A New Home Workshop, Part 3

Getting planning approval

By Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Step by step of gaining council approval
  • Initial submission...
  • ...and then revised submission
  • Finding out what they REALLY want

As covered in previous parts in this series, the shed pad is now levelled and the decision has been made as to the size and type of shed that will become my new home workshop. Now it’s time to get council approval for the 12 x 8 x 5 metre design!

Gaining planning approval

Here in Australia, before a shed can be built, approval needs to be given by the local planning authority. The planning authority is typically the local council – the lowest of the three levels of government under which we operate.  In addition to satisfying local council regulations, the design and its placement must also satisfy State level legislation.

This is the third different Australian State in which I have built a large shed, and also the third different council area. In every case, gaining approval has not been straightforward.

With the last shed I built, which was in the State of Queensland and in the Scenic Rim Regional Council area, I said of gaining council approval:

To be honest, I found the whole process complex and confusing.

For example, one council requirement was a contour plan of the block - this would have required engaging a surveyor and would no doubt have cost a helluva lot. However, when I talked directly with the council planners who would be evaluating the proposal, they said they just needed a simple sketch.

Under the current local planning legislation, the size of shed (84 square metres) is not permitted on the size of my block (1105 square metres). However – and again very confusingly – under a superseded (but still able to be used!) planning act, the shed could be passed.

This time, in New South Wales and in the Upper Lachlan Shire Council area, the same confusion existed.  For example, the council documentation suggested that I need to provide council with maps and diagrams showing:

·       Contours – at 1 metre intervals and related to Australian Height Datum (AHD)

·       Existing vegetation

·       Buildings – location and uses of existing buildings

·       Location of utility services

·       Any contaminated soils and filled areas

·       Fences, boundaries and easements

·       North point (true north)

·       Scale (show ratio and bar scale)

·       Location of proposed new buildings, alterations or works (show setback distances from boundaries and adjoining buildings)

·       Existing buildings (show outline only), room layout, partitioning, location of windows, doors, room dimensions, areas and proposed uses

·       Existing walls and fences

·       Total floor area

·       Gateway location

·       Elevations viewed from each direction as well as longitudinal and cross sections

·       Existing buildings (show outline only)

·       Building facade, windows, roof profile

·       External finishes (eg. wall, roof, window, door and fence materials, paint colours, etc)

·       Finished ground levels, floor levels, ceiling levels, roofline levels and driveway grade

·       Chimneys, flues, exhaust vents and ducts (show height in relation to adjoining roof levels)

·       Retaining walls and fences (indicate height)

·       Extent of excavation or filling of the site

And that wasn’t all! At one point in their documentation they also asked for ‘shade diagrams’ showing the pattern of shade from buildings at designated dates and time of day!

Clearly, assembling all this information and presenting it could cost many thousands of dollars. However, when I rang the council planning desk, the actual requirements proved to be a lot simpler.

This has been my experience elsewhere as well: with a shed, even a large shed, what the documentation says they want and what they actually want are two different things.  This is a huge trap for new players: if you are building a home workshop for the first time, always talk directly to the people at the local planning authority that will be making the planning decisions.

The Submission

Firstly, I included the following covering letter (note that this was in addition to the filled-in pro forma):

This application is for permission to build a shed on [xxx] . The land is also referred to as [xxx] . It is located within the [xxx] township.

The proposed shed has a floor area of 12 metres x 8 metres.

The proposed shed has a 5 metre high wall and a maximum height at the centreline of the roof of 5.8 metres.

It has Colorbond walls and a Zinc roof.

The shed will replace a dilapidated structure that has recently been demolished.

This original construction comprised a shed and adjoining carport that was in total 8.5 metres by 10.3 metres. The maximum height of this structure was 4 metres.

The block is 80 metres x 57 metres. On it is a single story house that is 11.9 metres x 15.7 metres. With the exception of a 3 x 3 metre garden shed, this is now the only building on the block.

It is proposed that the new shed be placed 2 metres from the rear (western) boundary and 22 metres from the side (southern) boundary.

No new access is needed from the road; no shading inconvenience of neighbours will occur; no blockage will occur for neighbours of existing views. Stormwater discharge will be within the block, flowing down the natural slope to a grassed area of approximately 800 square metres.


1.            This document

2.            Map of block showing proposed new shed

3.            Map showing stormwater discharge

4.            Aerial photo overview showing block and adjacent land

5.            Aerial photo showing block, house and original shed

6.            Aerial photo (oblique) showing relationship of block to [xxx] township

7.            Map showing contours of area and fall of land

8.            Plans for shed, as provided by Southern Garages and Buildings, Goulburn

Some of the attachments looked like this:

Note that this plan is drawn to scale and shows that the existing entrance gate can serve the new shed – councils don’t like having to create new street entrances. It was drawn in Microsoft Paint.

This image, the main part of which was cut and pasted from Google Maps, was included to show that the block is surrounded on three sides by empty land… so reducing the impact of a large shed on neighbours. Don’t assume that the planning authority has any idea where you live!

This image was included to show that the proposed shed was to replace an existing structure.

I lodged these documents together the required filled-in proforma, and paid $912 in fees.

Council Response

A few weeks later I received a letter from the council. They had four points, summarised below.

