Common Town Planning Terms & Their Meanings

The use of specialised terms and acronyms in town planning can be confusing for those who are new to property development. We’re often asked for clarification about commonly used terms, so we’ve put together a short list to help demystify some town planning jargon.

Building Approval (BA)

A BA is issued by a private building certifier in Queensland and refers to how a building will be constructed.  It’s required to ensure the structural integrity and building complies with relevant building laws like the National Construction Code.

City Plan (aka Planning Scheme)

A statutory document that governs land use and development in a local government area. It is an aspirational document that guides growth, regulates land uses and is used by and on behalf of the community to make cities we want to live, work, and play in.

Development Approval (DA)

The regulatory approval you must obtain before the development commences.  Approval is issued by State or Local government authority, with or without conditions.  The DA authorises assessable development to take place.

Material Change of Use

This refers to a change in the way a property is used. This could include:

  • Starting a new use or activity on a property e.g. establishing a tourist attraction such as a farm stay
  • Re-establishing a use that was previously abandoned
  • Increasing the scale or intensity of an activity on a property.

Material Change of Use Code Assessment vs Impact Assessment Development Application

Code Assessment: 

  • A development Permit is required for Code Assessable development.
  • An assessment is made against all Assessable Development Benchmarks within the applicable Codes of the City Plan.
  • An assessment is to have regard to the purpose of the applicable Codes.
  • A Code Assessable application should generally be approved by Council if deemed in accordance with the Code. If the development does not comply Council should allow for a conditional approval or an approval subject to amendments.
  • A Code Assessable application is not required to be publicly notified. 

Impact Assessment:

  • A development Permit is required for Impact Assessable development.
  • An assessment is against the whole of the City Plan including the Strategic Framework to the extent relevant. 
  • An assessment is made against all Assessable Development Benchmarks within the applicable Codes of the City Plan.
  • An assessment is to have regard to the purpose of the applicable Codes.
  • An Impact Application is:
  1. Discretionary allowing Council to either approve or refuse the application.
  2. Subject to public notification (15 or 30 Business Days). This includes on-site signage, advertisement placed in the local newspaper and letters sent to adjoining landowners.
  3. Opportunity for objections and third-party Appeal rights.
  4. Lawful objectors may elect to appeal Council’s decision to the Planning & Environment Court.

Operational Works

This refers to work other than building, plumbing or drainage work that affects the use of a premises e.g., excavating or clearing vegetation

Reconfiguration of a Lot

Often referred to as subdividing, but it can also include:

  • Subdividing a lot into two or more lots
  • Creating an easement
  • Re-arranging the boundaries of a lot
  • Some survey activities or lease-term agreements.

For any questions related to town planning or development, give us a call!

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