Steffan Harries

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Got a question? We might already have the answers! Take a look at our FAQs!

Town planning is a complicated space and we’ve been listening to your questions for years. So we’ve put together a detailed list of Frequently Asked Questions with the objective to help you find your own answers!

Planning Jargon

An ‘overlay’ refers to an additional layer of regulations or provisions applied to specific areas within a city or region. These overlays are introduced to address particular planning considerations, such as preserving heritage sites, protecting the environment, managing flood-prone areas, or promoting certain design standards. By incorporating these overlays into the existing zoning framework, town planning schemes aim to ensure that development within these designated areas aligns with specific guidelines and objectives. This helps to safeguard and enhance the unique characteristics and values associated with these areas, fostering sustainable and well-planned development within the broader context.

Dwelling house means a residential use of premises involving—

  1. one dwelling and any domestic outbuildings associated with the dwelling; or
  2. two dwellings, one of which is a secondary dwelling, and any domestic outbuildings associated with either dwelling.

Not to be confused with a ‘Dwelling house, a Dwelling unit means the use of premises containing a non-residential use for a single dwelling, other than a dwelling for a caretaker of the non-residential use.

Exemption certificates provide property owners with an exemption from the need to obtain approval for assessable development. These certificates are issued on rare occasions when the categorisation of the development is deemed unsuitable or its impact is deemed insignificant.

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To submit a development application that requires code assessment or impact assessment, DA Form 1 must be provided to the relevant assessment authority (e.g. Local Council). However, if your application solely pertains to development involving building work, you may only need DA Form 2 – Building work instead.

The assessment manager is the designated body entrusted with the task of evaluating and making decisions on development applications. Typically, this responsibility lies with the appropriate local government authority. As per the provisions of the Planning Regulation 2017, the assessment manager for different types of developments is determined. In cases where a development application necessitates public notification, the assessment manager assumes the additional responsibility of reviewing and considering any submissions received concerning the application throughout the notification period.

MCU means ‘Material Change of Use’ means a change in the way a property is being used. For example, when a building is being used as a Shop and converts to being used as an Office.

GFA means ‘Gross Floor Area’. In Queensland, gross floor area, for a building, means the total floor area of all storeys of the building, measured from the outside of the external walls and the centre of any common walls of the building, other than areas used for—

 

  1. building services, plant or equipment; or
  2. access between levels; or
  3. a ground floor public lobby; or
  4. a mall; or
  5. parking, loading or manoeuvring vehicles; or

unenclosed private balconies, whether roofed or not.

It depends on the context. DA might mean ‘Development Application’ but it also might mean ‘Development Approval’. So you might need a DA to get your DA. Sorry for the confusion but we don’t make the rules here at Steffan Harries.

A lot which is:

 

less than 450m2; or

a rear lot of less than 600m2 excluding an access way.

General Enquiries

A private consultant town planner plays a crucial role in understanding the rules and regulations set by the Council. Their primary objective is to optimise the chances of success for your development while minimising time and costs. Whether you are planning a modest carport or an extensive 100-lot subdivision, the absence of a town planner significantly raises the risk of facing refusals or expensive delays.

Any kind of development could require a town planning permit whether it be a small part of demolition to an old house, or changing the use of a building.

Yes. There is plenty of online resources that can empower you to prepare, lodge and negotiate your own planning approval.

Generally, a junior planner may charge between $120-180+GST per hour, going to a more senior up to $300+GST per hour, and Directors can charge upwards of $500+GST per hour.

Most planning firms (including Steffan Harries) will provide an up front quote that includes all costs associated with an application vs. charging hourly.

The complexity of town planning issues is constantly increasing. An illustrative example is the Brisbane City Plan 2014, which spans a staggering 5500 pages. Within those pages lie legislation that could have either negative or positive implications for your project’s outcome. Our team possesses a direct line of communication with experienced and influential Council personnel, allowing us to obtain swift answers to queries. With over 30 years of experience in navigating these extensive documents, our profound understanding guarantees efficient service and optimal outcomes for our clients. By engaging our services, you can expect reduced project costs, expedited commencement, and maximised returns.

If you’re proposing a new street, then you may get the opportunity to name it!

Depending on the zone, the overlays, and the scale of the extension, not all will require approval. It is always best to get in touch with one of our town planners to discuss.

