Health & Building Resources
This page gives information and links for information on Building Resources. If you need further advice on a particular building or development a Duty Health and Building Surveyor is available on the Ground Floor of Customer Service Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 12.30pm on 02 4934 9782 or please contact Customer Service on 02 49349 700.
- Retaining Walls
- Water Tanks
- Smoke Alarms
- Building in a Bushfire Prone Area
- Front Property Boundary
An easement is an area of land involved with a specific use of that land. Such uses are often for services such as stormwater drainage, and can also be for services such as powerlines. Each easement has restrictions placed upon it as to whether or not development can occur within that easement, which is decided upon by the consent authority. The consent authority may be Council, a developer, a utility provider or any other body that has caused the creation of an easement.
Council will not approve development of any type over easements to which it is not the consent authority, including retaining walls, pools, concrete slabs or garden sheds. Council only allows development over easements to which it is the consent authority if it can be shown with good reason that the purpose for which the easement was created is no longer valid.
Most boundary fences can be built without requiring Council approval under exempt development provisions, provided the lot is not identified as subject to flood controls, or heritage restrictions.
A fence height of 1800 mm is permissible along side and rear boundaries provided the fence structure does not extend in front of the building line. Side fences forward of the building line are to be a maximum of 1200mm. The building line is generally taken to be the front wall of the dwelling facing the street. These fences can be constructed of a variety of materials but a limitation exists for masonry structures. Brick and similar masonry fences are restricted to a maximum height of 1200 mm without the consent of Council.
Fences along the front boundary are to be a maximum of 1200mm high, and are required to be of an open style e.g. pickets; slats or wire mesh, with a minimum spacing of 25mm. Solid fences such as colorbond, masonry or palings with no spacing may not be constructed on the front boundary without Council consent.
Properties fronting more than one street (corner lots, etc.) may have side and rear boundary fences up to 1800mm as per regular properties which front only one street (indicated as A in the diagram below), and solid front fences along the common boundary up to 1200mm (B on the diagram).
The fence which runs parallel to the secondary road may have the fence placed on the boundary at 1800mm for 50% of the length of the boundary which faces the secondary street (C on the diagram).
The remainder of the secondary street boundary and front boundary may be constructed in an open style up to 1200mm (indicated as D on the diagram)
Retaining walls are becoming continually more popular, particularly with new home builders, but also for those looking to revamp the backyard. They can create aesthetically pleasing lines in gardens, and offer a great way to break up the backyard.
Most retaining walls, like any development, require Council approval. However, some can be built under exempt development provisions providing they are not higher than 600mm from natural ground level, are not within 1m of a boundary and comply with the conditions of the State Governments ‘Exempt Development Code’
The weight of soil behind a retaining wall can create massive hydrostatic pressure, in some cases, causing poorly designed walls to collapse. For this reason, any retaining wall over 1000mm from natural ground level requires engineers certification be submitted with an application for a construction certificate.
Council also requires that where retaining walls are located on boundaries, that the associated drainage pipes and backfill are also located entirely within the respective allotment, and walls do not exceed 900mm if retaining cut, and 600mm if retaining fill as shown in the diagram below.
For more information regarding Council requirements for a retaining wall, please contact Council's Duty Building Surveyor.
Australia is a dry continent and we all have a responsibility to conserve water. Roof collection of rain water provides a great alternative supply for gardens, car washing, pool top up, etc. The NSW Department of Health recommends that rainwater from tanks not be used for human consumption where a reticulated town supply is available.
On land zoned R1 and RU, residential water tanks up to 10,000 litres may be installed without approval providing they comply with the State Governments “Exempt Development Code”. A copy of the code can be found on the NSW Legislation website.
It is important that all tanks are installed in accordance with manufacturer's specifications. Particular attention needs to be given to the supporting base upon which the tank will be located. Every 1000 litres of water weighs 1 tonne and as many tanks can contain a considerable amount of water, proper base preparation is essential. This will ensure the tank does not lean or topple or cause damage to pipe/drainage lines. Additionally, tanks should not impede access for building/fence maintenance or inspection as this may lead to problems later on.
The overflow from a tank is required to be disposed of in an approved manner, so as not to cause a flooding or nuisance problem to adjoining properties. In most cases this will mean connecting the overflow into an approved stormwater system for disposal to the street gutter or to a drainage easement.
