Approvals ACT

Approvals – ACT

The team here at First Sheds prides itself in having the best knowledge about planning and development for sheds and garages in Canberra. We will manage the full approval process for you, including drafting plans, liaising with ACTpla and certifiers and putting the whole thing under our builder’s license. We have made the below video to explain the rules around getting sheds approved. We also have an in depth guide below.

Do you need approval for a garage in the ACT? Do you need an approval for a shed in the ACT? Do you need a building license to put up a shed? Are sheds and garages exempt from approval in Canberra? Do I need a Development Approval (DA) AND a Building Approval (BA)??? Can I be exempt from one and note the other!? WHAT EVEN IS AN APPROVAL?!!?

These are tricky and confusing questions if you don’t know where to start. The above video explains that a DA exempt Building Approval is the easiest way to get your shed approved in Canberra as it cuts the wait time down from 6-9 months to about 4-6 weeks, as well as drastically reducing costs. But let’s take a step back quickly and look at what an approval is.


The planning and development departments of local councils all around Australia want to make sure that people don’t build whatever they want. SO they put rules in place meaning your neighbour can’t just go ahead and build a full scale model of the Eiffel tower in their backyard. In the ACT the governing body is an organisation called ACTpla and they have two levels of approvals, a Development Approval or DA and a Building Approval or BA.

WHAT IS A DEVELOPMENT APPROVAL IN CANBERRA? (sheds and garages are usually exempt)

In Canberra a DA pertains to the design of the development you wish to undertake, it encompasses everything from colours to energy efficienty ratings. In ACTpla’s own words “The process of development approval is a check system ensuring that your proposed development conforms with all requirements as set out in the crown lease, Territory plan codes or other requirements or conditions that are specific to your block or your lands zoning”.

Basically that’s a lot of jargon from ACTpla saying, there are so many possibilities of what you might be building that you’ve got to ask us if you can build it.

In a lot of instances a Development approval is applied for and achieved first. Subsequently a Building approval is then sought. DA’s in Canberra take in the range of 6 months.


WHAT IS A BUILDING APPROVAL IN CANBERRA (not exempt from this one)

In Canberra a BA functions much like a construction certificate does in NSW. For us here in the nation’s capital it is the part of the approval that a private certifier reviews and approves.

It check’s that the structure is being built by a licensed builder and that the structure has been engineered by a licensed engineer. Not only this, the certifier checks that the proposed building meets the relevant Australian standards and actually inspects certain points of the build to ensure that the approved plans are actually what are getting built.

In gaining building approval you must also prove, via a drafted plan, that your building will conform to regulations around impacting existing services on your block e.g. Storm water, drainage and electrical easements. This is the hands-on, practical part of an approval that deals with how a building will actually be built and checked, instead of the development of the land and its future use. Most importantly it is this one WE NEED TO ACHIEVE FOR SHEDS AND GARAGES.


As you can probably imagine, ACTpla is inundated with requests to develop land. In order to streamline the process they have put in place a set (or multiple sets) of rules that if met, means you are exempt from DA and can go straight to BA.

In the ACT if you meet either one of the two different sets of framework in place your structure can be exempt from DA. A private certifier approves whether you are exempt from a DA, and this makes up part of the DA exempt BA process.

In technical terms a garage/ shed is termed a 10a building, which is a term for NON-HABITABLE buildings. So the below rules don’t just apply to sheds or garages, but any non habitable building, it could therefore be a studio, home office, rumpus room, carport etc. They can even have a bathroom and a kitchenette in them!

TO RECAP – The ACT government has set out two pathways to achieve DA exemption for class 10a buildings.

If you have stayed with us this far, we are impressed and just to reiterate we are more than happy to handle this entire process for you and to answer any questions you might have over the phone.


We will First look at schedule 1 of the 2008 planning and development regulation specifically division 1.3.2 page 139 (see here).

