Do I need council approval for a shed or garden room?

So, you want to add a shed or non-habitable* garden room to your backyard? If so, you are probably wondering if you need to obtain planning approvals to do so. 

Overview to exemptions

Each state and territory has its own requirements. But as a very general rule, most councils will allow a non-habitable structure to be installed without requiring approval, as long as it meets the conditions and considerations applicable to that state or territory.

Depending on where you live in Australia there will be differing size allowances before approval is required. In addition, there are often other considerations. For example, some councils have structure height, building material and positioning requirements. Whether your property is rural or urban may also be a factor. 

To help you navigate the requirements that might apply in your state or territory, we have put together the following guide.

But remember this is just a guide. We will discuss your individual project and the exemptions available in your state or territory on a Discovery Call.

We always recommend you also speak to your local council to determine whether your individual project requires any permits or approvals. In addition, it’s highly recommended that you discuss your proposed development with your neighbours, regardless of whether you need approval or not.

*The BCA (Building Code of Australia) notes a Class 10a Building as a non-habitable building including sheds, carports, and private garages. 

Australia with NSW highlighted

NSW

ZoneResidentialRural
Maximum floor area20m250m2
Maximum height from existing ground level3m3m
Distance from boundary900mm5m

Read more

Australia with ACT highlighted

ACT

Block size< 500m2500-600m2>600m2
Maximum floor area10m225m250m2
Maximum height from existing ground level3m3m3m

Read more

Australia with QLD highlighted

QLD

Maximum floor area10m2
Maximum height2.4m
Distance from boundary1.5m
Maximum length5m

Read more

Australia with SA highlighted

SA

Maximum floor area15m2
Distance from boundary900mm
Maximum height2.5m
Maximum span3m

Read more

Australia with VIC highlighted

VIC

Distance from boundary>1m<1m
Maximum floor area10m210m2
Maximum height 3m2.4m

Read more

Australia with TAS highlighted

TAS

Engineering and Form 80?NoYes
Maximum floor area18m236m2
Maximum height4.5m4.5m
Distance from boundary900mm900mm

Read more

Australia with WA highlighted

WA

Maximum floor area<60m2 or 10% of lot size
Maximum height 4.2m
Distance from boundary1.5m

Read more

Australia with NT highlighted

NT

Maximum floor area12m230m2
Maximum height2.1m2.4m
Distance from boundary40m70m

Read more

NSW

If you live in NSW, the size allowance before you need to notify the council is quite generous and includes sheds, cubbies and cabanas. In residential zones, a structure can be up to 20m2, and in rural zones, up to 50! 

However, at the time we wrote this article, all of the following criteria need to also apply to be exempt from needing council approval. If any of these conditions aren’t met, you will need to gain approval. 

  • It is for non-habitable use only (Class 10a) 
  • It is no more than 3m above existing ground level  
  • Its floor area is no more than 20m2 in residential areas  
  • Its floor area is no more than 50m2 in rural zones RU1, RU2, RU3, RU4 and R5 
  • It is located off the boundary by 900mm and behind the building line of any road frontage in urban areas 
  • It is located off the boundary by 5m in rural areas 
  • It is located at least 1m from any registered easement 
  • There are no more than 2 structures per property  
  • It does not connect to water supply or sewerage services 
  • It does not interfere with the entry to, or exit from, or the fire safety measures within another building 
  • If it is located on bushfire prone land it must more than 5m from a dwelling  otherwise it needs to be constructed of non-combustible materials.

If all of the above criteria are met, your structure may be exempt from requiring development. approvals. Additional requirements apply, refer to the NSW legislation or your local council. 

Further information: NSW State Environment planning policy 

ACT

In ACT, the size of your block determines how large a shed, cubby, studio or workshop can be without requiring development approvals

  • Block size less than 500m²: Max floor area 10m²
  • Block size 500-600m²: Max floor area 25m²
  • Block size 600m² or more: Max floor area 50m²

It must also meet the following criteria to also avoid the need for building approval: 

  • It is enclosed by a roof and have walls on every side, or all but one 
  • It is no more than 3m above existing ground level 
  • it is behind the building line and at least 15m from the front boundary if floor area is over 10m2 
  • If building two structures within 1.5m of a side or back boundary, additional criteria apply. 

Additional requirements apply, refer to the ACT Department of Planning or your local council 

Further information: ACT Government: Build, buy or renovate 

Please note: Both DA & BA exemptions need to be satisfied. If only satisfying DA (Development Approval) exemption you still need BA (Building approval) via a certifier. 

