Maintaining environmental safety and compliance is paramount for commercial construction in New South Wales. For builders, architects and town planners submitting Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments (ESA), fast approval will depend on adhering to state regulations. At every stage of Commercial construction, our consultants help clients stay compliant with state regulations and assessment criteria. Here are our recommendations to make your next commercial ESA environmentally compliant for faster Council approval. 

1. Recognise the elevated risk of contamination


Commercial and industrial sites often hold the remnants of their past. The EPA recognises that historical activities such as the use of harmful chemicals, battery acid disposal, or other industrial processes can leave a lasting environmental impact. While residential sites have their own set of stringent assessment criteria, commercial sites present unique challenges due to their historical activities. 

A Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is required to gain Council approval on commercial construction projects, especially large-scale developments like industrial parks. To accelerate approvals, this should go far beyond desktop research. A Commercial ESA should have an extensive site review including site walk-over documentation, aerial footage, soil and groundwater sampling, NATA accredited testing and detailed recommendations.

Real-world Implications:

Consider this: your commercial site, after a Phase 1 ESA, begins construction without addressing identified contamination. You now run the risk of Council intervention, stop-work orders, and potential legal complications. In one case, a slab was poured over contamination, requiring an auditor to investigate or rip up the slab—a costly oversight that underscores the importance of thorough ESAs.

2. Provide solutions to environmental problems

NSW EPA guidelines are not just about identifying contamination. They require commercial projects to implement a safety roadmap that protects local environments and prevents further impact. These guidelines encompass:


  • Assessing contaminated sites.
  • Waste classification.
  • Reporting on contaminated land by consultants.
  • Remediation and site validation. 
  • Appropriate Environmental Management Plans. 


Your ESA should outline detailed recommendations on implementing safety precautions throughout the construction process. Depending on the level of contamination, this may require a Remediation Action Plan, Environmental Management Plan and/or Site Validation reports

Providing these insights in your Phase 1 ESA will give Council the context they need to grant DA approval. If further testing is required, you’ll streamline this process by knowing exactly where to test for contamination.

3. Adhering to EPA requirements new and old

A comprehensive understanding of NSW EPA requirements and regulatory guidelines can directly impact how quickly your commercial project is approved. 


For example, a ‘Category 1’ commercial project requires significant remediation efforts and full DA approval. On the other hand,  ‘Category 2’ commercial projects are proven to hold acceptable levels of contamination that do not require DA approval. Gaining Category 2 approval for your commercial project means remediation can be integrated as part of the broader development, saving you time and resources on further testing. 

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Resilience and Hazards) 2021 is a cornerstone for NSW councils that guides them in determining a site’s suitability for proposed development. This regulation was recently updated. If you are unsure about how these new requirements could impact your ESA approval, speak to us.

Leaving our environment in a better place

Commercial builders, architects and town planners can play a part in the protection of our environment. A comprehensive Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) ensures that projects are not only compliant but environmentally responsible. Look to your environmental partner for guidance on development outcomes that are commercially viable, compliant and environmentally sustainable.

Starting on a commercial project in NSW?

Learn more about NEO Consulting’s commercial environmental services.