Generally, any gym (indoor sport and recreation) use is intended in being within a commercial zone and not within an industrial zone where warehouses are located. Approval from Council is likely required.

Spray Booths generally fall under the definition of a Medium Impact B definition which largely needs approval within Low and Medium Impact Industry zones. It’s always best to check with one of our town planners.

Yes, a self-storage warehouse falls under the definition of a ‘warehouse’ which is intended to be within an industrial zone.

In almost all instances, where you are increasing the Gross Floor Area of an industrial use (e.g. installing a mezzanine), approval will be required from Council to account for the intensification of the use.

Referral Requirements

You can search the DAMS map to see if your property is affected by a state-interest. Our planners can then investigate Schedule 10 of the Planning Regulation 2017 to see if a referral is required.

SARA is the ‘State Assessment and Referral Agency’.

In most instances, if you’re proposing a new use, or intensifying your existing one (e.g. subdividing your land) and you are within 25m of a state-controlled road, you’ll likely need a referral to SARA.

Yes. SARA offer pre-lodgement meetings just like Council’s do. Learn more about the pre-lodgement process here.

Information Requests

RFI means ‘Request For Information’. This is when an assessment manager will generally have issues and raise any issues or concerns they have with a development application. Commonly called an ‘Information Request’.

If Council doesn’t have any issues to raise, they do not need to issue an information request and can proceed straight to making a decision.

Yes. In the event you are time poor, we can opt out of receiving an information request to save 10 business days of assessment time. That said, we may miss integral moments to be able to negotiate the development application so it is generally not recommended.

Public Notification

In most circumstances, we will not be able to assist you in writing an objection to a development application. If in doubt, send us more details about your objection for consideration from our team.

Generally, 15 business days. In some instances (e.g. for Variation requests), 30 business days may be required.

No. The public notice land sign must be erected and stay in place without removal for the full period. This includes any non-business days (e.g. Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays).

Depending on where you are located, and the number of adjoining land owners, public consultation will cost between $1000-2500+GST including the cost of the notice in the local paper and printing.

Yes, you can make a submission on any development application that has been lodged to Council. That said, Council do not need to take your concerns into account and you will not have any appeal rights should Council approval it anyway!

Most of the time, your town planning consultant will do your public notification as part of their service. Sometimes, it can also sub-contracted to consultants who specialise in public notification.

Approvals

In accordance with the Planning Act 2016:

 

Material Change of Use: 6 years

 

Reconfiguring a lot: 4 years

 

Building Works: 2 years.

 

That said, Council can opt to set a different timeframe should they choose.

Yes. So long as you lodge your request before the approval lapses. Get in touch with one of our town planners who can assist immediately.

Yes, this process is called “Change representations’. There are strict timeframes that you must adhere to so we always recommend reaching out to one of our town planners to discuss asap.

Fast-Tracking Application

RiskSMART is an expedited approval procedure designed for low-risk development applications that are ready for decision-making. Before submitting your application, please verify that the proposed development aligns with the criteria specified for lodgement and application type

Brisbane City Council and Logan City Council both have fast-tracked approval systems. Steffan Harries is accredited to provide Risksmart services in both of these regions.

Yes! Depending on the proposal, extensions to Queenslanders in the character overlays can be eligible for the fast-tracked development approval process.

Yes! If your carport application has triggered for low-risk reasons, we may be able to fast-track it through the Risksmart process.

Infrastructure Charges

Trunk infrastructure refers to the essential network of public infrastructure that supports a region or community as a whole. It typically includes major components such as roads, bridges, water supply systems, sewage systems, power distribution networks, public transportation systems, and other critical facilities. Trunk infrastructure is designed to accommodate a significant volume of users and provide vital services to a large area, connecting various communities and enabling economic development, transportation, and essential utilities.

The approval conditions will specify when infrastructure charges will need to be paid. Generally, this will be before plan sealing for a subdivision, or before final building approval in the case of a new building (e.g. units, shops etc.).

As of June 2023, the cost of a new allotment in Queensland is ~$31,000.

Throughout Queensland, the majority of Council’s do not charge infrastructure contributions for a grannyflat with the exception of Logan City Council.

Calculating infrastructure charges can be an extremely complicated process. In most cases, you can review the local government infrastructure charges resolution, but in more complicated cases, we recommend using a specialist consultant or town planner.

