What can change your need for planning approval

A few factors can change whether you need planning approval for your proposed development.

This includes if:

  • the land is not covered by a zoned (unzoned land)
  • the use or development is:
    • exempt from the NT Planning Scheme
    • ancillary to another use or development on the land
    • involves a listed heritage place
  • you have existing use rights
  • an interim development control order is in place that overrides:
    • the usual requirements or
    • assessment category.

Land not covered by a zone is known as unzoned land.

Planning controls only apply to unzoned land if any of the following apply:

Even if your land is unzoned, you may still need a building permit if your land is within a building control area.

Some uses and developments are exempt from the planning scheme rules under certain circumstances.

They don't need planning approval.

These relate to:

  • a specific response to COVID-19
  • minor development types such as small shade sails
  • temporary use of land such as for:
    • community events
    • emergency accommodation after a natural disaster
  • the construction and maintenance of vital infrastructure such as:
    • main roads
    • the provision of electricity, water, sewerage, gas or telecommunications
  • some types of subdivision such as in remote towns.

Exempt uses are listed as exceptions in schedule 3 of the NT Planning Scheme PDF (303.8 KB).

If a use, building or works was lawful under previous planning rules, you don't need planning approval to continue as long as:

  • the nature or scale stays the same
  • the use does not stop for more than 12 months.

A use that was permitted but would now be prohibited may have existing use rights.

A use that was permitted but would now need approval is considered to have a “deemed permit”.

Application types and services that relate to existing use rights and deemed permits include:

Ancillary uses are those that support the main use of the land and don't operate separately.

For example:

  • an office and canteen are ancillary to a school
  • a convenience shop is ancillary to a service station.

They are usually smaller in scale and suitable to a zone if the main use is suitable.

An ancillary use is permitted even if it would normally be merit assessable, impact assessable or prohibited if:

  • it is listed as ancillary within the definition of the primary use
  • it meets relevant development requirements and
  • the land and use are not subject to an overlay.

If the ancillary use doesn't meet any of the above criteria and would normally be:

  • prohibited in a zone - it becomes impact assessable
  • merit or impact assessable in a zone - it remains merit or impact assessable.

Read more about assessment categories.

Use or development of a heritage place is impact assessable and must also meet the requirements of the minister for heritage.

Read more about impact assessable uses, read assessment categories.

Last updated: 17 November 2022

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