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The secret to a front fence in Canberra?

By boo-radley - 4 November 2013 26

Is anyone able to shed any light on how the rules and regulations of front fences are interpreted and enforced (or not) in Canberra? In our street in Ainslie there are at least half a dozen house with fully enclosed yards, not to mention “property demarcations” that are more than double/triple the height specified by our good friends at ACTPLA.

We were planning to put some built elements in front of our house as part of landscaping, with part of the area to be enclosed, but are concerned that even though it is not structural and modest in comparison to other front yards, ACTPLA will either take one look at it and say “computer says no” or worse, encourage us to lodge a DA with independent certifications etc, and then say “computer says no”.

Has anyone had any experience in this respect, or have any of you just chanced your luck and gone ahead?

What’s Your opinion?


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26 Responses to
The secret to a front fence in Canberra?
Genie 1:57 pm 04 Nov 13

I live in a battleaxe property and want to enclose my front yard.

I can only build a pool fence to 1.5m high, and it has to be covered by either a hedge or mesh etc.

However I can’t build a solid fence.

Bizarre rules

Thumper 1:45 pm 04 Nov 13

Very Busy said :

Thumper said :

As Mr Caulfield suggests.

Best hedging plants in Canberra seem to be Photinia, Pittosporum or Leyland Cyprus, (although the latter needs some care to form a hedge)

That’s very cruel Thumper. Providing that sort of advice to unsuspecting novice gardeners, haha.

Photinia is totally unsuitable in most suburban situations. Yep, it will grow quickly but is practically impossible to keep under control unless you are onto it all the time with your hedge trimmers. It is smelly and messy. Avoid at all cost.

Pittosporum is not very dense and doesn’t like hard pruning. A bit temperamental too. Quite likely that after a few years one plant will just die, leaving a big hole in the hedge.

One of the best hedge plants is Vibernum Tinus. It’s reasonably quick growing but easy to keep under control once established. It is very dense and has masses of nice white flowers in season.

I’ve got cyprus. Takes a bit of work if you know what you’re doing, but looks great and is very dense 🙂

Thumper 1:41 pm 04 Nov 13

poetix said :

Thumper said :

….

Best hedging plants in Canberra seem to be Photinia, Pittosporum or Leyland Cyprus, (although the latter needs some care to form a hedge)

Don’t you find that the Leyland Cypress tends to ‘travel all over the countryside’?

In a four wheel drive?

eatthatfrog 1:25 pm 04 Nov 13

ACTPLA have some great info that helped us when we having issues with our neighbour’s fence (or lack thereof) here and here.

Postalgeek 1:18 pm 04 Nov 13

SheepGroper said :

Very Busy said :

asses of nice white flowers

I’d like some of that!

There’s no accounting for some people’s tastes in floral perfumes.

breda 1:17 pm 04 Nov 13

I live in a old suburb, and there are some very substantial front fences (including a few Italianate ones with pillars and metal lacework) around my place that have been there for at least 15 years that I know of. My guess is that unless someone complains, the rules are not enforced. Since I suspect that most people think the rule is stupid, apparently no-one has.

As for hedges, there are several huge privet hedges near my place too. Privet is a noxious weed, and thanks to the birds I get dozens of the damn things coming up in my yard every year. But nothing has ever been done about it.

I think the horse has bolted re front fences. They would have to annoy hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people if they started rigorously enforcing this dopey law. It is dopey (IMO) because it effectively makes people’s front yards useless unless they go the trouble of growing a hedge. Keeping them under control and looking good is a lot of work. There is also the security aspect – lots of people don’t want the front of their house to be invisible because it makes life easy for burglars. Then there is sunlight – the houses across from me have high hedges and the front of their houses get practically no sun because of the orientation.

Anyway, the bottom line is – if you are on good terms with your neighbours and none of them are urban planning nazis, chances are you could put in a fence without any consequences. At worst, you might be asked to remove it.

thebrownstreak69 1:04 pm 04 Nov 13

Is it best to buy your viburnum as immature plants? Can you grow it from seed?

(Disclaimer: I don’t know **** about gardening)

poetix 12:47 pm 04 Nov 13

Thumper said :

….

Best hedging plants in Canberra seem to be Photinia, Pittosporum or Leyland Cyprus, (although the latter needs some care to form a hedge)

Don’t you find that the Leyland Cypress tends to ‘travel all over the countryside’?

