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Do You Need Council Approval When Building A Deck or Pergola?

In Australia, soaking up the summer sun is a way of life. It’s all about enjoying warm afternoons in the yard with friends, barbecuing, and sipping on cold beverages.

Backyard decks, pergolas, and patios will help you make the most of your outdoor living space, but how do you go about building one? Do you need council approval for a deck? What about a pergola? If so, how do you go about it?

Your friends and family may urge you to go ahead without getting permission from your local council. However, this decision can quickly become a costly mistake.

When Is Council Approval Required?

Since all local councils have their own rules, you may not be required to get a permit for your deck or pergola design.

Meaning, there is no short and sweet answer to this question, as it all comes down to where you live. For example, in Victoria, regardless of the size and cost of a deck project, a building permit will be required. In comparison, in New South Wales, as long as your deck, pergola or patio meets all local restrictions, you will not likely need a permit. When visiting the website for Brisbane City Council, they say, “Building a deck may not require planning approval from Council.” They urge residents to speak to a town planner to verify.

If you plan on building a small deck that is low to the ground, you may not need to get approval, but again, it all depends on your local council regulations.

You will also need to consider where your property is. This can make a significant difference in terms of the planning process. For example, if you live in an environmentally sensitive area, within a heritage area or on bushfire-prone land, you will not qualify for exempt developments. This means you’ll need a permit, and sometimes, you may not be able to build at all.

Exemptions From Council Approval

Exempt development means no approval is required.

Under Exempt Development, as long as you build your deck, pergola, or patio within the specified regulations, you can proceed without council approval. All three of the projects listed without a permit fall under the category of exempt development, so they all have the same building regulations. In most jurisdictions, approval is not needed for decks that are less than 60 centimetres off the ground. In some council areas, this height can be up to one metre.

According to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment, exempt development projects are those that involve very low development. Examples include decks, garden sheds, fences, etc. However, they clearly state that these projects are only exempt, as long as the proposed works meet all the development standards. These are listed in the State Planning Policy. For example, if you are building a pergola, it must be at least five metres away from the boundary fence, and up to 9 metres in other areas. The pergola shouldn’t be bigger than 25 square metres with an average height of three metres.

If your deck or pergola design and specifications are outside of these policy standards, you will need to seek approval. At the very least, you need to speak with your local council about your plans so that you can take the necessary steps.

Other considerations:

  • You must consider the proposed building area concerning your property line, as well as the materials you plan to use.
  • Size also matters. In some areas, you can build a deck up to 10 square metres or less, whereas other areas are 25 square metres. Other councils require permits regardless of the size or height. 
  • The zoning of your property. 

What Kinds of Permits May Be Required?

There are two main types of permits that may be required when planning a house extension. These include a planning permit and a building permit.

A planning permit covers things like boundary regulations and aesthetics. Whereas a building permit focuses more on safety regulations, compliance and construction details.

For example, if you’re building a deck, building approval shows that your deck is structurally sound and planning approval shows that your deck design will fit in with your area without negatively affecting your neighbours.

You will probably need to get a permit if you are building/installing:

  • Any structure attached to your home
  • Structures that are high off the ground, requiring a fence or rail to prevent potential injuries
  • Footings, particularly their depth and ability to handle the proposed load of the pergola roof or deck
  • Any closed structure (there are exceptions in some areas, such as cloth roofs)

Enquire With Your Local Council for Certainty

Whether you believe your upcoming project requires a permit or not, it’s always best to be safe. Take a proactive approach, seeking advice from your local council. They will provide you with all the resources you need to make more informed decisions.

After all, if you build a new deck or pergola without council approval, and it was needed, they can request you take it down.

In cases where you do not require council approval, that does not mean your local government has not set specific laws and regulations. Other considerations include stormwater drains, water mains, and power lines.

Glenco Can Assist You With This Process

Looking to build a deck or pergola in Sydney or the surrounding area? If so, Glenco is your building, carpentry, and maintenance expert.

Being a local family-owned business, we know Sydney! We will work with you to make sure your next project is compliant, helping your vision come to life.

Call us today to discuss your plans!

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