Fences – or the lack of them – are a defining feature of Canberra’s suburbs. Are you considering building a fence? And when is a fence a fence, rather than a “free-standing structure” or a “courtyard wall”?
Here are some basic rules. And if you’re unsure about anything, contact the Department of Planning on 6207 1923 or click here.
The basics: Fencing Rules
As a general rule, boundary fences between neighbours are fine in the ACT. They’re regulated in a manner similar to other states and territories. (common sense rules like no taller than 2.3m; if its metal, no sharp edges allowed; mustn’t block the flow of surface water; etc. apply)
Where the ACT is different however is that front fences taller than 40cm are banned (hedges exempt). Territory planners have always wanted an open line of site on streets. If you want to build a front fence you need to apply for development approval, which you probably won’t get.
Having said that, there are some – SOME – loopholes.
- Corner blocks. Do you live on a street corner? If so, your property is more exposed and visible. As such, a privacy exemption might be made and you may be allowed to build some kind of fence. But you’ll have to apply.
- “Courtyard walls”. And…. this is where things get slippery.
Courtyard walls are different to fences in the ACT. And plenty of developers have milked this exemption like the family cow.
For example, my block of flats in Turner has what I thought were front fences. Each of the units facing the street has what appears to be a fence.
Only it’s not a fence, apparently. Even though it looks walks and talks like a fence. As it turns out, it’s a courtyard wall.
I know what you’re thinking: what is a courtyard wall? And how is it not a fence?
Well, here’s the jist. Courtyard walls tend to sit back from the property’s front boundary. They tend to be in high-density areas, like newly developed flats.
When applying to build a courtyard wall— and you have to apply — your application is assessed on a case by case basis. Each block is unique and approval will depend on its precinct code.
Again, when considering your application the government is mostly looking at privacy concerns and sometimes noise.
(If you’re interested, the full exemption details are here. The nitty gritty is on pages 20-22 of the ACT Planning guide.)
Who does fencing in the ACT?
Well, you can do it yourself. Like everything, this is the cheaper option. If you want to build a fence just drop into Bunnings.