Development approvals for building work, land use and other development

Development approvals are required for most property uses other than lawful residential occupation.  This also applies to changes in the type or scale of a property use.  More information about land uses and other development that require an approval can be found at Ipswich Planning FAQs.

The correct approvals must be obtained before commencing most building and development work.  More information about building work that requires an approval can be found at Building Approvals.

How do I know if my building or development has the relevant approvals?

A building records search will advise if Ipswich City Council has a record of any approved building applications, these details are limited to: Building Application number, brief description of proposed Building work, date application was approved, inspection records (if available) and Certifier details (if privately certified). Please note that this particular search does not include any copies of Building plans, documents or certificates, Planning and Development Certificates/Searches and Development Compliance Certificates Form.

If the building records search does not provide details of building works that may exist on the site, Council suggests that you carry out a Building Inspection by a licensed building inspector as part of your due diligence with the purchase of the property. A building inspection report may highlight building works that may not comply with the Building Code at the time of the Building Inspection. In addition, it is recommended that you compare the results of the building records search with structures that exist on the property at the time of your purchase as this may highlight structures that do not have the relevant approvals. Please note that due to the age of some structures approval may not have been required or records may not have been kept.

If you are proposing to purchase a property with unapproved structures, ask your solicitor to discuss the unapproved structures with the vendor. Your solicitor may recommend that the structures be approved as part of the sale conditions. In this case, the property owner will need to organise approval via a building certifier, however this may delay settlement as this process may take some time to finalise. Please be aware that if you elect to purchase the property, where structures are not approved, without ensuring that current owner has sought the relevant approvals, you may become liable for gaining the retrospective approvals.

If you are purchasing a property that includes a Commercial or Business use, or any use other than a single residential use, it is recommended that you also apply for a Planning and Development Certificate. There are three (3) types of Planning and Development Certificates and the content of each certificate is provided in the Planning and Development Certificate Fact Sheet.

For example, a Limited Planning and Development Certificate may provide you with details of any warning notices or compliance actions that Council has instigated in relation to any illegal building works or land uses that may have been reported to Council and will also provide details of any outstanding infrastructure charges that may be payable with respect to a development approval issued for the subject property.

Finally, if you wish to determine whether your development is compliant with the conditions of the development approval you can submit a request for a Development Compliance Certificate. Please note such applications are accepted only from the original developer, builder or development owner within 24 months of completion of the development. If the development is not compliant at the time of inspection, a Compliance Certificate will not be issued, and a refund or partial refund will not be applicable. Please note: A Development Compliance Certificate does not include all details provided in a Full Planning and Development Certificate.

It is recommended that you seek independent legal advice to determine the most appropriate search or planning and development certificate to undertake as part of your due diligence prior to purchasing a property.

Complying with an approval

All development approvals have conditions that must be complied with.  Building work is subject to a building permit issued by a building certifier that regulates the work during the project.  In many cases, the building certifier is a private consultant who is not regulated by Council.  All other development such as land use and earthworks require development approvals that are regulated by Council’s Planning Department.  The conditions included in a planning approval remain in force after the construction and during the relevant use.

Repairing or replacing existing retaining walls

The responsibility for repairing or replacing an existing retaining wall is a common question asked by residents and in many cases the issues are civil matters where Council may not be able to intercede. More detailed information on the responsibility, approvals and avoiding and resolving disputes relating to the repair or replacement of retaining walls is available on Repairing or Replacing Existing Retaining Walls Fact Sheet.

If your concern is in relation to a retaining wall between two adjoining properties, only an identification survey can establish the ownership of the wall being the owner of the land on which the retaining wall is located. If you wish to report a retaining wall, please be ready to attach an identification survey.

Where a building approval is required for the construction, repairing or replacing of retaining walls information is available on Retaining Walls Fact Sheet

Shipping Containers

The placement of a Shipping Container on your property constitutes assessable building work and therefore requires a building approval. Council has adopted Amenity and Aesthetics provisions stipulating that shipping containers require an amenity and aesthetics referral approval prior to obtaining a Building approval.

