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NSW Draft Code of Practice for Dance Parties

5. Consents And Approvals To Stage A Dance Party

Where Dance parties are held

Dance parties have been held everywhere, from inner city to country locations, and in different venues, from clubs and halls, to sports stadia, disused factories and warehouses. One result of using unusual venues is that they will probably not have the consents or approvals required by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (EP&A Act), or the Local Government Act 1993 (LG Act).

Dance parties may be held as a part of open air music festivals or concerts. Open air functions only need approval under the LG Act for any building work such as the erection of stages, temporary buildings etc. An open air venue does not need a "place of public entertainment" approval, as detailed in this Code. However, consent may still be needed under the EP & A Act.

Where open air concerts use amplification equipment, and have a crowd capacity of over 10,000 people, the Dance party will require a Pollution Control Approval and Licence from the Environment Protection Authority. Open air Dance parties should be held well away from homes or residential areas. As most Dance parties are held indoors, this Code of Practice focuses on Dance parties held within buildings.

Dance parties are also held in hotels and registered clubs, many of which already have the right approvals and consents. Hotels and registered clubs usually serve alcohol, so in addition to the EP&A Act and the LG Act, the Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act also apply (see Section 4 of this Code). The timing and nature of events in these venues can be held in accordance with the terms of the existing consents and approvals.

Promoters aiming at people under 18 must make sure that alcohol is not brought into the party. Since October 1996, licensed premises are now allowed to stage alcohol free entertainment in authorised sections of the premises. Equally, all promoters of Dance parties must make sure that illegal drugs and alcohol are not brought into the party, or sold or distributed at the party.

Approvals Required Under The Environmental Planning And Assessment Act

Planning for public events is regulated by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (EP&A Act).

Dance parties may need a Development Application (DA) depending on their size, location and duration. In some circumstances, a Dance party may be a 'use' of the land, and therefore a 'development' under the EP&A Act. This matter needs to be made clear in each individual case. Promoters should seek advice from the local Council or their own expert planning adviser.

The ideal location for a Dance party is where:

  • zoning allows a Dance party to be held in the area;
  • the venue does not negatively affect residential areas;
  • the premises provide safe accommodation for patrons during the event;
  • public transport is available; and
  • parking and noise will have limited impact on surrounding uses and the general public.

The Planning Situation

  • Planning 'instruments' such as Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) determine whether development consent is or is not needed, or if the use is a prohibited activity in that area. Each local Council area has its own planning instruments.
  • The planning instrument of the local Council area you want to stage the Dance party in needs to be examined. Dance parties may be held in venues defined in the instrument by terms such as 'places of assembly', 'recreation facility', 'entertainment facility'.
  • LEPs and the type of zones where this activity is permitted vary between Councils.

Where you can hold a Dance party without development consent

  • Other forms of approval will still be needed under the LG Act.
  • Part 5 of the EP&A Act may apply. The determining (deciding) authority (usually Council) in issuing any other approval that is required (eg as a place of public entertainment) must decide if the Dance party may have any major environmental impact (s111 of the EP&A Act).

Where you can hold a Dance party with development consent

  • other forms of approval will still be needed under the LG Act.
  • a Development Application (DA) is lodged (by the Promoter) with Council.
  • Council has 40 days to decide on the application, otherwise it is considered to be refused. (Nevertheless, Councils can continue to deal with applications but a right of appeal to the Land and Environment Court is available after 40 days. As Councils can take more than 40 days to decide, the earlier the application is made to Council the better).
  • Council will consider the proposal according to section 90 of the EP&A Act. In particular, DAs should refer to the position of the stage and speakers, existing and proposed sound proofing, use of automatic cut out systems set for particular noise levels; which doors/windows will be used for access, and the closeness of neighbours (for noise).
  • Council can impose conditions of consent. These may specify hours of operation, parking arrangements, and address any matters of environmental concern, in particular noise levels and noise control.

Where you cannot hold a Dance party

Where the zoning prohibits activities such as Dance parties in the area which includes the proposed venue, then the party cannot take place in that venue.

