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Do I require building approval?

person signing document

Generally, most structures require approval from Council. However, there are some instances where smaller type structures do not require Council approval. These types of structures which do not need approval may include tool sheds, bird aviaries, pergolas with an open roof form and rainwater tanks.

As a guide, approval from Council is NOT required for the following in a domestic situation with some exceptions. Please ensure you have all the facts before you invest time and money in erecting one of the structures below and if you have any questions please contact Development Services.


Council approval is NOT required if the structure complies with the following:

  • freestanding (cannot be attached to any other building or structure)
  • not higher than 2.5m above natural ground level
  • not larger than 15m2 in area
  • no span is greater than 3m
  • no closer to the primary street than the existing dwelling.
  • no closer than 900mm to secondary street boundary for corner blocks
  • Not the subject of any encumbrances*

Visit the Development Services information page on Minor domestic structures for more information.

Swimming pools

Swimming pool approval is not required for pools with a depth of 300 mm or less that do not incorporate a filtration system.

Visit the Development Services information page on Swimming pools for more information.

Spa pools

Provided the spa maximum capacity is 680 litres or less, council approval is not required.


Development Approval is not required for masonry walls of less than 1m or in the case of a non-masonry fence (eg. sheet iron post and rail or good neighbour) up to 2.1m in height, except where:

  • The fence is built over a retaining wall and the total height of the wall and fence combined at the lower of the two adjoining ground levels exceeds 2.1m.
  • The fence is located within 6m of the intersection of two boundaries of land where those boundaries both face a road, other than where a 4m x 4m corner cut-off has already been provided (in such circumstances, any fence exceeding 1m requires Development Approval).
  • The fence is a brush style and is located less than 3m to an existing Class 1 or 2 building.

Fences between two private properties

If approval is not required from Council, boundary fencing becomes a civil matter between neighbours. This is governed by the Fences Act 1975, which sets out the duties and rights of landowners when considering fencing on shared boundaries. Answers to common questions on shared fencing are available from the Legal Services Commission of South Australia website. 

Retaining walls

Where the difference in ground level is less than 1m, Council approval is not required.

Visit the Development Services information page on Retaining walls for more information.


Pergolas that don't require Council approval include those that do not have a roof, have each freestanding side open and have no part which is higher than 4m above the ground. The structure must be no closer to street than existing dwelling.

Visit the Development Services information page on Minor domestic structures for more information.


New decks that are associated with an existing dwelling must have a maximum height above ground level of 500mm and be no less than 900mm from the boundary.

Garage/Carport Doors

Provided that installation is to an existing approved carport or garage and no portion of the door is closer to the street than the dwelling, Council approval is not required.

Shade Sail

Shade sails do not require Council approval provided they are:

  • not larger than 20m2
  • less than 3m in height
  • made of a permeable material
  • situated no closer to street than the dwelling

Satellite Dish

To be exempt from Council approval, the maximum diameter of a satellite dish can not exceed 1.2 meters.

Solar Cells

Council approval is not required for new solar cells that:

  • have a maximum weight of 100kg
  • have no part overhanging the roof area
  • are installed parallel to roof pitch

Water Tank

Council approval is not required for water tanks that:

  • have a total floor area of 10m2 or less
  • have no part higher than 4m above ground level
  • located wholly above ground

Brush Fences

No approval from Council is required provided that the fence is located greater than 3m from an existing dwelling. However, attached structures may be closer than 3m if roof spaces are not linked.


Even though your development may comply with the above, you may still be required to obtain planning approval if the structure is located between an existing building and the road frontage.

The information on this page applies to domestic situations only. If any of the above structures are in connection with a commercial or industrial site, approval may need to be granted by Council regardless of the size.

Tenants/renters: Even though approval may not be needed from Council, you should contact your landlord or the SA Housing Trust if you are a tenant.

*Encumbrances are registered on Certificates of Titles. These are special requirements that a developer of an area imposes on the property.

Some of the areas affected include:

  • Mawson Lakes
  • Walkleys Heights

You should contact Development Services if you live in these areas to ensure your development complies with the encumbrance on your property.

Residential Development Code

South Australia has entered into a new era in planning approvals following the introduction of the new Residential Development Planning Code. The Code has been developed following a consultation period of a draft code involving the public, industry and local government.

As part of the changes there has been an expansion of the categories for complying development, by essentially providing a 'tick-box' assessment for a proposal against a set series of criteria know as 'Performance Controls'. These include issues such as location, height, setback and site coverage.

It is intended that complying development will apply differently for new homes and alterations/additions to existing homes. If you are looking at renovating your home or wanting to build a new one, visit the South Australia Government Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure website for more information on the Residential Development Code.