Steffan Harries

Types of Developments

Material Change of Use? Building Work? Operational Works? What do these terms actually mean?

Understanding what kind of development you are undertaking is the integral first step in knowing what approval you will require (if any). Here at Steffan Harries, we have put together a handy list of the different types of developments that you can undertake in Queensland.

Types of Developments

There are five different types of developments under the Planning Act 2016 (PA).

These include the following:

  • Material change of use
  • Reconfiguring a lot
  • Carry out building work, 
  • plumbing and drainage and/or 
  • operational work.

We’ve put together a handy explanation of each below to help you understand what each of them means.

Skip to the relevant section using the below links:

Material Change of Use

A material change of use (MCU) means a change in the way a property is used. This can include any of the following:

  • Starting a new use or activity in a property
  • Re-establishing a use that was previously abandoned (e.g. ceased to operate)
  • Increasing the intensity or scale of a particular activity on a property

For example, establishing a new house, a townhouse development, changing use from a shop to an office etc.

Whether or not a development includes an MCU component can be quite subjective, and depends on what the Council and what officer you’re dealing with.

Generally, if you’re substantially changing the appearance of a property, or clearly changing the use of a property or building, it will become an MCU, for the purposes of assessment under the Planning Scheme.

Reconfiguring a Lot

One of the more obvious forms of development that are defined under the PA is ‘reconfiguring a lot (ROL)’ and can involve any of the following:

  1. creating lots by subdividing another lot
  2. amalgamating 2 or more lots
  3. rearranging the boundaries of a lot by registering a plan of subdivision under the Land Act or Land Title Act
  4. dividing land into parts by agreement rendering different parts of a lot immediately available for separate disposition or separate occupation, other than by an agreement that is—
    1. a lease for a term, including renewal options, not exceeding 10 years
    2. an agreement for the exclusive use of part of the common property for a community titles scheme under the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 
  5. creating an easement giving access to a lot from a constructed road

If you’re proposing a land lot subdivision, it will almost certainly result in a reconfiguration of a lot component which could be assessable under a planning scheme.

A lot of people don’t realise that creating an Access Easement, such as a new driveway through someone else’s property, is actually Reconfiguring a Lot.

Building work

Sometimes, you can achieve an MCU component of a project without requiring any kind of building work. For example, turning a house into an office. Most of the time, however, you will require some kind of construction to achieve development.

Under the PA, this component could become ‘building work (BW)’ which means:

  1. The building, repairing, altering, underpinning (whether by vertical or lateral support), moving or demolishing a building or other structure
  2. Works regulated under the building assessment provisions
  3. Excavating or filling for, or incidental to, the activities stated in subparagraph (1)
  4. Excavating or filling that may adversely affect the stability of a building or other structure, whether on the premises on which the building or other structure is situated or on adjacent premises
  5. Supporting (vertically or laterally) premises for activities stated in subparagraph (1)

Filling and excavation associated with assessable building work, might be considered part of the building work and not operational work.

If the property is a Queensland Heritage place, the PA has some additional things that could become assessable building work, including the following:

  1. Altering, repairing, maintaining or moving a built, natural or landscape feature on the place
  2. Excavating, filling or other disturbances to premises that damage, expose or move archaeological artefacts, as defined under the Heritage Act, on the place
  3. Altering, repairing or removing artefacts that contribute to the place’s cultural heritage significance (furniture or fittings, for example)
  4. Altering, repairing or removing building finishes that contribute to the place’s cultural heritage significance (paint, wallpaper or plaster, for example)

Please note that building work does not include any of the following:

  1. Operations of any type and all things constructed or installed that allow taking or interfering with water under the Water Act 2000 
  2. Tidal works
  3. Works for reconfiguring a lot

Generally, if you’re building something, no matter how minor, it will most likely involve building work as defined under the PA and could be assessable under a Planning Scheme.

Plumbing and Drainage

As town planners, we very rarely (if ever) deal with plumbing and drainage applications. Nevertheless, it is important to know that plumbing and drainage is considered ‘development’ and could trigger for assessment under a local planning instrument (e.g. a planning scheme).

Plumbing work includes:

  • Installing, changing, extending, disconnecting, taking away, maintaining and testing the plumbing
  • Installing a water meter, as part of a water service provider’s infrastructure, to measure the volume of water supplied from the infrastructure to premises

Drainage work includes installing, changing, extending, disconnecting, taking away and maintaining—

  • Drainage
  • A greywater use facility
  • An on-site sewage facility

Operational Work

This is the last on the list for what is considered ‘development’ under the PA.

Operational work (OW) refers to work, other than building work or plumbing and drainage, that is in, on, over or under the premises, that materially affects the premises or the use of the premises. Any earthworks that aren’t considered part of the building work, or required as part of the plumbing and/or drainage work.

Operational work usually becomes an assessable component of development when earthworks are required to flatten a property. For example, landscaping such as retaining walls, terracing etc, or bulk earthworks necessary for stormwater discharge.

Where earthworks is required, it is not considered ‘operational work’ and becomes part of the ‘building work’. As a result, it can no longer trigger for assessment as operational work under the local council planning scheme

Unsure what kind of approval you need? Why not get in touch with one of our town planners to help?

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