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Planning changes (NSW) for businesses in bushfire affected areas

March 18, 2020

The NSW Government will allow small businesses in bush fire affected communities to operate temporarily out of a shipping container and/or portable office while they plan and rebuild permanent premises.

Temporary premises for bush fire affected businesses

Small businesses in bush fire affected communities will be able to operate temporarily from a shipping container and/or a portable office for up to two years, without the need for council approval.

The temporary use is enabled under amendments to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP). The amendment to the Codes SEPP has been made to Part 2, Division 1- General Exempt Development Code of the Codes SEPP by inserting Subdivision 36B Shipping containers and portable offices (temporary installation and use for existing commercial and industrial purposes).

The provision will allow existing approved businesses in business and industrial zones to continue to operate and the maximum number of shipping containers/portable offices for business and/or storage purposes is two. Other development under exempt provisions can also be carried out, such as air conditioning, access ramps and car ports.

The temporary development must be carried out within two years of a State of Emergency being declared and be removed no more than two years after it was installed.

In NSW, three separate State of Emergency declarations were made in association with the 2019/2020 bushfires – these dates were 11-18 November 2019; 19-26 December 2019; and 3-10 January 2020.

Specifications and Development Standards

The installation and temporary use of a shipping container or portable office on land in a business or industrial zone is development specified for the Code if a building on a lot has been significantly damaged by bush fire, and is within a State of Emergency declared area, related to bush fires.

The development must:

  • have appropriate foundations and structural support to ensure that it is safe and stable
  • if it is a shipping container:
    - have a maximum length of 12.5m, and
    - have a maximum height of 3m, and
    - have a maximum width of 2.5m
  • if it is a portable site office:
    - have a maximum area of 36m2, and
    - have a maximum height of 3m
  • be at least 1.2m clear of any 150mm diameter sewer main or 2m clear of any 225mm (or greater) diameter sewer main
  • be located at a distance from each lot boundary of at least:
    - 5m, if the adjoining lot is used for a residential purpose, or
    - 1m, if the adjoining lot is not used for a residential purpose
  • not result in more than:
    - 2 shipping containers installed on the lot, or
    - 2 portable offices installed on the lot, or
    - 1 shipping container and 1 portable office installed on the lot
  • not affect the means of egress from a building in an emergency
  • be installed so that roof water is disposed of without causing a nuisance to adjoining owners
  • not be installed over any easement
  • not be installed over drainage pipes or any house drainage pipeline unless access to the inspection openings is maintained at all times
  • any plumbing fixtures to be connected to an approved waste water treatment device or an approved connection to the sewer.

Other relevant legislation will continue to apply. For example, for food and drink businesses, the requirements of the Food Act 2003 and associated regulations will continue to apply.

The installation and temporary use of shipping containers for storage purposes only following a bush fire is permitted under Part 2, Division 1, Subdivision 36A of the Codes SEPP.

Please contact HIA’s Planning Team on 1300 650 620 or nsw_planning@hia.com.au with any questions.