A report prepared by town planning consultants Design Collaborative commissioned by the Live Music Office and the City of Sydney, Low Risk Arts and Cultural Venues – A NSW Case Study of Live Performance for National Application, tables a review of town planning controls surrounding the provision of live entertainment.

Download the Low Risk Arts and Cultural Venues – NSW Case Study for National Application

The key findings arising from the research are:

  • The barriers to obtaining approval to provide entertainment are too high in order to encourage low key, live performances at the community and grass roots level.
  • Inflexibility of the planning system in permitting low risk entertainment as an independent land use
  • The need to appropriately define and characterise low risk premises that wish to provide entertainment
  • High complexity and cost of the planning system for applicants.

Whilst important changes to planning legislation in NSW in 2009 removed the requirement for development consent for entertainment in pubs and restaurants, presently, all purpose built entertainment premises and other commercial premises that seek to provide entertainment require approval as an “entertainment facility” and to be built to the highest building standards under the Building Code of Australia in New South Wales.

Arising from this review, and through the benefit of two (2) case studies of live performance venues, the Paper makes recommendations that seek to simplify the process of obtaining planning and construction approval for the carrying out of entertainment in small low risk premises as a building block for the industry. Importantly, if no works are proposed, spaces could be used with minimal upfront cost.

Live Music Office Policy Director John Wardle said

“Delivering these planning recommendations for low risk arts and cultural use will bring big results for the small to medium arts sector in Australia”.

“The proposed changes would create affordable and accessible small venues, and enable initiatives like creative hubs for community centres and local government, pop up events for festivals, and encourage in-store performances in record stores, music schools and retail, supporting much greater participation and diversity in the performing arts”.

“Creating a new category of low risk arts and cultural venue following Victoria’s lead in 2014 is a crucial action for all the states and territories, to cut cost, red tape and support enhanced opportunities for Australian voices and Australian stories”.

The recommendations arising from this Paper advocate for

  • Changes to local Environmental Planning Instruments or State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 and
  • The creation of a new definition for premises where the provision of entertainment could be considered low risk with respect to the potential for adverse noise or social impact and fire safety.

These changes will provide clear pathways for development approval for low risk entertainment premises.

If the recommendations were adopted it is anticipated it would result in

  • Reduced timeframes for approval to provide entertainment,
  • Reduced costs,
  • Increased transparency and understanding of important town planning requirements


This would consequently increase the level of compliance in premises that provide entertainment and thereby encourage the provision of entertainment in a safe and cohesive manner.

James Lidis, Director of Design Collaborative notes that the changes proposed will also have strong social and economic benefits for cities.

“Fine-grain arts and cultural facilities are a necessary ingredient to creating a dynamic and interesting human environment, and importantly, will fill a gap in the depressed retail lease market to occupy empty shopfronts and disused buildings on our high streets whilst simultaneously giving patrons and shoppers a new reason to visit these areas”.




John Wardle,

Policy Director Live Music Office



James Lidis,

Director of Design Collaborative

9262 3200




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