1.     They wanted to know the purpose of the shed.

2.     They required a letter justifying my wishing to exceed the 4.5 metre maximum height set out in the official council Development Control Plan.

3.     They suggested that my site was Natural Resource Sensitive in terms of Land and Biodiversity and so I needed to provide an amended Statement of Environmental Effects.

4.     My suggested approach to stormwater management was not appropriate.

This time I rang the planner direct – she had included her contact details on the letter. I wanted to explore each of these points with her – and I found her helpful and clear.

In response to her request, I submitted the following:

Regarding development number XXXX

Note that the proposed position of the shed has been moved 1 metre east and 1 metre south. This alteration is to provide for gentler slope batters (25 degree, 1 metre high maximum) associated with the cut and fill of the site pad. The changes are shown on ‘Map of block showing proposed new shed (revised plan)’ that is attached.

Regarding the points you have raised:

1.     The proposed use of the shed is for storage and non-commercial hobby activities including woodworking and metalworking.

2.     In accordance with Clause 5.2 of the Development Plan, I am submitting a variation to the maximum permissible height of 4.5 metres. The requested shed height is 5.775 metres.

·       The requested height of the shed does not hinder the view of any neighbours.

·       The requested shed height does not cause shading of any residences.

·       The requested shed height does not cause shading of the yards of any residences.

·       The requested shed height, with cream Colorbond walls, will not cast a visual blight on the area.

·       The previously existing shed was 4 metres in maximum height. With some cut and fill of the site pad (described below) the height above the natural ground level of the new shed will typically be about 4.7 metres, that is, only 0.7 metres higher than the previously existing shed.

3.     Biodiversity, Part 6.2 of the LEP: the land comprises a village block (RU5) that has been cleared of original native vegetation. No trees will be removed for the erection of the building. The proposed 96 square metre building replaces a dilapidated shed/carport structure of 80 square metres that has been pulled down. No native fauna animal habitats will be destroyed by the development. There are no regionally significant species of fauna and flora and habitat on the proposed site.

In summary, due to the previous presence of a concrete pad and shedding over the majority of the site, there is no impact on:

(a) a native ecological community

(b) the habitat of any threatened species, populations or ecological community

(c) a regionally significant species of fauna and flora or habitat

(d) a habitat element providing connectivity

Land, Part 6.3 of the LEP: the land comprises a gently site. An area of about 168 square metres will form the site pad. (This includes a flat area in front of the shed for car parking.) There is a change in elevation of about 2 metres across the site pad. It is proposed that the site be levelled by cutting and filling and 25 degree earth batters be used around three sides of the pad. These batters will be compressed and then stabilised with bark chips. Refer to ‘Map of block showing site pad and earthworks’. A gravel path 1 metre wide will be placed at the base of north, west and south walls of the shed. There are no unique or significant landforms on the site.

4.     Regarding stormwater. A 10,000 litre tank will be installed to collect run-off from the shed. The overflow of the tank will be connected to an absorption trench 600 x 600mm x 10 metres. The positions of the tank and trench are shown on ‘Map of block showing revised stormwater collection’.

I hope these point address council’s concerns.

This document showed that I had moved the shed location by 1 metre. This was done because by I’d by this stage actually had the earthworks completed, and in order to achieve gentle slopes on the edges of the cut and fill, a slight shed relocation was necessary. (A maximum steepness of cut and fill slopes is generally 45 degrees – and if this can be made less steep, planners will like it!)

And, with the earthworks done, I could clearly show the extent of the pad, the location of the required water tank, and the earth batters.

The major change required in response to the concerns of the council was a different approach in stormwater handling. This comprised the addition of a rainwater tank and its associated absorption trench to cope with the tank overflow.


The council took about another four weeks to respond to my additional information. They then gave approval, but with a caveat: I could start the construction only if I nominated a licensed builder and attached a copy of a valid Home Owners Warranty Insurance, or alternatively, provided an Owner/Builder permit number.

I hadn’t realised I needed a licensed builder (I hadn’t in the other Australian States in which I had sheds constructed), and in fact I had not intended using a licensed builder. The alternative was to become an official Owner/Builder.

Becoming an Owner/Builder required that I undergo a formal training course. The majority of the course could be done on-line but, here in New South Wales, the Occupational Health and Safety component needs to be done face to face. I enrolled in, and then completed, the OHS course (and it was actually very good) then did the rest of the Owner/Builder course online (and it was absolute crap).

Registration of my Owner/Builder permit then occurred at a state government office.

Pluses: Ongoing written and oral communications with council were effective

Minuses: Why can’t councils be clear from the beginning as to what is actually needed?

The Surprise: I need to become an owner/builder - WTF?


Council plans lodgement: $912

OHS course: $130

Owner Builder Course: $188

Owner builder registration: $154

Next issue: the concrete slab

The parts in this series:

Part 1 - Clearing the space

Part 2 - Planning the design

Part 3 - Gaining planning authority approval

Part 4 - The concrete slab

Part 5 - Getting the shed erected

Part 6 - Stormwater handling

Part 7 - The electricals

Part 8 - Organising storage

Part 9 - Building the workbenches

Part 10 - Evaluating the outcome

Interested in home workshop projects and techniques? You’re sure then to be interested in the Home Workshop Sourcebook, available now.

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