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Building near Sydney Airport: 5 Things You Need to Know

If you’re planning building near Sydney Airport, there are a range of considerations you must take into account prior to lodging a development application. Here are five things you need to know when embarking on a construction project near Kingsford Smith.

Building near Sydney Airport (and, in fact, all airports in Australia) is regulated at the federal level by the Airports Act 1996, the Airports (Protection of Airspace) Regulations 1996 and the Airports (Building Control) Regulations 1996. These are complex documents, so we’ve highlighted five points you need to know before making any major decisions in relation to your next project.

#1: Your project may be a “controlled activity”

A ‘controlled activity’ essentially means any activity which infringes on an airport’s ‘protected airspace’ (also referred to as ‘prescribed airspace’).

There are two types of protected airspace in Australian skies, including:

• the Obstacle Limitation Surface (OLS); and

• the Procedures for Air Navigational Services—Aircraft Operations (PANS-OPS) surface.

You can download charts of Sydney Airport’s OLS here, and their PANS-OPS surfaces here (part 1), here (part 2) and here (part 3). These were obtained in June 2020, so please make sure you rely on the most current charts.

building near sydney airport

If your activity infringes on one of the above surfaces, your activity will require approval from an authority before it can be implemented.

This will include things like building permanent structures, putting up temporary structures such as cranes or even emitting smoke or gases in the area.

#2: Your project may be approved by either Sydney Airport or the Department

Depending on which airspace protection surfaces are proposed to be penetrated and the period of time, your activity may need to be approved by either Sydney Airport itself or the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

If your activity is a short-term activity (i.e. lasting for less than 3 months) and only penetrates the OLS, Sydney Airport are allowed to approve your application.

If your activity is a short-term activity and penetrates the PANS-OPS surface, Sydney Airport must refer the activity to the Department.

If your activity is a long-term activity and penetrates the OLS, the application must be referred to the Department.

If your activity is a long-term activity and penetrates the PANS-OPS surface, your activity is prohibited and will not receive approval.

#3: You must consider the safety-related questions in Sydney Airport’s application form

Pursuant to the Protection of Airspace regulations, Sydney Airport will require you to lodge an Application for Approval of Development Application.

In this form, you will need to detail the purpose of the controlled activity – this will include details such as what type of structure you are building, what the structure will be used for and how long it intends to remain in place.

Most importantly, you will need to outline a detailed safety case if your controlled activity breaches one of the above types of protected airspace.

The Regulations specify that neither the Airport nor the Department will approve your application if the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) advise them that carrying out the activity would have an “unacceptable effect on the safety of existing or future air transport operations into or out of the airport”.

#4: Cranes may also need approval

If you are planning on using cranes to construct your project and they penetrate prescribed airspace, you must apply through Sydney Airport for approval, as each crane is considered a ‘controlled activity’. Crane activity up to three (3) continuous months that only penetrates the OLS can be approved by Sydney Airport itself, whereas longer penetrations or those which go through the PANS-OPS need to be referred to the Department for approval.

Sydney Airport have a detailed application form you must fill out, which you can access here.

building near sydney airport five things

On the form, you’ll need to specify details such as the description of the crane, its period of operation, its days and hours of operation, the details of the cranes’ height and other details.

Most importantly, you will also need to detail a safety case (i.e. an Aeronautical Impact Assessment) for using cranes.

#5: Obtaining a professional airspace impact assessment will prevent future problems

The process for applying for the relevant approvals can be complicated. Questions regarding air safety and how it intersects with construction projects are some of the most common queries we face from property developers. If you are in this situation, we strongly suggest downloading our Top 10 FAQs from Property Developers.

But it is also critical to obtain an independent professional airspace impact assessment for your construction project near Sydney Airport. These independent assessments will provide a detailed analysis of the types of airspace your project may penetrate and offer practical solutions for working around the tricky safety regulations in place.

They will help you build a proper safety case to present to the Airport and/or the Department, putting you in a good position to get your application approved.

Our highly qualified airspace consultants at Avlaw Aviation Consulting have had many years’ combined experience assisting property clients navigate these complicated regulations when building near Sydney Airport. Please get in touch with our specialists today to discuss an airspace impact assessment for your next construction project.