Fences & retaining walls

Approval for retaining walls and fences

Before you begin work, you need to find out what approvals are required.

Exempt Development

Most rear and side boundary fences that are located behind the building line will meet the criteria for exempt development if they are no higher than 1.8 metres and are constructed from light weight materials such as timber or metal.

Most fences in front of the building line that are open style incorporating pickets, slats, palings or the like (with a minimum aperture of 25mm) will meet the criteria for exempt development if they are no higher than 1.2 metres .

Many retaining walls that are located at least 900mm from lot boundaries will meet the criteria for exempt development if they are no higher than 600mm.

Notwithstanding the above, for your fence and/or retaining wall to be constructed as exempt development it must meet all of the relevant exempt criteria listed in the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (The Codes SEPP). For example, if your site contains a heritage item, you will not be able to construct any fencing as exempt development.

If all of the exempt criteria are satisfied, the works may be undertaken without consent from Council.

Complying development

Some fences and retaining walls that do not meet all the criteria for exempt development may be classed as complying development. If your proposal meets all of the complying criteria listed in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008, you will need to obtain a Complying Development Certificate prior to commencing work.

Development requiring a Development Application  

If your proposal does not meet either the exempt or complying criteria, you will need to lodge a development application with Council. If you receive development approval for your proposed works, you will also need to obtain a construction certificate prior to commencing building works.

Note: If your application is for a dividing fence, the Dividing Fences Act 1991 applies (even if the proposal is exempt or complying).

The following steps are provided to assist you in preparing and lodging a development application for fences and retaining walls.

Step 1: Seek information

You should consider the following documents when preparing you DA:

Randwick Local Environmental Plan 2012

The Randwick Local Environmental Plan 2012 (RLEP) details planning controls applicable to your site; including whether your site contains a heritage item, is located within a heritage conservation area, or is within a foreshore scenic protection area.

If your site is within the vicinity of a heritage item or is located within a heritage conservation area, you will need to consider whether your proposed development will affect the heritage significance of the heritage item/s or heritage conservation area.

If your site is within a foreshore scenic protection area, clause 6.7 of the RLEP applies.

State Environmental Planning Policy No. 71 (Coastal Protection)

This State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) applies to all land within the Coastal zone as defined by the Coastal Protection Act 1979. It aims to protect and manage the natural, cultural, recreational and economic attributes of the NSW coast. If your site is located within a coastal zone, you will need to consider the requirements of SEPP No. 71 when preparing your DA. 

Randwick Comprehensive Development Control Plan 2013 (DCP)

If your fence and/or retaining wall is ancillary to a dwelling house, the Randwick Comprehensive Development Control Plan 2013 is applicable to your development. 

The key matters that should be considered when designing your fence or retaining wall are:

  • Front fencing should integrate with the streetscape and contribute positively to the street character.
  • Front fencing should be integrated with landscape and dwelling design.
  • Fencing should provide adequate privacy amenity and security for occupants
  • Development should relate to the topography of the site with minimal cut and fill
  • Developments should not result in direct overlooking of adjoining sites

The Randwick Comprehensive DCP 2013 contains objectives and controls. Applications are assessed on how well they achieve the objectives and controls of the DCP.

Your statement of environmental effects (refer to step 3) should demonstrate how the objectives and controls are being achieved through your design. Proposals are expected to comply with the numerical controls in this DCP. Any proposed variation from the controls may be considered only where the applicant successfully demonstrates that an alternative solution could result in a more desirable planning and urban design outcome. This ensures that the DCP guidance has sufficient flexibility to recognise that every property has different characteristics based on their unique combination of site conditions, size, aspect and location. The context and site analysis will be critical in demonstrating the need for any variation to the numerical controls.

Dividing Fences Act 1991

The Dividing Fences Act 1991 applies to all boundary fencing

Guidelines, council policies and other site specific considerations

Preservation of Trees and Vegetation - If there are any trees (covered by Council's Preservation of Trees and Vegetation) that may be affected by your proposed works; Council's Landscape Development Officer will inspect the site and determine whether the impact on the tree is acceptable. You may also be asked to prepare an Aborist's report to assess the potential impacts of the development.

Flooding and drainage - New fences and/or retaining walls must not obstruct any existing flow paths or direct water onto adjoining sites. If your proposal is located near a stormwater line, please contact Council's development engineers to discuss your proposal.

Construction near sewer lines - If your proposal involves construction over or near a sewer, please refer to the Sydney Water website to obtain their requirements for construction near a sewer.

Planning Certificates - A Planning Certificate  (issued under Section 149 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act) provides formal advice on land zoning and planning controls applicable to your site.

Step 2: Prepare Plans and Drawings

The following plans will be required:

  • Scaled Plans and Elevations
  • Notification plans (A4)
  • Survey Plan (if boundary fencing or retaining walls proposed)

Step 3: Prepare a Statement of Environmental Effects

The following headings may be used to provide the framework for your statement of environmental effects (SEE).

The following headings may be used to provide the framework for your statement of environmental effects (SEE).

  • Details of proposal
  • Assessment against relevant plans and policies
    • Randwick Local Environmental Plan 2012
    • Randwick Comprehensive Development Control Plan 2013
    • Preservation of Trees and Vegetation.
    • Flooding Advice and Flood Related Development Controls Policy
    • Other (e.g. SEPP No. 71)
  • Stormwater management PDF, 1668.16 KB** 

**Your proposal must not obstruct any existing flow paths or direct water onto adjoining sites

Step 4: Complete an application form

You will need to complete an application form & checklist PDF, 210.49 KB, and a cost summary report PDF, 70.98 KB.

The cost summary report must be prepared in accordance with Council's S94A Development Contributions Plan.

The application form must be signed by all land owners and the applicant.

Note: If your application is for a boundary fence the application form must be signed by the owners of all properties adjoining the fence.

Step 5: Lodge the DA with Council

The development application must be lodged with the applicable DA fee. Please contact us to obtain a fee quote.

You may lodge your DA directly with Council at our administration building or by online services. A Council Officer will use the Development Application checklist form to check your application. Council will only accept a DA with all necessary information.

You are required to submit:

  • One (1) copy of the completed DA form and checklist
  • One (1) copy of the cost summary report
  • Two (2) copies of the A4 notification plans
  • Three (3) copies of the survey plan
  • Six (6) copies of all other plans
  • Six (6) copies of the SEE and other supporting documentation

Additional sets of plans and SEEs will also be required if your application requires referral to any external agencies (e.g. Heritage Office)

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