FAQs

What is my property's zoning?

The zoning of a property determines what it can and cannot be used for as well as what can and can not be built on it.

What is an R-Code?

The Residential Design Codes (R-Codes) is a State Planning Policy which provides a comprehensive basis for the control of residential development throughout Western Australia. The R-Codes aims to address emerging design trends, promote sustainability, improve clarity and highlight assessment pathways to facilitate better residential design outcomes throughout Western Australia.

An R-Code indicates the density and design guidelines that should apply to each lot within the Residential zone and is shown on the local planning scheme maps.

For more information about R-Codes please visit the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage web site www.dplh.wa.gov.au.

Planning in bushfire prone areas

It is the purpose of the bushfire prone declaration to improve the level of protection of life and property in the event of a bushfire. This will be achieved by ensuring that all new buildings are constructed to a standard that will reduce the risk of ignition from any bushfire that may occur in the area. A BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) assessment will be required to determine the level of fire intensity that may impact on the building and the level of construction will be dependent upon this assessment. The assessment is based upon vegetation type, density and proximity to property.

In December 2015, the WA Planning Commission announced the publication of key bushfire related land use documents. The documents include State Planning Policy No. 3.7: Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas (SPP 3.7.). For further information, please refer to the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage website www.dplh.wa.gov.au for guidelines on what is required, including information on Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Assessments. An interactive map of designated ‘bush fire prone areas’ is available for searching on the DFES website www.dfes.wa.gov.au.

For more information please view our BAL Assessment Fact-sheet and/or contact our Planning staff.

Granny flats / ancillary accommodation

Ancillary Accommodation means a self-contained dwelling on the same lot as a single house, which may be attached to, integrated with, or detached from the single house (as per Residential Design Codes). Ancillary accommodation may not need planning consent if it complies with the R-Codes and is in a Residential zone, otherwise an Application for Development Approval is required.

For more information please view our Ancillary Accommodation Fact-sheet and/or contact our Planning staff.

Non-habitable structures (outbuildings, sheds etc)

Non-habitable structures are not attached to a dwelling and commonly known as outbuildings, sheds, gazebos, carports, sea containers and shade houses. To check what size shed you are permitted to build on your property, please firstly check your zone and lot size here then refer to the Non-Habitable Structures policy listed below. You will be required to apply for both planning consent and a building permit in most cases. Please contact us for further information.

Fencing

Front fences in the Residential zone are to comply with the Residential Design Codes.

For more information please view our Front Fence Fact-sheet and/or contact our Planning staff.

Retaining wall

A retaining wall is a structure designed and constructed to support any material, usually soil, where the natural ground level has been altered by cutting (lowering) or filling (raising).

A fence should not be used to retain soil unless it has been specifically designed to do so.

How close can I build to a retaining wall?

If you are building on the low side of a retaining wall, you can locate the building (house or shed or garage) close to the wall but you must ensure you don't undermine the footings; e.g. if you are building on the high side of a 1m retaining wall you should generally be 1m away for single storey buildings or 1.5m away for two storey buildings - any closer would require engineer's certification.

Do I need to contact my neighbours if I build a retaining wall on my boundary?

A retaining wall over 500mm will need development approval and neighbours will be invited to comment. You will also need to contact your neighbours and have them complete a BA20 form if you are cutting and the retaining wall is on the boundary, as it may affect the integrity of structures on their property.  The BA20 form is lodged at the same time as the Building Permit application.

Do I need engineers certification for a retaining wall that is 1 metre high?

You will need a Structural Engineers Certification for a retaining wall for: any cut; and for fill over 500mm.

Boundary setbacks

How close can I build to my boundary?

Dwellings and outbuildings - check the zone first, if Residential refer to the Residential Design Codes; if other zones - refer to the local planning scheme. The acceptable setback for building bulk in a residential zone varies and is dependent on the length and height of the wall. In addition, if the finished floor level is above 500mm the acceptable setback for privacy varies depending on the use of that room i.e. where there are major openings to bedrooms and studies setback is 4.5m; for major opening to habitable rooms other than bedrooms and studies 6m; and unenclosed outdoor active habitable spaces (deck, balcony etc) 7.5m.

For more information please view our Ancillary Accommodation Fact-sheet and/or contact our Planning staff.

How close can a patio, carport or outbuilding be built to the boundary?

A free-standing patio/carport/outbuilding or an 'open' patio/carport attached to a house may have the posts on the boundary, but the Building Code requires that the gutters be within the property confides.

Note: You may need Development Approval to have the posts on the boundary or closer than 1m, so check with us for advice.

Home business

Do I need to apply for approval to offer tutoring from home?

