A crucial part of your planning process, before you get too far into your research and start dreaming of your new home, is to understand what you are allowed to do. It may sound silly, but you are not actually just allowed to build whatever you want. Especially when it comes to structural aspects such as garages, verandahs, building heights or even sheds.
Make sure you have a basic understanding of your planning and zoning information, before you start your research, so you spend your time planning in the right areas.
Call your council
A quick and simple way to obtain this information is by calling the local council where the address is located and asking to speak with their planning or urban development department. Tell them you need to find out about your Rcode zoning and any planning schemes applicable to your property address. They will be happy to run you through restrictions you need to refer to, however they will not provide much advice on the likelihood of you
Take notes, and ask if you are able to access the planning policies they are referring to online.
Google search “your council intramaps”, and follow the prompts to launch the Intramaps dashboard. Simply enter in your property address and search. Make sure you select the zoning tab.
Your R code will be clearly displayed, and any other planning policy documents will be available for download. For example, your lot may be in a specific planning scheme zone, where density is increased, and conditions for subdividing may be relaxed to allow for more dwellings to be built contrary to the Rcodes zoning regulations.
Tip: There are lots of other bits of information you can find in this portal, including your rubbish bin pick up day, watering days and environmental information.
Housing estate, design covenants
If your address is located within a newer estate developed by a larger property developer, it is likely that design guidelines or covenants have been put in place for all homes in the area. This may include restrictions on roof colours, external finishing types, fencing, and the requirement for certain features to the front facade.
Note, some design covenants are in place for 10 years, so even if your estate is “older” and mostly developed the rules may still apply to any modifications or new builds.
If you have purchased a vacant block of land, this information will be included in your land contract. If you don’t have access to this or have purchased an established house, you can search for these documents on the Land Developers estate website. There is usually a section around Information for Building and various covenants and design guidelines documents to reference. Otherwise a call to the Land Developer may help.
Dividing Fences Act
If you are considering removing and rebuilding a wall or fence that adjoins your neighbour, then you will need to consider the Dividing Fences Act. This details what works you can and can’t do, and when you need your neighbours’ consent prior to starting construction work. It also covers who is responsible for payment, depending on the reason and type of works.
Why do I need to know about planning and zoning?
It’s important to discuss these regulations with your building designer, architect or draftsman, as in general, planning regulations must be followed. Some councils allow for small deviations in certain aspects, but this is a very technical area to understand and you will need advice from design and planning professionals.
If your designer tells you that a design outcome cannot be met due to regulations, they are providing useful advice, and you can work with them on an alternative that gives you the best possible alternative.
Keep to your timeline
There is no guarantee that plans put forward for development approval which contains variations to planning frameworks will be approved, so you should always have a plan B design in mind that complies with regulations. This will avoid large delays in a full redesign process if your original proposal is not approved.
Approval processes can take months, so you need to be prepared in your timeline for this. Does the variation make a big enough difference to your design, that you would be prepared to go through this process?
Keep to your budget
Properly designing your home to suit regulations will result in a more cost-effective design, and help you stick to your budget. For example, fire ratings (BAL) are applicable to all sites. Those with higher ratings are potentially more prone to fire due to weather and vegetation proximity. A building permit will not be granted for any structural builds that do not have the necessary prevention inclusions as part of the home. Carefully considering design elements such as window positions, and ventilation, can help reduce the cost of these prevention items.