Updated State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 65 design guidelines for apartments in NSW confirm that architects will remain the only profession allowed to design all applicable buildings, those three storeys and higher.

Alternative professions that undertake building design will remain excluded, despite lobbying from groups who argue that licensing to take on the work should be based on competency.

Earlier this years there were concerns voiced that the changes would pave the way for a greater number of developments with smaller apartments.

Much of the contentious detail was clarified last month, and now the likes of NSW developer lobby group Urban Taskforce have applauded revisions which they hope ensure a ‘balance is struck between design quality and affordability’.

The NSW Government says they changes are part of their goal to make planning rules simpler and provide clarity for the public and industry.

You can find the new Design Guide here.

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes, releasing the guidelines on Friday, June 19, commented:

“Last month we gave clarity to industry on minimum apartment sizes, today’s announcement builds on this by releasing updated standards for liveable apartments.”

“These guidelines are based on advice and consultation from experts and people living in apartments to make sure new apartment developments provide enough light, ventilation, open space and a sensible approach to parking.”

Following public feedback and consultation with councils, the final policy reflects that not requiring car spaces within 400 metres of a train station is not viable in some situations.

“The guide is now consistent with the Roads and Maritime Services standards which allocate car parking based on proximity to public transport and the number of bedrooms in a home,” Stokes said.

“Councils will have the flexibility to reduce parking requirements where alternatives exist, such as car sharing on-site. It is important that policies recognise car use habits are different in the inner city as compared to greater Western Sydney.”

The government said the amended policy and new guideline under SEPP 65 introduces greater flexibility into the design process to encourage more innovation, and provide clarity and consistency in the way design issues are dealt with for apartments.

Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson said they were also pleased "to see that the new document is clearly defined as a “Guide” and that the document clarifies that decision making bodies such as councils must understand this. Some standards have been included in the legal instrument, State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 65 that are binding minimums and these are appropriate to give certainty to the industry and communities. These minimums include apartment sizes, ceiling height and car parking.”

“The change to solar access requirements from 3 hours to 2 hours in urban areas recognises the reality of denser environments and the need to resolve orientation to views and to the sun. Solar access is required to living rooms and to balconies which can cause difficulties in some locations leading to balconies being located off bedrooms.”

However, he was concerned the Guide’s provisions for setbacks may restrict mixed use development in Sydney.

This was around how separation between a commercial building and an apartment building is measured as many commercial buildings are being recycled as apartment buildings in urban areas. 


Image via Planning NSW: The Gantry by Bates Smart, photo by Brett Boardman