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What is a Local Environmental Plan (LEP)?

Local Environmental Plans are a type of delegated legislation that exists in New South Wales under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. Local Environmental Plans (along with State Environmental Planning Policies) are a type of "environmental planning instrument" under the Act.

Section 3.14 of the Act provides that environmental planning instruments may make provision with respect to the following:

(a) protecting, improving or utilising, to the best advantage, the environment,

(b) controlling (whether by the imposing of development standards or otherwise) development,

(c) reserving land for use for the purposes of open space, a public place or public reserve within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1993, a national park or other land reserved or dedicated under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, a public cemetery, a public hospital, a public railway, a public school or any other purpose that is prescribed as a public purpose for the purposes of this section,

(d) providing, maintaining and retaining, and regulating any matter relating to, affordable housing,

(e) protecting or preserving trees or vegetation,

(e1) protecting and conserving native animals and plants, including threatened species and ecological communities, and their habitats,

(f) controlling any act, matter or thing for or with respect to which provision may be made under paragraph (a) or (e),

(g) controlling advertising,

(h) such other matters as are authorised or required to be included in the environmental planning instrument by this or any other Act.

There was a time when a number of different Local Environmental Plans may have applied to a local government area, although it has been NSW Government policy since around 2006, for each local government area to have only one LEP. Similarly, there has been government policy to standardise the content of LEPs throughout the state.

Local Environmental Plans contain planning controls that are legally required to be considered as part of the assessment of a Development Application. These controls may include:

- Zoning (outlining types of development that may be allowed or prohibited within a particular zone)

- Controls relating to the maximum height of buildings

- Controls relating to the maximum amount of floor area that can be constructed on a site

- Controls that may designate a property as a heritage item or part of a heritage conservation area

- Minimum lot sizes for the subdivision of lots

- Other controls eg. relating to flooding, earthworks and specific development types

It is possible to lodge a planning proposal to amend an LEP eg. rezoning or change other requirements.

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