Chart Showing How Local Environmental Plans Work

First, look at the local planning instruments to see if a Dance party is:

   Permitted without Consent       Permitted with Consent       Prohibited   
No DA, but Part 5 may apply DA required No further action
Other Council approvals may be needed Council has 40 days to reach a decision after the application has been lodged.
Applicant can appeal to the Land and Environment Court:
  • other conditions of consent
  • if application refused.
DA approved. It may have:
  • conditions of consent
  • other Council approvals may be required

Approvals Required Under The Local Government Act 1993 (LG Act)

The most important approvals under Section 68 of the LG Act are:

  • use of a building or temporary structure as a place of public entertainment or permit its use as a place of public entertainment - Approval A8
  • install a temporary structure on land - Approval A4
  • change of use of the building - Approval A7

Dance parties are considered to be "public entertainment" and the use of the building or a temporary structure for public entertainment requires an A8 approval. "Public entertainment" is where people pay money, or other consideration, to gain admission to the event (even if only some people are charged). A consideration includes a charge for a meal or other refreshment. However, in the case of premises licensed under the Liquor Act or Registered Clubs Act, even "free" entertainment requires an approval. If a "temporary structure", such as a circus tent or marquee is used, then an Approval A4 install a temporary structure on land is also required.

The promoter of a Dance party at a particular venue may also need an approval under the LG Act to change the use of a building (Approval A7) from the use currently approved, in order to check fire safety standards. This would be the case with a warehouse or factory building, which is a class 8 building under the Building Code of Australia (BCA) whereas a "place of public entertainment" is a class 9 building. An A7 approval may be applied for at the same time as an A8 approval.

It is useful to note that clause 70(g) of the Local Government (Approvals) Regulation) allows an exemption from 7A approvals for existing buildings used as places of public entertainment for 'short durations' (such a for example, 72 hours, or 7 days, if the Council decides the change of use is unnecessary. Also, for A8 Approvals using existing buildings as a place of public entertainment, clauses 18, 23 and 25 of the same Regulation allows Councils the option to decide to lower or vary the standards from those expected of new buildings.

Premises with an approval

Buildings already approved for public entertainment have been assessed by Council (to see if it complies with the Building Code of Australia) to be safe for a large number of people, and to allow quick exit from the building if there is a fire.

An existing approval will:

  • show the permitted adult capacity for entertainment;
  • include any operational conditions which must be observed;
  • be displayed in the premises.

Enquire at the local Council if there is any doubt about the approval, its conditions or if a copy is not available.

Premises where an approval must be obtained

Promoters should consider the suitability of the building for the Dance party. They should talk to the local Council to assess what may be needed to obtain the necessary approvals.

The technical issues involved in assessing suitability usually means getting advice from a building professional such as an architect, consultant building surveyor or similar expert. They would need to inspect the premises, examine building plans and note the services available in the building.

Details of the number of people expected at the Dance party, and the range of entertainment being planned, would need to be considered.

Consultants with the relevant information (often available from the building owner) can conduct an initial assessment of the suitability of the building as a place of public entertainment.

The application for Council's approval

This will be needed if:

  • an existing place of public entertainment approval exists, but some variation is needed to stage a Dance party;
  • no approval exists, but with initial assessment, a Dance party could be held in the building.

The promoter can lodge an application for an approval, accompanied by the written consent of the building owner.

The application must be made on a form available from each Council. It must be accompanied by a fee which is set by the Council. (Any A7 approval needed should also be lodged at the same time).

Deciding on (Determining) the application

In determining an application for a LG Act approval, a Council must consider whether any consent required under the EP&A Act has been given, or whether the use is prohibited (from receiving consent) by a planning instrument such as a local environment plan of the Council.

It is a statutory requirement for any approval, in addition to any conditions attached by the Council, that standard management and use conditions for places of public entertainment, set out in Schedule 2 of the Local Government (Approvals) Regulation 1993 must be complied with. The management and use conditions details requirements for fire safety officers; trained people for stage performances etc.

These requirements also generally apply to temporary structures used as places of public entertainment. For temporary structures an application for an A4 approval should accompany the A8 approval application.

References:

LG Act s68 (Approvals A4, A7 and A8); Division 3 of Chapter 7 Ss 75-113. LG (Approvals) Regulation; Clauses 16, 18 and 38 Schedule 2.

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