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The SSD process

Request SEARS

Identifying what must go in the environmental impact statement

Secretary’s environmental assessment requirements (SEARs)

SEARs identify what information needs to be included in the environmental impact statement (EIS). A request for SEARs must be made for all State significant development (SSD) projects before a development application can be submitted. 

SEARs are categorised as industry-specific or project-specific.

Industry-specific SEARs

Industry-specific Secretary’s environmental assessment requirements (SEARs) have been introduced to improve clarity, consistency, and certainty of what is required to prepare an EIS for the most common types of SSD. They can be issued for eligible projects and do not require a scoping report. 

The SEARs require applicants to engage with key government agencies as early as possible when preparing the EIS. This gives agencies the opportunity to provide guidance and assist with resolving issues early in the process, resulting in a faster and more streamlined assessment process. Further information on agency engagement is available on the Prepare EIS page. Contact details for agencies can be found in the agency directory

Industry-specific SEARs apply to certain projects that:

  • are wholly permissible
  • do not meet thresholds for designated development
  • are not a concept development application.

Industry-specific SEARs have been prepared for the following types of development:

  • development within key sites and identified precincts
  • commercial premises or residential accommodation within a rail corridor or associated with railway infrastructure
  • residential development by or on behalf of the Land and Housing Corporation
  • warehouses and distribution centres
  • hospitals, medical centres, and health research facilities
  • seniors housing
  • schools
  • tertiary institutions, including universities and TAFEs
  • theatres, cinemas, and music and concert halls
  • convention and exhibition centres
  • information and education facilities, such as museums, art galleries and libraries
  • hotels
  • build-to-rent housing
  • data storage centres
  • correctional centres and complexes
  • cemeteries, and
  • large-scale solar energy

If a project meets the criteria for industry-specific SEARs, but no corresponding set of industry-specific SEARs exists, a scoping report is required. Project-specific SEARs will then be prepared in consultation with other agencies.

View the industry specific SEARs


Project-specific SEARs

Project-specific SEARs apply to projects that are not eligible for industry-specific SEARs.

The SEARs are prepared on a project-by-project basis in consultation with relevant government agencies.

How to submit an application for SEARs

Prior to application

Before applying for SEARs applicants should consult with the department to:

  • confirm the assessment pathway
  • determine if the project is eligible for industry-specific SEARs
  • clarify what approvals are required
  • understand what information needs to be included in the application.
Applying for industry-specific SEARs

An application for industry-specific SEARs must be made on the NSW planning portal. Applicants are required to provide information on the project and upload a site context map. A scoping report is not required.

The department will review the application and determine if the project is eligible for industry-specific SEARs.

If the project meets the criteria and relevant industry-specific SEARs exist, the department will issue industry-specific SEARs within 7 days.

The department may request additional information or a meeting if needed.

Applying for project-specific SEARs

An application for project-specific SEARs must be made on the NSW planning portal.

Applications for project-specific SEARs must include a scoping report.

The scoping report must:

  • follow the department’s State Significant Development Guidelines – Preparing a Scoping Report (Appendix A).
  • describe the project in simple terms
  • include an analysis of feasible alternatives considered having regard to the objectives of the development, and identify the alternatives that will be investigated further in the EIS
  • give an early indication of community views on the project
  • identify what engagement will be carried out during the preparation of the EIS
  • identify the key matters requiring further assessment in the EIS and the proposed approach to assessing each of these matters having regard to any relevant Government legislation, plans, policies or guidelines.

During the preparation of project-specific SEARs the scoping report will be available on the NSW planning portal. The department will seek advice from the relevant local council and key agencies about what should be included in the SEARs. A site visit may also be required.

Issuing SEARs

The Planning Secretary will issue the project-specific SEARs within 28 days of the scoping report being published. The Planning Secretary may revise the SEARs at any time.

SEARs expiry

The SEARs will expire if the EIS is not submitted to the department within two years of the SEARs being issued. At the request of the proponent, the Planning Secretary may extend the SEARs expiry date by up to two years.