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What are the Residential Design Codes?

The Residential Design Codes (also known as the R-Codes) is a state-level planning policy that forms the basis for residential development control in Western Australia. All residential development is to comply with the requirements of the R-Codes.
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The R-Codes are set out in two (2) volumes. Volume 1 provides planning and design standards for single houses, grouped dwellings and multiple dwellings (apartments) in areas with a density coding less the R40. Volume 2 provides planning and design standards for apartments in areas coded R40 and above, and for mixed use developments.

Volume 1 of the R-Codes contains a series of development requirements known as “Deemed-to-Comply” provisions and “Design Principles”.  These provisions deal with specific elements such as setbacks, open space, building height, plot ratio, parking, access and visual privacy.

Compliance with Volume 1 of the R-Codes can be achieved by either satisfying the “Deemed-to-Comply” provisions of a specific element or by demonstrating that the “Design Principles” of that element have been met.  “Deemed-to-comply” provisions are essentially minimum development standards.  Where a proposal complies with that standard, it is considered to automatically satisfy that element. Where a proposal does not meet a “Deemed-to-Comply” provision, it is assessed against the corresponding “Design Principles”.

Unlike Volume 1, Volume 2 of the R-Codes is a performance based policy where applicants are required to demonstrate that a proposal satisfies the “Objectives” of a specific planning or design “Element”. Volume 2 does not contain a deemed-to-comply pathway and each Element Objective must be addressed either through demonstration of “Acceptable Outcomes” or through alternative means such as the considerations and options outlined in the “Design Guidance”. Apartments and mixed-use developments are often complex proposals that benefit from early and systematic involvement by planning and design experts.

The assessment of a proposal against the “Design Principles” or “Design Guidance” of the R-Codes requires the exercise of judgement and discretion by the decision-maker. It is not always easy to demonstrate that a proposal satisfies a “Design Principle” under Volume 1 of the R-Codes or meets the “Objective” of a Design Element in Volume 2 and in these situations, expert advice can be very helpful.

Whilst the R-Codes is a state government planning policy, it is administered by Local Government through individual Local Planning Schemes. Local Governments are able to vary some of the provisions of the R-Codes through their Local Planning Schemes and local planning policies.  Some of the development provisions contained in the R-Codes are also determined by reference to the residential density coding assigned to a property under a Local Planning Scheme. It is therefore important, when planning your project, to understand how specific provisions of the R-Codes may be applied by your particular Council.

Are the R-Codes relevant to me?

The R-Codes apply to all forms of residential development in Western Australia and are therefore relevant if you are planning to build or extend a single house, a grouped dwelling such as a unit or villa, or an apartment.  They are also relevant if you are planning to subdivide residential land.

Proposed changes to the R-Codes

​In August 2020, the State Government released a series of proposed changes to Volume 1 of the R-Codes for proposals involving the construction of single houses, grouped dwellings and multiple dwellings (apartments) with a density coding less than R40. The changes are part of the State Government’s economic recovery response to COVID-19 and aim to improve the planning approvals process. Some of the proposed changes are significant and will affect how developments are designed and assessed.

The period for lodgement of submissions on the proposed changes has now closed. The State Government is reviewing the submissions received and is expected to release a final document before the end of the year. If you are planning a residential development that involves single houses, grouped dwellings and/or apartments, Rowe Group can assist by explaining how the proposed changes may affect your development.

Whether it’s a residential, rural, retail, office, commercial or industrial development.

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Our Services

What services do we offer?

Rowe Group has an in-depth understanding of the R-Codes and can assist by:

  • Explaining how the R-Codes affect your property or proposed development;
  • Reviewing your plans and identifying any potential issues that need to be addressed before an Application for Planning Approval is lodged;
  • Preparing an R-Codes compliance assessment to accompany your Application for Planning Approval;
  • Advising on design changes that may be necessary to ensure that your development complies with the R- Codes;
  • Providing assistance to justify the assessment of a proposal against a “deemed-to-comply” provision;
  • Explaining the assessment process and your rights and responsibilities during that process; and
  • Negotiating with the decision-maker on your behalf to resolve any issues or concerns.

Rowe Group can also assist in situations where an Application for Planning Approval has been refused or an unreasonable approval condition has been applied and you wish to pursue an Application for Review (Appeal) through the State Administrative Tribunal.

Who can I contact for more advice?

The R-Codes can be difficult to interpret and expert advice is often required.  Rowe Group’s Planning Team are specialists in dealing with the R-Codes and can assist with any query. If you would like to discuss your project or simply need some advice, our Planning Team are happy to help.

Contact Details

a. Level 3, 369 Newcastle Street
Northbridge WA 6003
p. +618 9221 1991
f. +618 9221 1919
Business Hours: 8.00 am - 6.30 pm M-F