SPP 7.3 Residential design codes - Volume 1

The R-Codes control the design of most residential development throughout Western Australia.

State Planning Policy 7.3: Residential Design Codes-Volume 1 Interim Review 2020

The Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) is reviewing State Planning Policy 7.3: Residential Design Codes - Volume 1 (R-Codes) as part of the State Government’s package of planning reforms to assist with economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The changes aim to support the residential building industry, local governments, and homeowners by streamlining approval processes, reducing unnecessary red-tape for low to medium density housing projects, and improving design and liveability.

Proposals include revised Part 5 deemed-to-comply standards and simplified clauses and related assessment methods. This is an interim review and a further comprehensive review of the R-Codes will occur as part of the Design WA Medium Density Housing Policy.

Consultation on the interim changes to the R-Codes closed 10 September 2020.

Read the media statement.

Frequently asked questions

General questions
What is State Planning Policy 7.3: Residential Design Codes – Volume 1 (R-Codes)?

The R-Codes is a State Planning Policy that sets out the basis of design and assessment for single houses, grouped dwellings and multiple dwellings (less than R40) in Western Australia. Generally, single houses and ancillary structures such as patios, sheds or carports that meet the deemed-to-comply provisions of the R-Codes do not require development approval. 

Why are the R-Codes being reviewed?

The review is one of several initiatives underway as part of the State Government’s economic recovery response to COVID-19. 

These proposed changes are an interim measure, aimed at streamlining the approval process for single houses, grouped dwellings, multiple dwellings (coded less than R40), and ancillary structures through simpler assessment methods, revised standards and clearer phrasing of clauses.

What changes are being proposed?

The proposed changes will:

  • provide more generous deemed-to-comply provisions for common development triggers such as outbuildings, patios, retaining walls, boundary walls and setbacks
  • simplify tables and figures
  • improve outdoor living areas and landscaping
  • remove the requirement for development approval for single houses on lots under 260m2
  • integrate certain medium density standards from Planning Bulletin 112 – Medium density single house development standards – Development Zones.
What are the deemed-to-comply provisions and how will the proposed amendments make assessment easier?

Deemed-to-comply provisions are development standards that proposals are measured against, and if met (and the use is permitted), proposals can progress without the need for development approval.

Development approval is only required for a single house where the proposal does not meet the deemed-to-comply provisions of the R-Codes. When this occurs, a development application is required, and the decision-maker will assess the application against the corresponding design principle.

Some of these provisions will be simplified to make it easier for R-Codes users to determine whether an application meets the deemed-to-comply provisions or not.  Key changes include simplifying calculations for lot boundary setbacks, building heights, and site works and retaining walls.

Will this make it easier for me to build a shed (outbuilding), deck or patio?

Yes - amendments to the deemed-to comply standards will make it easier to build sheds (outbuildings), decks and patios. These include allowing small sheds to be built up to lot boundaries, reducing side setbacks and permitting more generous encroachments into front setbacks.  Compliant structures will not require development approval, but a building permit may still be required.

How will the amendments improve the quality of outdoor living areas?

The amendments include clear provisions requiring a consolidated outdoor living area and an area where a tree can be planted for each dwelling. This will provide greater opportunities for enjoyment of outdoor areas and gardens.

Generous amendments to setbacks, boundary wall provisions and open spaces mean that there will be greater developable area on site to compensate for the revised outdoor living area standards.

Under the proposed changes, will development approval still be required for single houses?

Development approval is required currently for a single house where the proposal does not meet the deemed-to-comply provisions of the R-Codes.

Simpler deemed-to-comply provisions will make it easier to determine if a development application is required and consequently, result in fewer proposals requiring development approval.

Are other changes to the R-Codes being considered as part of this interim review?

Additional changes suggested through the submission period will be considered if the amendments can be implemented quickly to support economic recovery.

How does this interim R-Codes review integrate with the Medium Density Housing Policy currently under development as part of Design WA?

The review is an interim response to the economic challenges of the current COVID-19 environment and is aimed at streamlining dwelling approval processes, while achieving good design outcomes.

