Brisbane City Council developed the Brisbane City Plan 2014 (City Plan). This was done in consultation with the community, to support a simple, clear and streamlined development assessment process. The plan guides Brisbane's land use and development to support population growth.
The City Plan encourages a variety of housing options to meet Brisbane residents’ diverse and changing needs.
Under the City Plan, Council defines a house as a dwelling house. It refers to the residential use of premises for one household that contains a single dwelling. A dwelling house includes out buildings (e.g. carports or sheds) and works normally associated with a house, such as an extension. It may also include a secondary dwelling such as a granny flat.
The granny flats factsheet outlines how the City Plan applies to granny flats in residential zones. It includes how to check planning approval and basic design requirements. A certifier must also approve any work for granny flats before you start construction. This is separate to a planning approval.
Granny flat approval requirements
The City Plan refers to an extension to an existing dwelling house in a residential zone for a granny flat as a secondary dwelling. It can be a maximum of 80 m² in size. A granny flat for a member of your household does not need Council approval. This is as long as you meet the accepted development, subject to requirements criteria in the dwelling house code or dwelling house (small lot) code.
Small lots are less than 450 m² or for a rear lot less than 600 m² excluding the access way.
You will need to lodge a development application if:
the granny flat is bigger than 80 m² in size
it is more than 20 metres from the main house.
You will need a development application for dual occupancy, if you are renting it to someone who does not form part of your household.
Council defines a household as an individual or a group of two or more related or unrelated people who reside in the dwelling. The common intention is to live together on a long-term basis and make common provision for food or other essentials for living.
A household can be:
- one person maintaining a household
- two or more people related by blood, marriage or adoption
- up to five children under the age of 18 not related and one or two adults who have care of them
- no more than five unrelated people.
Zones, overlays and neighbourhood plans affecting a property
The Brisbane City Plan 2014 online interactive mapping tool allows you to view your property on a map. You can see the zones, overlays and neighbourhood plans that apply to your site. The maps are colour and number coded to help you identify the relevant zones and precincts within an area.
If overlays or neighbourhood plans apply to your property, you will need to consider these in designing your granny flat. Some overlays such as the biodiversity and wetlands overlays may require Council approval.
Setbacks from boundaries for granny flats
The Queensland Development Code sets boundary setbacks for granny flats on standard sized lots*. The City Plan does not include boundary setbacks. The dwelling house (small lot) code identifies boundary setbacks for granny flats on small lots**. Boundary setbacks help with protecting privacy, property maintenance and amenity.
* A standard sized lot is one that is greater than 450 m² or for a rear lot greater than 600 m² excluding the access way.
** Small lots are less than 450 m² or for a rear lot less than 600 m² excluding the access way.
Maximum site cover
Site cover is the proportion of the site covered by buildings. This includes the main house and granny flat or any structure attached to the buildings and carports. It does not include structures such as gazebos or shade structures. For small lots, the City Plan requires site cover of all relevant buildings and structures on the site to be a maximum of:
- 50% for lots 400 m² or more
- 60% for lots 300 m² or more and less than 400 m²
- 70% for lots 200 m² or more and less than 300 m²
- 80% for lots less than 200 m².
The Queensland Development Code sets site cover restrictions for standard sized lots. These can be confirmed by a private building certifier. Visit the Department of Housing and Public Works website.
Maximum height and storeys you can build without Council approval
9.5 metres and two storeys*
Character residential (CR)
• Low density residential (LDR)
• Low–medium density residential
(LMR1) (two storey mix)
• Low-medium density residential
(LMR2) (two or three storey mix)
• Rural (RU)
• Rural residential (RR)
• Emerging community (EC)
• Environmental management (EM)
11.5 metres and three storeys**
• Medium density residential zone (MDR)
• Low–medium density residential zone
(LMR3) (up to three storeys)
* Rear and side wall heights cannot be higher than 7.5 metres. The maximum pitch to the highest part of the roof top cannot exceed 30 degrees on small lots.
** Rear and side wall heights cannot be higher than 9.5 metres. The maximum pitch to the highest part of the roof top cannot exceed 30 degrees on small lots.
Building up to the height specified above does not require development approval from Council if your development complies with all other requirements. However, you will need building approval from a qualified building certifier. If you are proposing to build higher, you will need to seek Council approval.
You must provide one car parking space on the site for a granny flat and one car parking space for the main dwelling house.
Determine if an application is required
Council recommends you engage a building certifier or consultant town planner to confirm whether you need to lodge an application to construct your granny flat. You can also phone Council on 07 3403 8888.
A certifier must also approve any building work for granny flats before you start construction. This is separate to development approval. A building certifier checks that your proposed building work complies with the Building Act 1975 and associated standards.
Visit the Queensland Building and Construction Commission website for more information about building approvals and building certifiers.
While Council aims to assist you through the process, you may wish to engage other appropriately qualified professional help. Consider a consultant town planner, building certifier or surveyor.
To keep up to date with future services and general planning and development in the city, email CP2104@brisbane.qld.gov.au.
Disclaimer: the content of this information sheet is a summary prepared to assist the reader to understand the City Plan. Refer to the full Brisbane City Plan 2014 for further detail.