The ACT Government recently approved and implemented a Variation to the ACT Territory Plan, referred to as Draft Variation 369. This variation has created a variety of changes in the Single Dwelling Housing Code; the main code used in assessing Extensions.
Whilst the public and builders were made partly aware of the nature of the changes, the exact impact, wording, and application remained unclear until the new codes implementation on the 1st of September.
The first change is related to Private Open Space, which is the area of your block used for outdoor living. The minimum area that must be shown for this space has increased, with this minimum for the majority of blocks being increased by 50sqm. The minimum planting area has also been increased due to these changes.
The second change is the introduction of a new rules, referred to as Site Coverage, which is the percentage of the site covered by buildings and structures. For large blocks, your maximum site coverage is 40%. For mid-sized blocks, it is 60%, and for compact blocks it is 70%.
The final change is related to tree planting and canopy coverage. The ACT Government is now mandating that a certain level of canopy coverage already be provided, or that new trees are planted so that a canopy can be created. This means that all proposed developments on single dwelling blocks will need to provide a number of new trees in the block, if larger trees do not already exist. The tree requirements are dictated by the size of the block, so it is important to cross reference your block with the relevant provisions.
A series of FAQs have been included below to explain these changes in more details.
Planning legislation is constantly changing, whether it be through formal amendments or the reinterpretation of existing codes. Our expert planning team is constantly reviewing and updating our processes to match these changes, and will be able to work with you to ensure that your design receives all the relevant approvals in a smooth and efficient manner.
If your project received or was submitted for either a Building Approval or a Development Approval before the 1st of September 2022, then you will not be affected by these changes. The law change is not retrospective, and your approval remains valid.
These changes will apply to any block approved under an Estate Development Plan or issued an original Crown lease before the 1st of January of 2020. Whilst they do not currently apply to blocks approved after this date, the ACT Government has flagged the release of a new Territory Plan in 2023, which will then have these provisions applied to all single dwelling blocks in the ACT.
Means an outdoor area within a block useable for outdoor living activities, and may include balconies, terraces or decks but does not include any area required to be provided for the parking of motor vehicles and any common driveways and common vehicle manoeuvring areas. Up to 25 per cent of any part of private open space may be roofed over, except that a balcony may be entirely roofed over.
Means an area of land within a block that is available for landscape planting and that is not covered by buildings, structures, vehicle parking and manoeuvring areas or any other form of impermeable element that impacts permeability of the ground surface (i.e. terraces, pergolas, patios, decks or pools).
The Single Dwelling Housing Code provides a list of criteria a tree needs to meet to satisfy these conditions. These can be viewed on page 30 and 31 of the Code. The ACT Government has released some example trees that would satisfy these requirements, which has been included below. This list is only an example, and there are many other species and varieties of tree that will satisfy the conditions.
These can satisfy the requirements. This is one area the ACT Government is still being vague. The current understanding is that if a survey is provided that shows you have trees on your block that satisfy the minimum requirements already, or if you have trees that will grow to satisfy the minimum requirements, your block will be deemed compliant with these new regulations.
As the rules specifically state that the trees must be planted in deep soil zones they cannot be left in pots. They must be planted somewhere on the block that will allow for them to grow to their full height without being impeded by any structures above or below ground.
The rule specifically states that the tree must be on block, so the verge or a neighbours tree will not be considered to satisfy these rules. The number of trees surrounding your block is not factored into this rule, nor is the shadowing and canopy cover that these trees already provide to your block.
If the species of tree is relevant for your application, for example it is listed as a ‘Problematic Tree Species’, then we can help you determine the species of tree. We may need you to provide photos or access to the property to examine the tree. There are useful fact sheets for all tree species in the ACT which can be accessed here: https://www.cityservices.act.gov.au/trees-and-nature/trees/tree-species-for-canberra.