More detailed information on the Amenity and Aesthetics guidelines can be found on Shipping Containers Fact Sheet.

Complaints about building work, land use and other development

When residents are experiencing disruption from someone else’s property use or building work, Council may be able to help. Council enforces laws that regulate certain property use and building work.  Complaints about these matters are investigated by Council’s Development Compliance section.

More detailed information about Council’s powers on regulating property use and development is available on the Regulated Development Fact Sheet.

Complaints about the appearance of a building

Council recognises the concern from residents in regard to the appearance and the affect that a dilapidated and derelict building can have on the surrounding area.  Council has limited powers to regulate abandoned and derelict buildings under the currently available State legislation or Local laws to the extent that perhaps the community and Council would expect.

The appearance of an unmaintained building; the condition of the paintwork, vandalised with graffiti, generally dirty, or incomplete or abandoned construction projects is not something that Council has significant powers to act on.  With regards to the appearance and streetscape impacts, Council can write to the property owner and ask them to consider maintaining their building in the interest of the wider community but unfortunately, we cannot compel them to act.

Council does have powers to require the building to be secured.  In order to try and prevent unauthorised access and occupation of dilapidated buildings, Council can issue a notice to the property owner under the provisions of the Building Act 1975 requiring that the site be reasonably secured.  This is most commonly achieved by the installation of fencing at the property boundaries.  In some instances, a property owner may choose to secure each door and window on the building by closing (if possible) or affixing boards as an alternative to providing a boundary fence.

Whilst this may not achieve an aesthetically better kerb appeal, it does allow Council to exercise its powers to secure the premises and prevent unauthorised access which can help to deter further vandalism and deterioration of the building.

If you have concerns about graffiti on public property or your own property, please refer to our Graffiti Management webpage

Making a complaint about building work, land use and other development

If you are experiencing disruption or impacts or are worried about possible damage or harm from property use, building work or development, you can make a complaint to Council.

More detailed information on how Council handles complaints about property use, building work and development is available on Resolving Complaints About Unlawful Development Fact Sheet.

Show cause notices

Council’s Development Compliance Section has the responsibility for investigating matters relating to the Building Act 1975 and the Planning Act 2016. As a result of its investigation, Council may issue you a show cause notice where it reasonably believes there may be a contravention of the Building Act 1975 or the Planning Act 2016 for which you may be responsible.

A show cause notice is a formal document which sets out the basis for Council’s understanding of the alleged offence and invites you to respond to Council. Your response or representations will then be considered with the facts and circumstances in determining if an enforcement notice is to be issued for the alleged offence.

More detailed information on Show Cause Notices is available on Show Cause Notice Fact Sheet.

Enforcement notices

Council can issue an enforcement notice for offences for which a show cause notice has previously been issued. Council may also issue an enforcement notice without first issuing a show cause notice for dangerous or urgent matters.

An enforcement notice is a statutory notice which requires you to take particular actions to remedy an offence within a required time frame. The notice provides you with an opportunity to consider your options and resolve the matter in a timely way.

More detailed information on Enforcement Notices is available on Enforcement Notice Fact Sheet.

Erosion and sediment control on building and development sites

Large amounts of soil can be lost through erosion. Erosion is worse when there is no grass, plant or mulch cover and the soil is left bare. Areas of uncovered soil during the construction phase are major contributors to erosion and sediment build up. Improving erosion and sediment control (ESC) practices and compliance on building and development sites is a practical, fair and cost-effective strategy to prevent the amount of sediment run-off. All erosion and sediment controls must be in accordance with International Erosion Control Association (IECA) best practice.

For more information on erosion and sediment control on building and development sites refer to council's Erosion and Sediment Control webpage and to the Erosion and Sediment on Residential Building Sites Fact Sheet.

Stormwater control and overland flow

Water that is unable to enter the underground drainage system will follow its natural path according to the natural topography of the land known as overland flow paths. These overflow paths are typically roadways, public reserves and pathways and often traverse through private property.

For more information on stormwater control refer to the Stormwater Control and Waste Water webpage, Stormwater Control Factsheet and Managing Overland Flow Factsheet.