Residential development in suburban zones

The Brisbane City Plan 2014 (City Plan) and the Queensland Government’s Queensland Development Code allow for a range of developments to be carried out on a residential property. This factsheet outlines how City Plan and building legislation applies to various types of residential development in your neighbourhood if it’s located in the Low density residential zone or the Character residential zone. It also outlines the relevant key design requirements including building near boundaries.

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What development might I expect in my neighbourhood?

In a Low density residential or Character residential zone the most common form of development is a ‘dwelling house’, which is the use of a single dwelling by one household. A dwelling house can also include outbuildings such as a carport or shed. It may also include a secondary dwelling (e.g. granny flat). More information on granny flats, including basic design requirements, can be found in Council’s City Plan fact sheet for residents (Granny flats).

The development you may reasonably expect in your suburban neighbourhood can range from small projects, such as a pool or a new deck, through to extensions to increase living or recreation space, demolition or complete replacement. Other improvements that might be expected include the installation of boundary fences and retaining walls. Some residents in your neighbourhood might also want to operate a home business from their property. More information on home-based businesses is provided in Council’s City Plan fact sheet for residents (Home-based businesses).

Are there types of minor residential work that do not need planning approval?

There are some types of residential development that do not require planning approval under City Plan. These are referred to as accepted development.

On small lots, this includes minor building work such as extensions to an existing dwelling house within the acceptable outcomes for maximum building height, building length, setbacks (front, rear and side) and built to boundary walls where developed and explained in the Dwelling house (small lot) code (see Table 1 of this fact sheet).

Generally, retaining walls less than 1m high are not assessable against City Plan. Retaining walls greater than 1m, not assessed as part of a dwelling house, are assessable in their own right and need to adhere to the design requirements in the Filling and excavation code, which address visual impacts to neighbours and other matters.

Dividing fences less than 2m high are also generally not assessable against City Plan. Fences are regulated by the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011.

A detailed list of all types of accepted development is contained in Table 5.3.4.1 in Part 5 of City Plan. 

My residential development is not accepted development - does it need planning approval? 

Certain residential development that complies with nominated requirements may also avoid the need for formal planning approval.

Accepted development does not require a development approval but must comply with the requirements identified as acceptable outcomes in the relevant parts of the applicable code(s).

Accepted development that does not comply with one or more of the nominated acceptable outcomes will require a planning application.

It is important to remember that while a residential development may be an accepted development, other approvals may still be required such as a building approval from a private building certifier.

When does a residential development require planning approval?

There are types of residential development that are not considered accepted development or may otherwise not comply with one or more of the nominated requirements for accepted development and require further assessment against City Plan. These are referred to as accepted development, subject to requirements, code assessable and impact assessable development. Council’s City Plan fact sheet for residents (Using the City Plan) outlines the rules for determining the assessment criteria (assessment benchmarks) based on the type of assessment required.

Generally, dwelling houses greater than 9.5m high are code assessable.

When does a residential development require building approval?

Building approvals are generally required before starting construction on most types of domestic building work. The purpose of having a building approval is to ensure the relevant codes and standards described in the Building Code of Australia and Queensland Development Code (QDC) are reflected in the design and construction of new buildings and extension and alterations to existing buildings.

A building approval can be obtained from a private building certifier. All building certifiers in Queensland must be licensed with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission. Building certifiers will also be able to advise whether a building approval is required.

What is an overlay?

Overlay maps describe different features that also need to be considered when developing land, for example flooding, heritage and timber and tin character. Some overlays on a specific property may trigger the need for a planning approval for some residential developments. Council’s City Plan fact sheet for residents (Overlays) will help you understand overlays and what you need to consider when submitting an application.

How close can a neighbour build to my boundary?

The minimum setbacks and boundary clearance requirements are generally described in the form of a building envelope in City Plan and the QDC (refer to Table 1). The purpose of a building envelope is to position buildings or structures in a location which best protects, or has the least impact on, the amenity of neighbours and the aesthetics and character of neighbourhoods.

What are the other key design requirements of dwelling house developments that are assessed against City Plan?

City Plan contains key design requirements for dwelling houses in the Dwelling house code and the Dwelling house (small lot) code. These requirements are intended to provide good residential design that promotes the efficient use of a lot and an acceptable level of amenity to residents and neighbours. Some examples are provided in Table 1, which also includes some requirements from the QDC. More information about dwelling houses on standard lots and small lots is also provided in Council’s City Plan fact sheet for residents (Houses and Small-lot houses). 

Table 1 - Key design requirements for dwelling houses and ancillary structures

Building height
  • 7.5m above ground level at side and rear walls, increasing at no more than 30 degrees to a maximum building height of 9.5m above ground level; and
  • Maximum two storeys.
Setbacks

Minimum boundary setbacks vary depending on the site and the existing neighbouring development. Some examples are provided below.

