Factors to Consider

Site Fall

fall means money; retaining walls, removal of excavations, edge beams of slabs and footings can add tens of thousands to a potential site. Site fall can also create issues when allowing for vehicle turns and movements, transitions between garages and grades of driveways.

North Orientation

Dwellings should receive good northern light to living rooms and open spaces. Sites that are orientated east-west , providing a driveway can be provided on the southern boundary means maximum opportunity to north. It also means the shadowing of the proposed building/s fall over the driveway – not your open space or an adjoining dwelling.


Sites with significant trees should be considered carefully. It is expected that a tree that is in good health, appropriate for a site and located in a reasonable position be kept as part of a development. Keep in mind too that trees on adjoining sites, or street trees are (in most cases), not able to be removed and even with pruning, the issues of root systems will effect site potential. In summary, all vegetation should be considered within 9m of the site and on it. Large sites may trigger additional net gain – net loss reports and other authority involvement. It is a good idea to obtain an arborist report early in the development concept phase.


Bushfire controls affects many sites across the State. There are specific requirements for the protection of homes and buildings, but more importantly, to protect human life – being the occupants and the emergency services who would need to access the site in a traumatic event.

There are two main ways a control may affect the land. A bushfire management overlay (BMO), where referral to the CFA is required to evaluate a proposal through a planning permit application. This is sought through the local Council. This may require a bushfire management statement to outline the risks to the property and how those risks are managed on the specific site. A bushfire management plan would accompany the application which is a map showing how this occurs.

The second way is land subject to bushfire. This is through the building regulations, and the building surveyor would assess a proposed bushfire attack level (BAL) plan, which would outline the construction requirements.

The BAL rating varies from BAL 12.5, 19, 29, 40 and FZ being the highest. (Flame zone). Any site that has a bushfire overlay or is affected by bushfire under the building regulations will always at least be the lowest rating of 12.5. There are proportionate and escalating costs as the risk increases. Careful consideration should be given to sites backing onto reserves or heavily trees areas because a development must prove that the risk is manageable and obviously you cannot control the land outside your title.

Overlays and Covenants

it is critical that this information be determined prior to purchasing a site. Overlays that include flood may make the site not feasible to build on, where a floor level requirement (including the garage) may be well over a metre out of the ground. Single dwelling convenants are common. Some covenants may be able to be removed, due to the intention of the control no longer being applicable, and a solicitors advice should be sought prior to purchase. Cultural Management plans, Climate change impact studies among other requirements may add $20-30k onto your development, so the discovery of the correct information and advice is critical.

Neighbourhood Character

in areas where there is a common theme in a street, a new development should respect that character, or at least be prepared to adopt some materials, roof forms, or windows to compliment. Included in this is site density. If you want to achieve a density of 1:250 and the rest of the area doesn’t go below 1:350, it will be unlikely to be supported. Some areas are also characterized as green areas, and development is not always welcomed. Expect many objections and add months onto the permit timeframe.


Under Rescode (Clause 55), the setbacks are determined by your neighbours, mostly the two adjoining but some councils ask for 5 each side and the 9 across the street (average of), so if you buy a site with neighbours well back from the frontage, expect to have a setback of 9m.

Many councils also have additional side and rear setback controls which will effect your proposal.


Is the site in a road zone – then you will probably not be able to reverse out of your driveway, and will have to ensure you have the ability to turn a vehicle on site and leave in a forwards direction. Is the site in a ‘Neighbourhood Residential Zone”? Zoning may prohibit the development in the first place.


Can the site get access to sewer, storm water, power etc, – if the invert of the storm water pit in the street in shallow, and the site is flat, there could be issues with drainage. Likewise sewer. Where is the power coming from, is it overhead, underground, which side of the street.

Considering all these factors, don’t forget the good points, sites with views, with green surrounds in good areas will fetch a far better resale value. The role of a good designer is to consider all of these points before putting ‘pen to paper’.