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Norman Waterhouse

Amendment to Practice Direction 14 – Site Contamination Assessment

Site contamination assessment in the South Australian planning system is undertaken pursuant to the processes and policies prescribed by the Planning and Design Code, Planning, Development and Infrastructure (General) Regulations and the State Planning Commission Practice Direction 14.

Following its two-year review of the site contamination assessment scheme, the State Planning Commission (Commission) has varied Practice Direction 14.

Version 3 of Practice Direction 14 took effect on 13 April 2023, and can be viewed here.


The changes to Practice Direction 14 reflect the Commission’s determination that site contamination may not always be fundamental to the question of whether planning consent should be granted in every circumstance. These changes are:

  • the addition of the defined term ‘constrained site’; and
  • the insertion of clause 11(3) dealing with site contamination as a reserved matter.

Constrained Sites

The following definition of ‘constrained site’ has been included in Version 3 of Practice Direction 14:

Constrained site means a site that is occupied by a building or is tenanted under legal obligation, and a soil test for potential contamination would require destruction or partial destruction of the building including flooring, footings or fully sealed external areas of the development site.

This term may be relevant to the exercise of a relevant authority’s power under section 102(3) of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 to reserve the assessment of site contamination until further assessment.

Site Contamination as a Reserved Matter

Clause 11(3) provides:

Under section 102(5) of the Act, a relevant authority may reserve any matter that is considered not fundamental to the application. For sites where there is a low likelihood of site contamination impacting on a proposed development involving a more sensitive land use, including where the proposed development is on a constrained site, the relevant authority may determine that the issue of site contamination is not fundamental and can be a reserved matter. In making such a decision the relevant authority may rely on a preliminary site investigation report provided by the applicant.

Therefore, in order for a relevant authority to validly reserve the issue of site contamination, it must determine that:

  1. the site, whether or not a constrained site, has a low likelihood of site contamination impacting on the proposed development; and
  2. the issue of site contamination is not fundamental to whether planning approval should be granted to the proposed development.

Any preliminary site investigation report relied on for this purpose must be less than 5 years old and compliant with the content requirements of Practice Direction 14, including that it must be sufficient to provide an assessment of whether site contamination exists, may exist or is unlikely to exist.

For more specific information on any of the material contained in this article please contact Gavin Leydon on +61 8 8210 1225 or or Stephan Koefer on +61 8 8217 1368 or

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