BA Exemption self check

DA Exemption self check

QLD

If you’re in Queensland, there are relatively few requirements to be met for your shed or garden room to be exempt but size allowance is not as generous. 

In general, if your building meets the following criteria you do not need approval: 

  • It has a floor area of no more than 10 square metres 
  • No single wall is longer than 5 metres 
  • It is no taller than 2.4 metres high with an average mean height is no more than 2.1 metres 
  • It will not affect the structural integrity of any other structure on the property or adjoining property 
  • Does not alter an existing pool enclosure or pool fence 

Additional requirements apply, refer to the QLD Department of Planning or your local council.

Further information: QLD Government Building Regulation  
QLD Government Business Queensland 
Cairns Regional Council Garages, Carports and sheds 

SA

Are you adding extra space in the form of a shed, cubby, cabin, studio or garden room to a property in South Australia? The requirements are a little more complex, especially with regards to positioning.

But as a guide, your project may be exempt from council approval if it meets the following criteria:

  • It has a floor area of no more than 15m2 
  • Its height does not exceed 2.5m 
  • No span of the structure is greater than 3m
  • No part is closer to the primary street than the main building   
  • It is at least 90mm from a boundary with a secondary street 
  • It is more than 6m away from a corner boundary 

Additional requirements apply, refer to the SA Department of Planning or your local council.

Further information: SA Planning wizard

VIC

In Victoria, if your non-habitable shed or cabana meets the following criteria, you may not need approval to build: 

  • It has a floor area of no more than 10 square metres 
  • It is no more than 3m in height or if it is within 1 metre of a boundary, no more than 2.4m in height 
  • It does not extend beyond the front wall of the main building 
  • Is not constructed of masonry 

Further information: VIC Government Planning and Building Permits  

It is interesting to note that in Victoria, cubby houses and play equipment used for children’s play are treated differently to sheds and cabanas and as such do not require a building permit. At the time of writing this article there are also no specifications on how big or small and cubby house may or may not be however, a structure with a different purpose (such as to accommodate sleeping) would need a permit. 

See: https://www.vba.vic.gov.au/consumers/home-renovation-essentials/landscaping 

As of December 2023 planning rules in Victoria have further changed. If you are considering a habitable space, building a granny flat in Victoria just got easier!

TAS

In Tasmania, you can build a small non prefabricated shed up to 18m2 without a building permit. A prefabricated garden building up to 36m2 can be isntalled without a building permit. However, you need to notify the council on completion using the Form 80 Notification of Low Risk Work available on the CBOS website www.cbos.tas.gov.au

  • If the floor area is less than 18m2 
  • If the floor area is 19-36m² – engineering is required, and council needs to be notified on completion using the Form 80 Notification of Low Risk Work  
  • Its maximum height is 4.5m 
  • The maximum wall height is 3.6m 
  • It is located at least 900mm from the boundary or owner’s house 

Further information: Tasmanian Government Categories of Building and Demolition Work  

WA

Residents of WA have quite a lot of size to work with before needing to apply for council approvals for a shed or garden studio.  Generally, if your structure falls into the following criteria, approval is not required: 

  • It is less than 60m2 or 10% of the lot size 
  • It is less than 4.2m high  
  • It has a maximum wall height of 2.4m 
  • It is not raised more than 500mm above ground 
  • It is not within 900mm of another structure 
  • It is located at least 1.5m from the boundary 
  • It does not extend beyond the front setback line 
  • It complies with fire safety requirements of the main building 
     

Western Australia council also strongly recommends that you talk to your neighbours about potentially installing a garden shed in the backyard. 

Further information: WA Government Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage  

NT

In NT you don’t need building approval if your shed is on a large or rural property and the shed does not have plumbing, electrical or drainage services, and meets either of the following criteria:

  • the roof area is less than 12 square metres, the building height is less than 2.1m, and it is located at least 40m from any boundary
  • the roof area is less than 30 square metres, the height is less than 2.4m, and it is located at least 70m from any boundary.

Further information: NT Government Building and renovating: permits and processes

While the above is a general guide to the main size and positioning criteria across Australia, each state and territory will have additional requirements.

Download a Design Price Guide and arrange a Discovery Call with one of our expert Design Solutioneers. They will be happy to help you navigate the exemptions and requirements in your area.


Already downloaded our Design Price Guide and ready to chat? Let’s meet.
Book a 15 min Discovery Call. Tel: 1300 635 966