New houses and certain additions and alterations are required to provide water tanks under current legislative provisions (known as BASIX). In the interest of conserving water the tanks are connected to laundries, toilets and garden taps. Town water is used to ‘top up’ the tanks to ensure continuous supply is maintained in dry times. Owners of existing houses can provide similar systems however it is important to note that the work must be carried out by a licensed plumber to ensure a safe supply and to prevent contamination of the town water supply. The BASIX website provides additional information.
House fires can spread quickly and are very dangerous to human life. Smoke alarms are an effective early warning device and are easy to install. All new dwellings require smoke alarms be installed in accordance with the Building Code of Australia (BCA). On 1 May 2006 an amendment to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation came into force which also required all existing dwellings be fitting with smoke alarms.
The BCA requires all new dwellings have smoke alarms that comply with AS3786 installed on every storey of the dwelling. Smoke alarms must be installed between each area containing bedrooms and the remainder of the house. In stories not containing bedrooms a smoke alarm must be installed in the vicinity of the stairway. Care should be taken to ensure that smoke alarms are not installed in areas of dead-air. More details of installation positions can be found in the Building Code of Australia.
Existing dwellings are now required to have smoke alarms installed with the same placement requirements as new dwellings.
Types of Smoke Alarms & how to avoid false alarms
There are two types of smoke detectors. The first type is called a photoelectric smoke detector which works using a light source and a photocell. Smoke entering the smoke detector disrupts the light beam between the light source and photocell, causing the alarm to sound. The second type of smoke detector is the ionisation smoke detector. Ionisation smoke detectors have a small amount of radioactive material which creates a current that runs through ionised air. Smoke entering the detector disrupts the current running through the ionised air causing the alarm to sound. Normal household activities may cause an alarm to sound, such as steam from a bathroom, or smoke from burnt toast. Smoke alarms should be located away from areas where these activities take place. In areas where this is not possible, ionisation type alarms are more suitable near bathrooms, whereas photoelectric type alarms are more suitable near cooking appliances.
Balustrades are required on the side of any verandah, balcony, mezzanine, stairway, ramp, corridor, or the like which is not bounded by a wall, and is more than 1m above the surface beneath.
Balustrades on stairs, ramps and the like must be a minimum of 865mm above the nosing of the stair treads or the ramp.
Verandahs, balconies and the like must have a balustrade of at least 1m above the floor.
Any opening in a balustrade must restrict a 125mm sphere from passing through that opening.
Floors greater than 4m above the surface beneath must not have any horizontal elements that facilitate climbing between 150mm and 760mm above the floor.
Horizontal Wire Balustrades
Horizontal wire balustrades are allowable on floors up to 4m in height. The types and sizes of wire allowed to be used for a balustrade can be found in table 188.8.131.52 of the Building Code of Australia, Vol 2. Types of wire are specified by both the lay of the wire and the overall thickness of the wire. For example, a 3mm thick wire with 7 strands of wire with 7 wires in each strand would be written as 7x7 (3mm).
Building In A Bushfire Prone Area
Trees and forests are a vital part of the environment and provide a tranquil setting for both people and animals. Trees also result in properties being at a higher risk from bushfire.
The result for people wishing to build in a bushfire prone area varies depending on a number of variables including the proximity to significant vegetation, the type of vegetation, and the slope of the land. All development applications for single dwellings located in a bushfire prone area require a bushfire assessment be performed. As a result of this assessment bushfire construction requirements may be imposed on the proposed dwelling.
More information on building on land mapped as bushfire prone can be found on the Rural Fire Service website. Relevant documents include Planning for Bushfire Protection and the 'Single Dwelling Application Kit'.
Front Property Boundary
Between the front boundaries of properties is an area of land called a road reserve. This area of land can contain elements such as roads, footpaths, street trees and services. However these usually do not take up the entire road reserve. Importantly, the area between the front boundary of a property and the back of the kerb is called the footway. Please click on the link below as the diagram shows a typical residential street.
Footway Width (PDF - 35kb)
The road reserve is not a set width, nor is the road always in the centre of the road reserve. This means that the footway area varies in size from street to street, and sometimes even in the same street. Property boundaries including front property boundaries can be established from existing survey pegs or recent site surveys. However where there is any doubt, a surveyor can mark out the boundary lines by referring to state surveying marks.
The handling and removal of asbestos and asbestos containing materials is a regulated activity and must be carried out in accordance with certain guidelines. The link below provides access to fact sheets on asbestos prepared by the Safework NSW:
The following website also contains useful information about asbestos and how to safely manage asbestos in and around the home.