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Canberra houses and where you can stick a garage

By clp - 25 May 2010 11

We have made the move to Canberra from Sydney and bought a house in the South (and generally can’t say enough good things about Canberra).  I get the whole keeping buildings back from the street so everything looks nice and having an enormous nature strip out the front (although it does seem to stuff up corner blocks). 

I have a question about what you are allowed to do if you want to build a garage.

I’ve looked at the ACTPLA site but found it a bit confusing and wanted some real world experience of what you’re allowed to do.

If trying to get planning approval to built a garage and you have a drive-way that runs between the house and the neighbour’s boundary are you able to build a garage that starts level with your house?  It just seems as though everyone’s garage starts behind their house which seems like a waste of space.

Any suggestions on what you need approval for and what you don’t would be helpful.

Oh and if anyone could explain why you need to get house insurance before you’ve settled on a property I would love to understand that ACT quirk.  Especially when the vendor has tenants in place.

Thanks

CLP

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11 Responses to
Canberra houses and where you can stick a garage
andym 10:29 am 26 May 10

Here is a link to a useful little tool, it shows block and sections, easements etc.
http://www.actmapi.act.gov.au/

Holden Caulfield 9:19 am 26 May 10

Easement info should be pretty straightforward to find. ACTEW will also need to sight/approve your plans before DA approval can be granted in any case, so if there’s a problem you will know about it.

clp 8:52 am 26 May 10

i ACTEW and ACTEWAGL: They also have rules about access rights to the rear to get to easments and powerlines that do not match what ACTPLA tell you. Be very careful about this and look at their websites for info. From what I recall they need to be able to get a backhoe down the side of the house and it matters nought if they can use your neighbours land. They can and will fine you and insist that your garage/pergola/etc be pulled down to grant them that access right.

Thanks for this info – that may present a challenge

Sheesh its confronting coming from a semi-detached property in Sydney.

grunge_hippy 9:43 pm 25 May 10

and make sure that the angle of the roof doesn’t blind your next door neighbour when the sun hits it.

We have found that out the hard way with the back neighbours building a new house (dual occupancy) with a colourbond roof. Its like being under a sunlamp from midday on. You dont think of these things when you look at plans!!

Pandy 7:43 pm 25 May 10

ACTEW and ACTEWAGL: They also have rules about access rights to the rear to get to easments and powerlines that do not match what ACTPLA tell you. Be very careful about this and look at their websites for info. From what I recall they need to be able to get a backhoe down the side of the house and it matters nought if they can use your neighbours land. They can and will fine you and insist that your garage/pergola/etc be pulled down to grant them that access right.

Special G 3:06 pm 25 May 10

Add to last take your plans in (even a sketch) and consult with one of their people over them.

Special G 3:05 pm 25 May 10

I built a garage at the front of my place several years ago. I had to fight for what I was after as the garage is at the front of the house and pushed to 3.8m from the boundary. It runs along the neighbours side fence. ACTPLA wouldn’t have the 3.8m so I had to rejink the plan to 4m. So I now only have one right angle corner in the garage.

ACTPLA wanted me to put the garage at the rear of the house although I cited North aspect, future renovation plans and other houses in the suburb with garages at the front for my case.

I also had to designate tree plantings so the garage door could not be seen directly from the street. It still can the drive loops a bit.

New driveways need to be approved by ACT roads and need to fit a standard template. I didn’t have any problems with them putting in for a second driveway to fit with the new plans.

I also live in a culdesac and have a funny shape to the front of the block. I said if they didn’t approve it I would concrete the lot and turn it into a basketball court.

clp 1:53 pm 25 May 10

Thanks for the comments – thats been helpful.

I understand what you are saying Deejay its just odd to insure a property you aren’t able to access – I mean its not like you can go and make sure the locks are all keyed – and that affects your premium etc.

It was just a surpise to us – we don’t object to doing it but I would imagine there would still be some significant legal stuff if the vendor’s tenants burnt the house down.

deejay 12:38 pm 25 May 10

Oh and if anyone could explain why you need to get house insurance before you’ve settled on a property I would love to understand that ACT quirk. Especially when the vendor has tenants in place.

I don’t know if there’s any special reason in the ACT, but as a general rule, as soon as you exchange contracts, you have a legal interest in the place. You could be held liable for someone else getting hurt, and if the building is damaged (eg fire) you may not have recourse to anyone else for the cost. After all, if you had a legal interest in the place and didn’t cover yourself with insurance, why should the exiting vendor do so?

thatsnotme 12:13 pm 25 May 10

http://www.actpla.act.gov.au/topics/design_build/da_assessment/exempt_work/process/roofed_enclosed_or_open_on_1_side seems to have the relevant infomation. If what you’re planning meets those rules, then you don’t need to have building approval at all. Size seems to depend on your block size, and if you already have a DA exempt building like a shed near your boundary, the rules can change.

Having a garage that start level with your house isn’t an issue – I’d guess that many of the garages you’ve seen that start behind the house have been added on at some point after the house was built, and may be where they are to still allow some type of decent access to the back of the house. If you only have a driveway’s width between your house and the boundary, and you then go and put a garage there, you’ve blocked vehicle access to the back of the house. That mightn’t be something you care about, but I’m sure plenty of people would like the option of having deliveries made to the back of the house if necessary, landscaping machinary access, etc etc – so they build back and leave that access.

Holden Caulfield 11:57 am 25 May 10

We’ve just been through this with our place as we are about to start some renovations. It sounds like you are in an existing suburb so some of the things we learnt should apply.

The measurements given below are very general and off the top of my head and assume we are talking about a regular suburban block. They may be affected by the existing structure and possible neighourhood caveats.

There are different rules that apply for building envelopes when considering a garage versus a living area. Generally a portion of your living area can be as close as 4m to your building boundary, but a garage needs to be 6m. I guess this is so you can park a car in front of the garage without blocking the footpath. However, we managed to successfully present a case that allows our garage to be 5.5m from our boundary due to the way our house has been sited on its block and that it won’t adversely affect sight lines and so on.

From what we learnt it can also be nigh on impossible to re-locate a driveway if you have signifcant trees near where you would like the new entry/drive to go. Seems that you can slightly alter your existing drive without too much bother, but moving it 10m away, for example, might be a bit tricky of that’s what you have in mind.

My undertsanding is that (believe it or not) ACTPLA will allow a degree of flexibility to their stated rules/guidelines if you can support your request with sounds reasoning and similar existing examples of what you want to do in your neighbourhood. I think ACTPLA’s rationale here is they are happy to see houses renovated and suburbs gentrified so long as any breaches of published codes are minimal. In our case it was 500mm for our garage.

Oh, our garage will be built right up to our neighbor’s boundary as well. Again, citing several other scenarios in our suburb helped in this cause. We did have to go to neighhbour notification (as you would with any development application I suspect) so there is an opportunity for those around you to object.

We’ve found that picking up the phone and asking advice from ACTPLA to be quite helpful. The answers you get won’t guarantee an approval, of course, but by asking the right questions and reading between the lines, you might pick up a few tips prior to lodging your application.

Good luck.

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