This review is separate from the Design WA Medium Density Housing Policy.

When will these changes come into effect?

Any proposed changes will need to be considered by the Western Australian Planning Commission and if supported, they will come into effect once a notice is published in the Government Gazette, most likely towards the end of the year.

What resources are available if I have questions about my proposed development once the R-Codes amendments are gazetted?

Yes, updates to the frequently asked questions (FAQs), Explanatory Guidelines and Practice Notes will be provided to reflect the policy changes.

Where further advice and assistance is required, advice can be sought from the local government where applications for development approval are lodged and assessed.

Will additional resources be made available to help local government assessors once the R-Codes amendments are gazetted?

Local governments can seek advice on the R-Codes provisions from, the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage local area teams, and the Design WA team at DesignWA@dplh.wa.gov.au

Technical questions
Will these changes override existing local planning framework requirements?

The elements which may be modified through the local planning framework without WAPC approval are listed in Part 7 of the R-Codes and are not proposed to change.

The changes proposed through this interim review will not override variations introduced via a local planning instrument that was adopted in accordance with Part 7. For example, an existing local planning policy remains valid provided it varies only those provisions that may be varied without WAPC approval, or WAPC approval was granted.

This means that only limited administrative amendments should be necessary to local planning frameworks to reflect updates to clause numbers and references.

Will these changes require me to, or affect my ability to subdivide?

No changes are proposed to subdivision requirements and there is no obligation to subdivide.

Does this review affect the medium density codes (R-MD Codes)?

Most R-MD code provisions from Planning Bulletin 112/2016 (PB 112) are proposed to be included within Volume 1 of the R-Codes for ease of reference. The application of the R-MD codes would continue to be implemented through local planning frameworks and be limited to single house developments on land zoned urban development (or equivalent zoning).  

Existing approved structure plans, local development plans and local planning policies that apply the R-MD codes will continue to have effect.

New structure plans, local development plans and local planning policies may continue to implement the R-MD codes as set out in PB 112, until the amendments to the R-Codes (as part of this interim review) are gazetted.  

What happens if I currently have a development application lodged with the local government and these changes mean development approval is no longer required?

Until the changes are endorsed by the WAPC and published in the Government Gazette, the existing R-Code provisions will continue to apply.

Development approval will still be required for proposals that do not meet the deemed-to-comply provisions.

If a development application has been lodged with the local government and the changes come into effect, provided the application meets all the relevant deemed-to-comply provisions, an applicant may submit a written request to the local government for the application to be withdrawn.

Design WA and the R-Codes

The WAPC has released Design WA Stage 1 to the public, including State Planning Policy No. 7.3 Residential Design Codes Volume 2 - Apartments. 

As of 24 May 2019, SPP3.1 R-Codes will be renamed State Planning Policy 7.3 Residential Design Codes Volume 1, with all existing context except for Part 6 to remain.

The new State Planning Policy 7.3 Residential Design Codes Volume 2 – Apartments will replace the content of Part 6 of the R-Codes, focusing on improved design outcomes for apartments (multiple dwellings).

Find out more information on Design WA.

Policies and guidelines

The R-Codes control the design of most residential development throughout Western Australia. The R-Codes aim to address emerging design trends, promote sustainability, improve clarity and highlight assessment pathways to facilitate better outcomes for residents. They are also used for the assessment of residential subdivision proposals and should be read with Development control policy 2.2 residential subdivision for this purpose.  A copy of this document can be found below in Related policies.

The R-Codes Explanatory Guidelines and Practice Notes provide assistance on operation and interpretation of provisions. The R-Codes Assessment Checklist streamlines residential development application compliance assessment to support a consistent, accurate and faster determination process.

Note: the 2013 gazetted version, the 2015 amendments and the 2018 amendments are available on the State Law Publisher website

Please note: the R-Codes are administered and applied by local government, so all enquiries relating to specific development proposals (including the application and interpretation of provisions of the R-Codes to specific development proposals) must be directed to the relevant local government where the development proposal is located.

Related policies

Page last reviewed 23 September 2020
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