Your approval conditions will determine when the infrastructure charges are payable. But generally, they are payable before your plan sealing (i.e. before your new titles are issued), or before the commencement of a land use (e.g. before final building approval).

Yes. For any extension or intensification of a land use, infrastructure charges are very likely payable.

Levels of Assessment

Certain developments can be classified as “accepted development,” meaning they do not require a formal development application if they satisfy specific requirements outlined in the local planning scheme or the Planning Regulation 2017. As the town planner, if the applicant conducts a self-assessment of the development against these requirements, you can proceed without needing written permission from the Council to commence the activity.

A code assessable application undergoes a specific evaluation process based on predetermined assessment benchmarks outlined in the planning scheme. The assessor’s role is to approve the development application if it adheres to these benchmarks or if compliance can be attained by imposing certain conditions.

Unlike code assessment, impact assessment is not limited to a specific set of assessment benchmarks. It can be conducted by considering the prescribed assessment benchmarks, as well as other relevant factors specified by regulations. These additional factors can include planning needs or the current context, allowing for a more comprehensive evaluation of the project’s potential impact. This flexibility enables the assessment process to adapt to changing circumstances and ensures a holistic review of the development proposal.

“Accepted development subject to requirements” refers to a category of development that is considered permissible without the need for a formal development application. However, certain conditions and requirements must still be met in order for the development to proceed. These requirements are typically outlined in the local planning scheme or the Planning Regulation 2017. It means that as long as the proposed development satisfies the specified conditions and meets the prescribed standards, it can proceed without the need for additional approval.

A ‘RAD’ is a ‘Requirement for Accepted Development’. The same thing as ‘Accepted subject to requirements’.

Zones

Local Government Areas are divided into various zones that dictate the allowable development on each site. In addition, the Planning Schemes subdivide certain zones into precincts, each assigned a unique number. These precincts offer more detailed specifications regarding the specific types of development intended for particular locations.

The Centre zone permits development in both large and small centers throughout the city, accommodating a range of activities including business, retail, professional services, administrative services, entertainment, cultural activities, and residential purposes. There are four distinct types of centre zones:

 

  1. Principal centres, exemplified by locations like Chermside.
  2. Major centres, represented by areas such as Toowong.
  3. District centres, including places like Cannon Hill.

Neighbourhood centres, which consist of clusters of shops along Cavendish Road in Coorparoo.

A ‘Centre activity’ is a group definition used by Brisbane City Council to more easily refer to a group of commercial land uses. a ‘Centre activity’ includes the following defined uses:

 

  • caretaker’s accommodation
  • childcare centre
  • club
  • community care centre
  • community use
  • dwelling unit
  • educational establishment
  • emergency services
  • food and drink outlet
  • function facility
  • health care service
  • indoor sport and recreation
  • office
  • parking station, if bicycle parking
  • place of worship
  • sales office
  • service industry, if less than a gross floor area of 100m2
  • shop
  • shopping centre
  • short-term accommodation
  • substation
  • telecommunications facility, if a broadcasting station or television station
  • theatre

veterinary service

“Res B” is a superseded zoning that was common in Brisbane. The majority of these zones ended up becoming Low-Medium Density Residential zones (LMR), but not in all instances. We always recommend using the latest and most up-to-date mapping to determine your zone.

Plan Sealing

You will need evidence to show that you have complied with all of your conditions of approval. When in doubt, give one of our town planners a call.

At Steffan Harries, we have been doing plan sealing for 15+ years. Get in touch with one of our experienced town planners today.

The only person who can prepare a survey plan is a qualified and certified Cadastral Surveyor. Steffan Harries, however, can assist you in getting some quotes!

Not until your Plan Sealing is complete. That is, unless there are conditions allowing the construction of a house (e.g. a MCU component).

Accordion Content

Pre-Lodgement Meetings

Yes. We always opt for our pre-lodgement meetings to be Commercial in Confidence and confidential. We also do not share our findings of a pre-lodgement meeting with other clients without your consent.

It mostly takes 2-4 weeks to book in a pre-lodgement meeting but it can be much faster depending on how busy Council are.

In most instances, you will receive a formal set of meeting minutes from Council. Where they don’t, our town planners will always be taking our own record of the meeting for safe keeping.

Yes. Most Council’s will allow you to attend pre-lodgement meetings via Teams.

