Small-lot houses

Brisbane City Plan 2014 (City Plan) has been developed by Brisbane City Council in consultation with the community to support a simple, fast and clear development assessment process. The plan guides how land in Brisbane can be used and developed to support economic growth, while protecting our city’s character and natural assets. 

City Plan allows for a variety of smaller housing options to cater for Brisbane’s increasing proportion of older residents, single and couple households. The plan provides you with upfront information to consider in planning your small lot house and will help you determine whether or not you need to lodge an application with Council. This page outlines how City Plan applies to building a house on a small lot and how to check if you need to lodge an application.

What is a small lot?

A small lot is either:

  • a lot with an area less than 450 square metres; or
  • a rear lot with an area less than 600 square metres, excluding the access way.

Do I need Council approval for a small lot development?

In most cases, if you are building a house on an existing or newly created small, you do not need to submit an application to Council provided you follow some basic design requirements. To find out if your proposal requires Council approval, phone Council on 07 3403 8888 during business hours and ask to speak to a Planning Information Officer.

While Council aims to assist you through the process, you may wish to engage a consultant, town planner, surveyor or other appropriately qualified professional for help with your building or development project.

This table provides information on whether you need an approval for a small lot development. The different categories include exempt, self-assessable, code assessable and impact assessable.

Accepted development

The proposed development does not need assessment against City Plan.

Accepted development, subject to requirements

For certain common development types you may not need to lodge a development assessment application (i.e it may be accepted development, subject to requirements). To check whether or not your application is accepted development, subject to requirements or requires a development assessment application, Council recommends you engage with an  appropriately qualified professional.

Code assessable

You need to apply to Council to assess your assessable application against the relevant codes in City Plan. This application will not require public notification. 

Impact assessable

You will need to apply to Council to assess your application against the relevant codes in City Plan. Depending on the type of development, the assessment can range across all provisions of City Plan. This application will need public notification (signage on site, notice in paper and letters to neighbours).

How can I assess my own small lot house development?

To assess your own development, you need to meet the acceptable outcomes of the Dwelling house (small lot) code, and any relevant overlay and neighbourhood plan codes. Even if you meet the acceptable outcomes and are not required to lodge an application, you will still need a building certifier to approve the work before starting construction.

What are the design requirements for a house on a small lot? 

Because of the smaller size of the site, the Dwelling house (small lot) code includes specific requirements for setbacks, site cover and building height to protect you and your neighbour’s amenity and privacy. An indicative building envelope is shown below. These will vary depending on the development type and location.

House height

In most residential zone precincts, a maximum 9.5 metre house height applies to the highest point of the roof. Rear and side wall heights cannot be higher than 7.5 metres and the maximum pitch to the highest part of the roof top cannot exceed 30 degrees. A side wall built to the boundary may only be up to three metres high and up to nine metres long. The section below details where built to boundary walls are permitted.

Distance to neighbouring properties

House setbacks, particularly on smaller lots, are designed to minimise noise, maintain privacy and reduce shadowing impacts on neighbouring properties. Depending on the site and the existing neighbouring development, the allowable side setbacks may vary.

The acceptable standard is that a distance of one metre is required between the side wall of your house and the habitable rooms of neighbouring houses. Depending on your zone and the location of the habitable rooms on adjoining properties, you may be able to build closer to your side boundary. 

Other design requirements

The Dwelling house (small lot) code outlines several other critical design considerations that must be met before it can be determined if an application is required (accepted development, subject to requirements criteria). Refer to Council’s City Plan online (electronic version of Brisbane City Plan 2014) to read more about these criteria.

How do overlays and neighbourhood plans affect my small lot development?

Overlays and neighbourhood plans may add certain requirements or considerations to your small lot development. These requirements are detailed in the overlay and neighbourhood plan code/s that apply to your property.

If certain overlays apply to your property, such as the Heritage overlay, you will need to apply for Council approval, regardless of your house design. For other overlays, such as the Waterway corridors overlay, if certain criteria specified in the overlay code can be met, an application to Council is not required. If those criteria are not met, an application to Council must be made.


Mrs Smith’s property is within a Local waterway corridor overlay. To be exempt from lodging an application her house must meet the acceptable outcomes of the Waterway corridors overlay code, including being set back a minimum of 15 metres from the centre-line of the local waterway corridor. If her house does not meet these criteria, Mrs Smith will need to lodge a development application with Council.

Tips for determining if you need to lodge an application

  • If you are assessing your own small lot house, we recommend you engage a building certifier; or consultant to confirm that you do not need to apply to Council.
  • A building certifier must approve any work before you start construction. This is separate to Council’s development approval. Visit for more information about building approvals and building certifiers.

How can City Plan help with my small lot development?

The City Plan online mapping tool allows you to view your property on a map to see the overlays and neighbourhood plans that apply to your site. 

More information

You can lodge your application by emailing You may wish to engage a consultant town planner, surveyor or other appropriately qualified professional to prepare the application for you.

For more information:

Disclaimer: The content on this page is a summary and has been prepared to assist the reader to understand City Plan. Please refer to the full City Plan document, entitled Brisbane City Plan 2014, via City Plan online for further detail.

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