Front

  • Primary street frontage setback:
    • 6m where all adjoining dwelling houses have a setback of 6m or more; or
    • the same as the least setback, of an adjoining dwelling house, but not less than 3m; or
    • 3m where there is no adjoining dwelling house.
  • Secondary street frontage setback(2):
    • 1.5m; or
    • 0m for non-habitable spaces up to a building height of 3m where the secondary street frontage is opposite to the primary street frontage and the road reserve of the secondary street frontage is 8m or less wide and a minor road.

Side

  • 1m for habitable spaces; or
  • 0.5m and a maximum height of 3.5m for non-habitable spaces, only for a maximum length of 9m; or
  • 0m where matching the extent of an existing built to boundary wall on the adjoining property.

Rear

  • 6m where on a lot with an average depth of more than 25m; or
  • 3m for a wall up to 4.5m high where on a lot with an average depth of more than 25m or less; or
  • 4.5m for a wall up to 4.5m high where on a lot with an average depth of more than 25m or less. 
Siting variations

The approval for most proposals can be handled by a building certifier and does not require Council approval. City Plan provides alternate siting acceptable outcomes to the QDC - MP 1.1 – Design and siting standard for single detached housing - on lots under 450m² in the Dwelling house (small lot) code.

If a proposal complies with the acceptable outcomes of the Dwelling house (small lot) code and any alternate siting provision of that code, an application for a siting variation will not be required.

If a proposal does not comply with the acceptable outcomes of the Dwelling house (small lot) code, including building within the building envelope, a development application is required, not a siting variation.

A building envelope is the three dimensional extent of where a building and associated structure may be built on a site after consideration of limits set on height, set back and other similar measures (refer to Figure a).

Download Figure A (Word - 392kb).

Lots 450m² and over⁽³⁾
Building height
  • Maximum building height of 9.5m; and
  • Maximum two storeys.
Setbacks

Boundary setbacks vary depending on the site, the existing neighbouring development and the height of the building. These are set by the QDC and are not included in City Plan. Some examples are provided below:

Front

  • Detached dwelling, garage or carport, not on a corner lot:
    • 6m; or
    • complimentary to the road setbacks of adjacent houses by adopting a setback which is either between or the average of adjacent setbacks. For further information, please contact your private building certifier or refer to QDC - MP 1.2 - Design and siting standard for single detached housing - on lots 450m² and over.
  • Swimming pools:
    • where the vertical distance to the coping (i.e. the stone or concrete material used to cap the pool shell wall) above the finished ground level is not more than 1.2m - 1.5m; or
    • 0m where a solid wall or fence is constructed at least 1.8m high above finished ground level between the water and the road frontage and the top of the wall or fence is at least 1m above the top of the coping of the pool.

Side and rear

  • For the part of a building that is 4.5m high or less, the setback is 1.5m; and
  • For the part of the building that is between 4.5m and 7.5m, the setback is 2m; and
  • For the part of the building that is over 7.5m, the setback is 2m plus 0.5m for every 3m the building exceeds 7.5m. 
Siting variations

The approval for most proposals can be handled by a building certifier and does not require Council approval. A siting variation is not necessary if the proposal meets the acceptable solutions of the QDC - MP 1.2 – Design and siting standard for single detached housing - on lots 450m² and over. The building regulations allow for certain types of structures to be located outside the building envelope. For example, an open carport, pergola and swimming pool. These types of structures are generally non-habitable, minor in nature or otherwise small in scale.

If the proposal does not meet the acceptable solutions, a siting variation application is required for assessment against the relevant performance criteria. Siting variation applications are generally prepared by building certifiers and assessed by building certifiers (assessment managers). Council is a concurrence agency for providing advice to building certifiers (assessment managers) on whether an application satisfies the performance criteria of the QDC.

  1. Refer to the Dwelling house (small lot) code in City Plan for a full detailed list of relevant design requirements. Also refer to QDC - MP 1.1 – Design and siting standard for relevant design requirements.
  2. Primary street frontage is the street frontage that is most commonly addressed by other buildings in the block. Where a lot has more than one frontage, the secondary street frontage is not the primary street frontage.
  3. Refer to the Dwelling house code in City Plan for a full detailed list of relevant design requirements. Also refer to QDC - MP 1.2 – Design and siting standard for relevant design requirements. 

More information

Find more information about City Plan and to access the interactive mapping tool or phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

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Disclaimer: The content of this information sheet is a summary only and has been prepared to assist the reader to understand City Plan. Refer to the full City Plan document, entitled Brisbane City Plan 2014 for further detail.

03 July 2017