Development control orders (DCOs) are powerful instruments that are used to regulate development and land use within local government areas. In New South Wales, the provisions relating to DCOs, including their issue and enforcement, are contained in the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979.

DCOs can be issued by the local planning authority responsible for the specific area where development is proposed or where the DCO is deemed necessary. Local councils are responsible for issuing DCOs for most types of developments within their government area. This includes residential, commercial, industrial, and infrastructure projects.

When might a DCO be issued?

The issue of a DCO serves as a mechanism to manage and rectify breaches in planning regulations. These orders can demand the cessation of prohibited activities, rectification of environmental damage, or modification of non-compliant structures.

When a proposed development does not comply with the existing planning controls, a DCO may impose additional conditions or requirements on the development.

DCOs can also be used to protect environmentally sensitive areas or heritage sites by imposing restrictions on certain types of development or activities that may negatively impact the environment or cultural significance.

The legislative framework for DCOs provides a transparent and accountable process for issuing and enforcing these orders, which helps to protect the rights of developers, local residents, and the broader community.

Due process must be followed when issuing a DCO. In most cases, the issuing authority must first give notice to the recipient of its intention to issue a DCO. The notice should clearly set out details of the proposed order including, as applicable, the relevant legislation or environmental planning instrument to which the proposed order relates. The issuing authority must also determine whether the issue of a DCO is appropriate in the circumstances of each case, which will include consideration of a range of factors.

Types of DCOs

The types of DCOs include, but are not limited to:

• Stop use orders – to stop using premises or a building for a prohibited purpose.
• Stop work orders – to temporarily cease activities that contravene planning permissions, for example, to stop building or subdivision work.
• Demolition orders – requiring unauthorised structures to be demolished.
• Restoration orders – to restore works or premises to their condition prior to unlawful building or other works.
• Public safety orders – to install structures or appliances for public safety.
• Fire safety orders – to ensure buildings comply with fire safety standards.

The specific requirements and conditions of a DCO should be outlined within the document itself.

The impact of receiving a DCO

Receiving a DCO can have significant financial and legal implications for property developers and owners. Failing to comply with a DCO can result in civil and, in some cases, criminal proceedings.

In addition to project delays, there are financial ramifications for property developers in rectifying any breach and the subject of the DCO may lead to restrictions on the development. Penalties for non-compliance can include fines and orders to stop work on the development until the non-compliance is rectified.

For property owners, a DCO can disrupt ongoing activities due to issues with the existing use, development or maintenance of their properties. Owners may need to take prompt action to comply with the enforced legal and regulatory standards. This might include ceasing certain activities, substantially modifying a development or dwelling, or even demolishing existing structures. Property owners may find themselves facing not only the direct costs of alterations or demolitions but also fines for non-compliance, legal fees, and potential decreases in the property’s market value.

Appealing a DCO

Receiving a notice of intention to issue a DCO flags the need for the recipient to attempt to resolve the matter before it proceeds to the more serious compliance stage. Legal advice is recommended.

The process for appealing a DCO is set out in the Act. Appeals must be lodged with the NSW Land and Environment Court within 28 days of receiving the DCO, and the application must outline the grounds for the appeal and be accompanied with relevant evidence to support the case.

Once lodged, the court will schedule a hearing to consider the appeal. At the hearing, the court will consider the evidence and arguments presented by both the recipient of the DCO and the local council and determine whether to uphold or vary the DCO. If the court upholds the DCO, the recipient will be required to comply with the requirements and conditions set out in the order. If the court varies the DCO, the recipient must comply with modified requirements and conditions.


Being proactive in understanding and complying with local planning regulations can help mitigate the risk of receiving a DCO. However, if a DCO or notice is issued, you should take immediate steps to understand the demands of the order or proposed order and deal with it promptly. Seeking assistance from a lawyer with expertise in property and planning law is strongly recommended.

This is general information only and you should obtain professional advice relevant to your circumstances. If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please call 0409 007 794 or email [email protected].