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Approval processes for new houses and duplexes in residential zones have been streamlined under the new Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009. New regulations allow councils to manage approvals of houses and duplexes so that they will no longer need separate planning approval from council in certain circumstances.

Since the introduction of this simplified approval process, some councils have expressed their concerns regarding the impact of the regulation, particularly for the assessment of duplex style housing. To address these concerns, changes have been made through the Building and Other Legislation Amendment Regulation (No.1) 2010 to allow local governments to opt in to the simplified process for duplexes from 26 March 2010.

This means that where houses and duplexes proposed in a residential area do not need complex planning consideration, only a building application will be required. Councils may also include requirements for duplexes in their planning schemes which are self-assessable.

Councils can still manage their streetscapes through the Queensland Development Code for new houses and duplexes or they can set alternative standards for setbacks, height and other amenity issues through their planning schemes. Councils can now use the Queensland Development Code and adopt an amenity and aesthetics resolution to set appropriate standards for these local issues. A new part of the Queensland Development Code has been created to specifically cater for duplexes. Councils will be able to provide their important planning input through a faster and inexpensive referral process where required.

The new process for houses and, where councils opt in to the process, for duplexes is designed to help councils remove red tape for less complex applications like duplexes. It will allow applications to be assessed more quickly and reduce development costs. Building applications may be processed up to ten times faster than planning applications and expensive planning application fees, which can cost between $1200 and $6500, will be removed. These changes will allow development to proceed quickly to support growth, particularly in South East Queensland.

Facts and fiction

Fiction 1: This will lead to out-of-control development and result in loss of character.

Fact 1: The new process will not remove council development controls.

Under the new system, only a building application made to a private building certifier or a building certifier employed by the local government is required.

The process does not remove council requirements for houses and duplexes, including character and amenity considerations. For example, these may be made self-assessable in a planning scheme.

By law, councils retain control of development in their area through a range of planning controls and policies. For duplex developments, the council can now use the Queensland Development Code and adopt an amenity and aesthetics policy by resolution. This means that all building applications in areas with a council amenity or aesthetics resolution must be referred to the relevant council during the building approval process.

The Queensland Development Code permits the use of alternative planning provisions for all or some of the performance criteria within the part and if the development does not comply with the acceptable solution (or planning scheme equivalent) it must be referred to local government as a concurrence agency referral.

Councils can also direct a building certifier to refuse applications that are not in keeping with the council's planning requirements. Alternative solutions can be proposed by the building certifier or applicant and then referred to council. Council can choose to apply conditions or direct that the application be refused.

Fiction 2: The new process will lead to double the number of houses, driveways, cars, people, and half the trees.

Fact 2: Councils can still set dwelling density and lot sizes under this policy. The new process does not alter councils' powers to do this.

The new laws remove duplication in the approval process for a residential duplex. Councils will have the ability to allow low-risk development to take place more quickly. Bringing homes to the market faster will help make them more affordable. The new approval process only applies to houses or to duplexes where council has chosen to opt-in to the process in residential areas. Other planning zones are not affected.

A building application is still required for houses and duplexes. Council and private building certifiers will still be involved in the assessment of applications for duplexes and local planning controls will still apply.

Fiction 3: The government is ignoring community views.

Fact 3: The government is delivering on promises to the community about improving housing affordability.

The community and key industry stakeholders wanted simpler processes for low-risk development, but only where the proper checks and balances had occurred.

Industry and local governments, including Brisbane City Council, were consulted through the planning reform panel. This committee expressed strong support for simplifying the approval process for less complex housing applications.

The government has listened to community feedback about improving housing affordability. The community retains its role in developing planning schemes through consultative processes and councils can administer streetscapes through amenity and aesthetics resolutions where the community expresses legitimate concerns.

Council officers who provide advice to building certifiers will still be able to speak to local residents for any application. For information about appealing development applications or decisions, please contact the Building and Development Dispute Resolution Committees - a much cheaper and faster option than the Planning and Environment Court. Appeals to the committees are usually decided within five weeks and cost between $220 and $1973.

Further information

More details are available in the Development assessment - exempt development in residential zones fact sheet (PDF icon 257 KB).