SheepGroper 12:35 pm 04 Nov 13

Very Busy said :

asses of nice white flowers

I’d like some of that!

My photinia hedge only requires pruning a few times a year when it’s getting really untidy so it suits this lazy gardener. Someone who demands ruled perfection in their hedges might find it too much work throughout the year. I do appreciate all the finches that nest inside it, it’s good habitat. The flowers trigger my hayfever but I’m happy to put up with it.

I went the way of “plant support” to keep out a dog who had a habit of wandering in, hoisting his arse up over a bush and crapping on top. I ran wire mesh around the front yard except for the driveway, either running it along the base of the hedging plants or planting climbers over it in open places. I started off with a taranaki gate to block off access and now I have a proper one that latches. No complaints or official interest for two decades.

As for front fences, over two decades ago when I asked ACTPLA they said they’ll act on a complaint but won’t actively go looking for breaches, given current funding levels I seriously doubt that they now have people scouring the suburbs looking for illegal fences.

I think that as long as you don’t have any neighbours that hate you enough to dob you in you’ll probably be ok especially if as you say what you propose is modest in comparison with your neighbourhood.

Very Busy 11:34 am 04 Nov 13

Thumper said :

As Mr Caulfield suggests.

Best hedging plants in Canberra seem to be Photinia, Pittosporum or Leyland Cyprus, (although the latter needs some care to form a hedge)

That’s very cruel Thumper. Providing that sort of advice to unsuspecting novice gardeners, haha.

Photinia is totally unsuitable in most suburban situations. Yep, it will grow quickly but is practically impossible to keep under control unless you are onto it all the time with your hedge trimmers. It is smelly and messy. Avoid at all cost.

Pittosporum is not very dense and doesn’t like hard pruning. A bit temperamental too. Quite likely that after a few years one plant will just die, leaving a big hole in the hedge.

One of the best hedge plants is Vibernum Tinus. It’s reasonably quick growing but easy to keep under control once established. It is very dense and has masses of nice white flowers in season.

Very Busy 11:31 am 04 Nov 13

Thumper said :

As Mr Caulfield suggests.

Best hedging plants in Canberra seem to be Photinia, Pittosporum or Leyland Cyprus, (although the latter needs some care to form a hedge)

asses of nice white flowers in seasoThat’s very cruel Thumper. Providing that sort of advice to unsuspecting novice gardeners, haha.

Photinia is totally unsuitable in most suburban situations. Yep, it will grow quickly but is practically imposible to keep under control unless you are onto it all the time with your hedge trimmers. It is smelly and messy. Avoid at all cost.

Pittosporum is not very dense and doesn’t like hard pruning. A bit tempremental too. Quite likely that after a few years one plant will just die, leaving a big hole in the hedge.

One of the best hedge plants is Vibernum Tinus. It’s reasonably quick growing but easy to keep under control once established. It is very dense and has mn.

sepi 10:31 am 04 Nov 13

I have dim memories of looking into this.

corner blocks have different rules – you can fence one side, and then the other side from the furthest edge of the house, to meet the other fence in a right angle.

You can build a ‘structure to support plants’ (trellis/wire etc?)

You can build a courtyard wall halfway between yr house and yr boundary line, but must put screening plants in front of it.

Watson 10:27 am 04 Nov 13

I did some research into enclosing my frontyard. The powers that be make a big distinction between a fence and courtyard wall. You can find the rules in the Territory Plan. I had the link to the relevant part somewhere, but cannot find it now. You only need ACTPLA approval if you want to deviate from these rules.

Thumper 9:56 am 04 Nov 13

As Mr Caulfield suggests.

Plant a hedge. Of course, once it starts growing you could always build a fence behind it, so that the hedge completely covers it in the future.

Best hedging plants in Canberra seem to be Photinia, Pittosporum or Leyland Cyprus, (although the latter needs some care to form a hedge)

Holden Caulfield 9:38 am 04 Nov 13

My memory/info may be a bit outdated but when I had cause to build a fence/wall around a previous house the rules were you could cover up to 50% of the boundary, but if you go back into your building envelope you can do what you want (as far as a screen wall goes at least).

The wall I had built was 1.8m high.

There’s nothing to stop you from growing a hedge to whatever height you prefer. Just make sure any planting, when mature, doesn’t impede on the front footpath (if you have one).

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