State Environmental Planning Policy for Educational Establishments and Child Care Facilities

The NSW Government has made changes to the planning system for the development of high-quality educational and child care facilities. The changes have been introduced through a new education-based State Environmental Planning Policy that commenced on 1 September 2017.

A planning policy for early childhood education and care facilities

The new planning policy will make it easier for new and existing child-care providers, schools, TAFEs and universities to build new facilities and improve existing ones by streamlining approval processes to save time and money and deliver greater consistency across NSW.

The updated policy includes the following changes to the planning system:

  • aligning the National Quality Framework (NQF) for Early Childhood Education and Care Facilities with the NSW planning system;
  • simplifying and streamlining the planning approval process by allowing certain early childhood education and care facilities to be assessed as exempt or complying developments;
  • referring development applications that do not meet  NQF indoor and outdoor space requirements to the NSW Department of Education early in the assessment process, allowing applicants to make any necessary modifications early in the design process;
  • allowing early childhood education and care facilities to be temporarily relocated (through an exempt development process) in the event of an emergency;
  • amending all Local Environmental Plans to permit centre-based child care in all R2 Low Density Residential, allowing facilities in more locations closer to homes; and
  • introducing a common assessment framework made up of the Child Care Planning Guideline and non-discretionary development standards. The Guideline contains key national requirements and planning and design guidance for child care facilities and will generally prevail over local development control plans.

These changes will not affect the existing requirement for early childhood education and care providers to apply to the NSW Department of Education for approval to operate a service.

The Child Care Planning Guideline

The Department of Planning and Environment has also introduced a Child Care Planning Guideline that establishes the assessment framework to deliver consistent planning outcomes and ensure design quality standards are met for centre-based childcare facilities in NSW.

The Guideline contains key requirements from the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations and other building requirements so that new facilities are appropriately designed and built.

Changes to the development application process for new childcare centres

The new Child Care Planning Guideline will provide important information about the physical space requirements for childcare centres at the planning stage of a new development, in accordance with the NQF. This will assist developers in building centres that comply with the NQF. It will also reduce the likelihood of facilities being constructed and requiring modification after completion to meet the NQF requirements and obtain service approval.

In summary, the new planning policy includes the introduction of:

  • A Child Care Planning Guideline
  • The requirement that the consent authority must take into consideration any applicable provisions of the Child Care Planning Guideline before making further decisions on a development application for a centre-based child care facility (s23 SEPP),
  • The requirement to refer child care development applications that don’t meet the indoor and outdoor space requirements of the Education and Care Services National Regulations to the NSW Department of Education for concurrence
  • A National Quality Framework Assessment Checklist (found in the Guideline) that must be considered by a consent authority when determining a development application.

More information

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment's education page contains more information.

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