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Jun 20, 2013

Out with the Old and in with the Fonz – The New R-Codes

Granny gets traded in for ‘The Fonz’ with changes to ancillary dwelling provisions in the 2013 R-Codes

Following an extensive period of review and stakeholder engagement, the WAPC will be releasing the new edition of the Residential Design Codes (R-Codes) at 3pm on the 2nd of August. After attending workshops held by the WAPC last week, Rowe Group has reviewed the 2013 R-Codes in detail and, to save you time, provides the summary below.

The R-Codes present two approaches in which to secure planning approval; either through the ‘Deemed to Comply’ provisions (formerly the Acceptable Development provisions) or by meeting the ‘Design Principles’ (formerly the Performance Criteria) of a design element. These new terms attempt to more clearly articulate these two approaches to securing approval.

In terms of statutory hierarchy, Town Planning Scheme provisions still prevail over the R-Codes and the R-Codes prevail over Local Planning Policies, except where the R-Codes permit Local Planning Policies to vary its provisions.  Part 7 of the R-Codes specifies what provisions are permitted to be varied by Local Planning Policies.

Some of the more notable changes to the R-Code provisions include:

  • The minimum lot size triggering the requirement for planning approval for a single dwelling has been reduced from 350m2 to 260m2 where it meets the ‘Deemed to Comply’ provisions.  This is to reflect the decrease in lot sizes seen in recent years and is aimed at improving both application processing and resourcing at a Local Government level.
  • Ancillary dwellings (now coined ‘The Fonzie Flat’) are no longer required to be occupied by a family member and the maximum permitted floorspace has increased from 60m2 to 70m2.  This provides for an alternative method of infill development and affordable housing options. This, however, does not facilitate additional subdivision.
  • Parking requirements have been reduced for single dwellings and grouped dwellings in areas coded R30 or below.  These reductions apply on the basis of the number of bedrooms and proximity to public transport.  Of interest, the proximity is calculated as a straight line from any point within the lot to either a train station platform or a road containing a high frequency bus route rather than a walkable catchment or ped-shed.
  • Given the variety of lot typologies being delivered within each density code and the general trend for smaller lot sizes, changes have been made to the majority of the minimum lot size requirements for each density code, bringing them in line with contemporary lot product standards.  For example, lots with a minimum site area of 350m2 are now permissible under the R20 code, 300m2 under the R25 code and 260m2under the R30 code. Lots must still, however, comply with the average requirement which for the most part remains unchanged. Refer to Table 1 of the R-Codes for all changes to minimum lot size.
  • The reduction in minimum site area requirements allows for greater flexibility in lot design under each code and reduces the need for ‘upcoding’ or modifying minimum lot size provisions under Local Structure Plans.
  • Despite the minimum lot sizes being reduced, the average lot sizes remain unchanged for the majority of the density codes, therefore no further development potential is created by the R-Codes review.  The R20 and R60 codes however are the exception, with a reduction in the average lot size from 500m2 to 450m2 for R20 and 180m2 to 150m2 for R60.
  • The R-Codes also now make provision for R80 dwellings under Table 1, with an average site area of 120m2 and minimum of 100m2.
  • Minor changes to the site coverage / open space requirements have been made, however it is likely Detailed Area Plans, now titled ‘Local Development Plans’, will still be necessary to vary these provisions as they do not generally reflect the current housing product being delivered.

There are no significant changes to the method of calculation of various elements, including site area, setbacks, building height etc. There are also no significant changes to the provisions and requirements under Part 6 of the R-Codes – relating to multiple dwellings in areas coded R30 or greater.  This section was reviewed in 2010 and was therefore considered to already be in line with contemporary design principles.

Any applications determined after 3pm on 2 August 2013 will be assessed under the new R-Code provisions, even if the application was lodged prior to this date.  Applications determined up to 2:59pm on 2 August will be assessed under the existing requirements.

Whilst we have highlighted some of the key changes, as with any change to the planning approval and policy framework, we recommend your own personal review. Please visit the WAPC’s webpage here for a copy of the 2013 R-Codes and other important information relating to the changes. If you would like to further discuss how these changes may relate to your development, please do not hesitate to give our Planning Division a call on 9221 1991 or email

Illustration by Matt Callaghan, Rowe Group Draftsperson