This would require approval as a home business or home occupation. As people will be visiting the home, we would ask that you limit the numbers to ensure that there is no more impact on the surrounding neighbours than what might ordinarily be expected of a residential dwelling i.e. appointment only, limit daily visitors etc. Each application would have to be considered on its own merit and approval cannot be guaranteed prior to assessment.

Bed and breakfast

What is the process involved in applying to operate a Bed and Breakfast from my home?

Development Approval is required to add this additional use to your dwelling.

It is a simple process of changing the use of the building and as part of the development assessment process, the application is referred to our building and health departments. Listed below are some requirements for your information (these are assessed during the process and you will be advised of these at approval but it is in your interest to be aware of them prior to application).

The use is considered a 'vulnerable land use' with regard to fire protection so, if you are in a Bush Fire Prone Area, you may need a Bushfire Management Plan prepared.  Please check with our enquiry staff if you will need to arrange this.

The health officer will need to inspect the property for initial approval and they will contact you to arrange this.  There are no fees associated with this initial inspection and no forms need to be completed.  If food is provided you will need to register as a food business which means you will need to complete a registration form and pay the current registration fee.  An annual fee will be charged according to the risk involved - this fee varies in value dependent on the risk (i.e. low risk (continental breakfast) or medium risk (bacon and eggs).  For very low risk there may be no need for registration, however, this should be discussed at the initial inspection. To find out which fee may apply, please contact one of our enquiry staff.

What specific standards are required within my home for a Bed and Breakfast?

Additional on-site car parking bays at the ratio of 1 bay per bedroom are to be provided (which should not interfere with vehicular access). The parking bays should be shown on the site plan to be submitted with the application.

Smoke alarms are to be installed and must comply with the Building Code of Australia (BCA) Volume 2 requirements – e.g. the BCA requires smoke alarms to be installed in each bedroom and every corridor or hallway associated with a bedroom and to be connected to evacuation lighting.

If the Bed and Breakfast is proposed in an existing dwelling, facilities for disabled access are not necessary. However, if additions to an existing house or a complete new house is being proposed with a portion allocated for use as a B&B then disabled facilities must be provided (the building is then classified as Class 1b building). Refer to the Building Code of Australia Vol One. Part A3 Classification of Buildings and Structures A3.2 (b).

Holiday homes

What is the process involved in applying to operate my home as a commercial holiday home?

Development Approval is required to change the use of dwelling from residential to short stay accommodation.

For more information please view our Holiday Homes Fact-sheet and/or contact our Planning staff.

What approvals do I need to build a cubby house?

Cubby houses (as well as pergolas, play fixtures and dog kennels) are not included in the definition of building and are exempt from planning control. A building permit will be required, however, if the cubby house structure exceeds 10m2 or has an overall height of 2.4m.

How do I know if my application is likely to be approved?

Applications for planning approval are assessed with reference to the requirements of the scheme, which include the permissibility of the use ('P', 'D', 'A' or 'X') and the requirements for development, such as setbacks, height, building bulk (plot ratio), parking, access and design. In its assessment of applications for planning approval, the local government is required to give consideration to a range of matters, which include the aims of the scheme, the objectives of the relevant zone, state and local policies and the likely effect on the amenity of the locality. Applicants should take into consideration these issues in the design and formulation of proposals.

How is the effect on the amenity of a locality determined?

The definition of amenity refers to all those factors which go to make up the character of an area, such as the surrounding landscape, streetscape, the age and condition of housing, views, privacy and all of those matters that a resident, visitor or passer by would consider to characterise the area. The issue then is whether the proposal in question is consistent with that amenity, and whether it will be protected or enhanced by proposal. While this is subjective, there is often a level of consensus within the community as to whether a particular proposal adversely affects the amenity of the locality, and it is the responsibility of the local government to make this judgment in relation to the particular proposal. This can sometimes be assisted by direct community input in response to public advertisement or notification.

What can I do if I want the zoning of my land changed?

There is no formal procedure for seeking a change to the zoning of land, although most local governments will consider requests for re-zoning where they are well founded. An alternative to a change in the base zoning of land is to include the designation of an additional uses, which may allow for one or more additional uses to those already provided for under the base zoning. In either case, an amendment to the scheme would be required, and the decision to initiate amendments rests with the local government.

What can I do if I don't agree with a proposed zoning or re-zoning?

At the time of a scheme review or advertised amendment to a local planning scheme there is an opportunity to make submissions (which may include an objection) on any aspect of the scheme, and this includes the zoning of land, irrespective of its ownership. Any submissions received are required to be considered by the local government in making its recommendation to the Minister for Planning, and will also be considered and reported on by the Western Australian Planning Commission in its advice to the Minister who has responsibility for the final approval of the scheme or amendment.