A DA exempt BA can be achieved under this legislation if the shed, garage, carport or studio meets the following criteria

  • On blocks larger than 600sqm the structure can be no larger than 50sqm-
  • The structure must be set back 15m from the front boundary
  • The structure cannot be higher than 3m along a boundary
  • The structure cannot be higher than 4m overall.
  • The structure cannot have more than 30sqm of wall with 1.5m of a boundary – for example if the shed is 3m high it cannot be longer than 10m if it is within 1.5m of a side boundary. If you are further than 1.5m from the boundary then you can have a wall with a larger surface area, however you must still adhere to the max 50sqm footprint overall.
  • The structure must not be in an easement
  • The structure must not interfere with access to service providers. This is to say if you have a stormwater easement at the rear of the property you can block access to the pipe with your garage, at the very worst you must put a roller door on the back (like this project here) of 2.5m x 2.5m so that in the event the pipe bursts the service provider can get to the pipe and excavate it.

This piece of legislation is in place so that people who want to put an garage, studio, shed etc. in their backyard can do so quickly and easily.


The second pathway that can be utilised to achieve a DA exempt building approval is the 2008 single dwelling housing development code (see here) – It is particularly useful for structures that are not set back 15m from the front boundary or are bigger than 50sqm HOWEVER these structures will typically need to be set back from a side boundary by 900mm. The criteria are as follows.

  • The structure must be set back from the front boundary by 6m (this can potentially be brought down in newer suburbs)
  • The structure must be set back 3m from the rear boundary.
  • Height is under 8.5m overall or conforms with solar envelope this is particularly important if you are on your neighbours northern boundary.
  • No higher than 3.5m on the boundary
  • Max floor area of shed not to cause total GFA of block to exceed 50% plot ratio – this means if you live on a 800sqm block your 50% plot ratio will be 400sqm, 400sqm being the maximum amount of floor area (including second storeys in houses) you can build. If your current house was 200sqm then you could build up to a 200sqm shed (that’s a lot of shed, like this shed here we got approved in 3 weeks)
  • If the structure is within 900mm of a boundary then the maximum wall facing that boundary is 8m long

If you don’t meet all of the above rules you may be eligible to apply for a 1N exempt declaration


In many instances you may be very close to these rules laid out above, but might diverge slightly on one or two things. In this instance instead of going through a full DA process you can ask ACTpla to be exempt from a specific rule as long as you have neighbour support and you can justify the departure from the rule. This is called an Exempt Declaration in the ACT and is also referred to as a 1N.

We are more than happy to apply for this on your behalf! Here are two examples of us doing this for clients.  One example (here) is where we successfully applied to be exempt from a max wall of 8m within 900mm of a boundary. Another we were allowed to encroach on the front boundary setback (here)


In some instances you may not need an approval at all as there also exists parameters laid out in the 2008 Building (general) regulation -pages 68-70 (see here) that exempt certain class 10a building from approval all together.

  • no higher than 3m overall.
  • roof area is larger than 25m2
  • floor area must be less than 36m2.
  • framing cannot have an unsupported span of more than 6m.
  • steel in roof cannot be more than 4mm thick.
  • 15m setback from front boundary – no side boundary setback


As a company with a building license we always recommend that you go the legal way and get your shed or garage approved. This way there is a paper trail documenting, the engineering, the builder, the certifier, and council recognises it on your block plans.

If you fall into the above category of not requiring an approval at all then yippie! But remember the onus is on you to prove at a later date that your structure did not require an approval so it is handy to keep all of the documentation.

If you fall into the category of building a shed or garage without approval its worth understanding the risks.

  1. Insurance. Insurance. You have to weigh up the risk of whether your insurance provider will insure an unapproved structure or its contents? This could be a costly mistake in the event of theft or destruction of property through, fire, hail or accident.
  2. Resale. Resale. You may have issues down the track when you go to sell a property with unapproved structures on the land. Buyers will have to sign a waiver, and a building report will note this.

In the end this is a tricky topic, with a lot of variables and moving parts. Once again we are more than happy to help you through the process. Feel free to give us a call on 6242 5927

DA exempt Building Approval
– Schedule 1, Single Residential
Getting a DA.


Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m – 5:00 p.m
Weekends By Appointment


2/48 Hoskins Street Mitchell