approved during this pandemic, so that development projects are able to hit the ground running during the recovery phase. The planning industry has been buoyed by the fact that there is still confidence for developers to proceed with proposals during this time and we see no evidence of that slowing down in the near future." says MMJ Director of Town Planning, Luke Rollinson 

Flexibility for ‘banking’ your DA has also never been greater. Amendments have been made to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to extend lapsing periods for development consents and deferred commencement in some circumstances. Extensions have also been made to continuing and existing use rights and appeal periods. On this basis, moving ahead with seeking DA approval for your project has never been more encouraging.


Regardless of what phase your development is at, speak to our Town Planning team to see how we can help you fast track your development approval.