Yes. All Council’s allow for in-person pre-lodgement meetings. That said, it may take longer to organise Council officers to attend in person so we always recommend the online version to expedite things.

Show Cause Notices

The first thing you can do is contact a town planning consultant. Our town planners have expert experience in guiding clients through the Show Cause process.

Unless you have received an Enforcement Notice, a Show Cause Notice is merely a claim that you have done something wrong. Until you make representations, you should not need to stop operating.

The letter you receive from Council will have a deadline in it, usually 30 days after you receive it.

Where Council is unsure if you have committed a development offence, they may opt to send you an ‘education letter’. This can sometimes be followed by a Show Cause Notice or Enforcement Action depending on the circumstances.

 

An education letter is a great opportunity to open a dialogue with Council about the issue.

Planning Appeals

20 business days starting the day after your development approval is dated.

This is a great question that we always ask ourselves. Where time is of the essence, sometimes we’ll recommend accepting the conditions of an approval, allowing for a Change to the application later on via Minor Change. If you aren’t in a hurry, it is always worth negotiating the decision notice.

What we now call ‘Change representations’ under the Planning Act 2016, was called ‘Request to negotiate the decision notice’ under the Sustainable Planning Act 2008.

No. You cannot appeal a Code Assessable development application unless you can demonstrate there has been a significant non-compliance with the planning scheme. This is called the “Wednesbury Principle”.

Types of Approvals

Self-assessable is a term used under the Sustainable Planning Act 2008 for development that does not require approval so long as you can comply with the relevant codes set by the planning scheme. That is, it is self-assessed. The term has now been replaced under the Planning Act 2016 as ‘Accepted Development’.

Development that does not require a Development Application (DA) can be classified into two subsets: Accepted Development (exempt) and Accepted Development that must comply with specific requirements (previously known as self-assessable).

Reconfiguring a lot (Subdivisions)

A lot which is:

 

less than 450m2; or

a rear lot of less than 600m2 excluding an access way.

The distance between two places, measured from reasonable pedestrian access points and along roads with verges, off-road pathways or other reasonable pedestrian connections.

Once you get your approvals, you need to proceed to the Operational Works phase. This generally involves civil engineers, contractors, and surveyors. Steffan Harries can also assist in this phase.

A “splitter block” refers to an ideal parcel of land suitable for subdivision or lot reconfiguration, typically resulting in the creation of two separate lots from a single property. A splitter block already consists of two allotments held under a single title, allowing the possibility to divide them into two individual titles for the purpose of selling separate parcels of land. However, the process may not be as straightforward as it seems.

Character Houses

A ‘character’ house is any Dwelling built in 1946 or earlier (pre-1947) in Queensland.

A ‘character’ house is only protected from demolition if fulfils the following criteria:

  1. The house is built in 1946 or earlier; AND

The property as the Traditional Building Character, Commercial Character, Heritage or Pre-1911 overlay.

From churches to worker’s cottages, Queenslanders and traditional corner stores, to Californian bungalows and pre-federation houses, Brisbane’s heritage and character buildings reflect the best of Australian architecture and the city’s local history. In order to protect Brisbane’s past and maintain the architectural heritage and character of the city and suburbs, their planning scheme outlines requirements for appropriate development in Brisbane’s older suburbs, and for renovating, demolishing or removing some buildings. The object of the planning scheme is to achieve the following:

  • Development protects residential buildings constructed in 1946 or earlier that individually or collectively contribute to giving the areas in the Traditional building character overlaytheir traditional character and traditional building character.
  • Development protects a residential building or a part of a building constructed in 1946 or earlier where it forms a part of a character streetscape comprising residential dwellings constructed in 1946 or earlier nearby in the street within the Traditional building character overlay.
  • Development retains a residential building constructed in 1946 or earlier that reflects the traditional building character other than ‘timber and tin’ architecture.

Prescribed Accepted Development means works that do not require approval. For example, it is ‘exempt’ from assessment.

The Traditional Building Character overlay places a higher level of protection of pre-1911 houses despite not being in the ‘Pre-1911 overlay’ so it is important to find the age of your house before planning an extension.

Any house built pre-1947 in Queensland.

Have a question we haven't answered? Get in touch with one of our town planners!

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A member of our admin team will be happy to take down your details and send them to a planner for assessment. Call us on 33170042.

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