5 Things You Need To Know – New Planning Requirements For Bushfire Prone Areas


New planning requirements for bushfire prone areas came into force on 7 December 2015 which impact on the assessment of new developments and subdivisions.

How will this affect new development applications?

1. More information has to be submitted with your development application if your proposed development is in a bushfire prone area.

If your proposed development is in a bushfire prone area (and has been for 4 months) you will need to submit with your development approval:

  • a bushfire attack level assessment (BAL); or
  • a bushfire attack level assessment contour map; or
  • advice that because of the terrain of the development site a bushfire attack level assessment cannot be calculated.

It is important to note that you will need to ensure that qualified people prepare these documents otherwise applications can be delayed or refused.

2. All development with higher bushfire risk now requires a Development Approval.

Development Approval is now required – even if previously exempted – if:

  • The Bushfire Attack Level Assessment calculated the BAL as being BAL-40 or BAL – Flame Zone; or
  • A Bushfire Attack Level contour map calculated the BAL as being BAL-40 or BAL – Flame Zone; or
  • It is not possible to calculate the bushfire attack level of the development site due to the terrain.

This means that even if previously you did not require a development approval for a particular type of development – if the proposed development is deemed to be in a higher risk category then you will need a Development Approval prior to commencement. 

3. In certain cases advice from emergency authorities will have to be obtained and considered as part of the assessment of your Development Application.
  • The advice of the authorities responsible for emergency services is to be obtained and considered if:
  • Compliance with State Planning Policy 3.7 is unlikely to be achieved;
  • Additional or alternative measures are being proposed; or
  • The application proposed “unavoidable development”, vulnerable or high risk land uses;
  • “Unavoidable development” is determined by the decision maker and is:
    • Where exceptional circumstances mean that full compliance would be unreasonable;
    • No alternative location exists;
    • The proposed development is not minor; and
    • The proposed development is not contrary to the public interest.

This means that using the favourite standby of “alternative measures” to overcome compliance issues will result in additional information having to be sought prior to determination of the Application.

How will this affect the assessment of applications?

4. Local Governments must now consider bushfire issues when determining Development Applications in bushfire prone areas.

When assessing the application for a Development Approval in a bushfire prone area, local governments must consider the bushfire construction requirements of the Building Code when determining whether planning approval should be granted. 

How will this affect new subdivision applications?

5. Certain proposed subdivisions will need to submit additional information with the subdivision application.

If a subdivision application has a bushfire Hazard Level (BHL) of higher than “low” or a Bushfire Attack Level Assessment of higher than BAL-Low then the following are required to be submitted with the subdivision application:

  • A BAL contour map;
  • Identification of any bushfire hazard issues arising from the BAL contour map; and
  • Demonstration of compliance with the bushfire protection criteria requirements within the proposed subdivision site.

Additionally advice of the authorities responsible for emergency services is to be obtained and considered if:

  • Compliance with State Planning Policy 3.7 is unlikely to be achieved;
  • Additional or alternative measures are being proposed; or
  • The application proposed unavoidable development, vulnerable or high risk land uses.

It is likely that these measures will affect the design of subdivisions in bushfire prone areas. 

Conclusion

The new regulations are complex with different requirements for minor development, unavoidable development and development which may impact on environmentally sensitive, locally significant vegetation and vegetated land managed by a government agency with responsibility for biodiversity conservation management and environmental protection.

For more information about the new planning requirements for bushfire prone areas contact Anne Wood on (08) 9321 3755.

The information published in this paper is of a general nature and should not be construed as legal advice. Whilst we aim to provide timely, relevant and accurate information, the law may change and circumstances may differ. You should not therefore act in reliance on it without first obtaining specific legal advice.