How to become a town planner in Queensland

What kinds of developments are there?

There are five different types of developments under the Planning Act 2016. These include the following:
  1. Material change of use
  2. Reconfiguring a lot
  3. Carry out building work,
  4. Plumbing and drainage and/or
  5. Operational work
Let’s go through the meaning of each of these developments briefly (our full Development Assessment course goes through these in more detail).
Material Change of Use A Material change of use (MCU) means a change in the way a property is used. This can include any of the following:
  • Starting a new use or activity in a property
  • Re-establishing a use that was previously abandoned
  • Increasing the intensity or scale of a particular activity on a property
For example, establishing a new house, a townhouse development, changing use from a shop to an office etc. Whether or not a development includes an MCU component can be quite subjective, and depends on the Council and what officer you’re dealing with. Generally, if you’re substantially changing the appearance of a property, or clearly changing the use of a property or building, you will be doing a MCU for the purposes of assessment under the Planning Scheme.
Reconfiguring a Lot One of the more obvious forms of development that are defined under the Planning Act 2016 is ‘reconfiguring a lot (ROL/RAL)’ and can involve any of the following:
  1. creating lots by subdividing another lot
  2. amalgamating 2 or more lots
  3. rearranging the boundaries of a lot by registering a plan of subdivision under the Land Act or Land Title Act
  4. dividing land into parts by agreement rendering different parts of a lot immediately available for separate disposition or separate occupation, other than by an agreement that is—
    1. a lease for a term, including renewal options, not exceeding 10 years
    2. an agreement for the exclusive use of part of the common property for a community titles scheme under the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997
  5. creating an easement giving access to a lot from a constructed road
If you’re proposing a land lot subdivision, it will almost certainly result in a reconfiguration of a lot component which could be assessable under a planning scheme. A lot of people don’t realise that creating an Access Easement, such as a new driveway through someone else’s property, is actually Reconfiguring a Lot.
Building work Sometimes, you can achieve an MCU component of a project without requiring any kind of building work. For example, turning a house into an office. Most of the time, however, you will require some kind of construction to achieve development. Under the PA, this component could become ‘Building work (BW)’ which means:
  1. The building, repairing, altering, underpinning (whether by vertical or lateral support), moving or demolishing a building or other structure
  2. Works regulated under the building assessment provisions
  3. Excavating or filling for, or incidental to, the activities stated in subparagraph (1)
  4. Excavating or filling that may adversely affect the stability of a building or other structure, whether on the premises on which the building or other structure is situated or on adjacent premises
  5. Supporting (vertically or laterally) premises for activities stated in subparagraph (1)
Filling and excavation associated with assessable building work, might be considered part of the building work and not operational work. As an example, in the Brisbane City Council region, when building a new Dwelling house in a Character area, you might need a MCU approval for the new use, but you will also need a BW approval as the City Plan 2014 also triggers a permit requirement for any new Building Work (BW) in the area too.
Plumbing and Drainage As town planners, we very rarely (if ever) deal with plumbing and drainage applications. Nevertheless, it is important to know that plumbing and drainage is considered ‘development’ and could trigger for assessment under a local planning instrument (e.g. a planning scheme). Plumbing work includes:
  • Installing, changing, extending, disconnecting, taking away, maintaining and testing the plumbing
  • Installing a water meter, as part of a water service provider’s infrastructure, to measure the volume of water supplied from the infrastructure to premises
Drainage work includes installing, changing, extending, disconnecting, taking away and maintaining—
  • Drainage
  • A greywater use facility
  • An on-site sewage facility

Operational Work This is the last on the list for what is considered ‘development’ under the Planning Act 2016. Operational work (OW) refers to work, other than building work or plumbing and drainage, that is in, on, over, or under the premises, that materially affects the premises or the use of the premises. Any earthworks that aren’t considered part of the building work, or required as part of the plumbing and/or drainage work. Operational work usually becomes an assessable component of development when earthworks are required to flatten a property. For example, landscaping such as retaining walls, terracing etc, or bulk earthworks necessary for stormwater discharge. Where earthworks is required, it is not considered ‘operational work’ and becomes part of the ‘building work’. As a result, it can no longer trigger for assessment as operational work under the local council planning scheme.

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