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Building and Bushfires: How to navigate the requirements for Bushfire Prone Land


Following the devastating bushfires of Summer 2019, many of the local Councils (including Byron Shire) have updated their Bushfire Mapping, making building requirements on Bushfire Prone Land more stringent.


If your property is in a rural area, the chances are that your land has been mapped as bushfire prone, and even land in residential areas can fall into this category if in close proximity to bushland or a nature reserve.


How can I tell if my land is in a Bushfire Prone Area?


You can go to the NSW Planning Portal Spatial Viewer and enter your property address at the top left. Then underneath in the ‘Filter Layers’ heading, type ‘Bushfire’ and click on the ‘Bushfire Prone Land’ box. When this box is clicked, the Bushfire Mapping layer will overlay on the map and if you see any red, orange or yellow shading, then you have a Vegetation Category or Vegetation Buffer mapped on your land.



So what does that mean if my land has been marked as Bushfire Prone?


If you plan to build on this land or renovate your existing home, or add a studio or secondary dwelling, you’ll need a bushfire assessment to determine the Bushfire Attack Level rating (usually referred to as a BAL rating). Your BAL rating will depend on what vegetation category has been mapped on your land (how hazardous the adjacent vegetation is), proximity of your home to the vegetation and the slope of your land. A Bushfire Assessor can do a site assessment and advise on which BAL rating is applicable and will provide a BAL certificate or Bushfire Report.


Once the BAL rating has been determined, there will be certain construction requirements that will need to be complied with relating specifically to the BAL rating. The higher the BAL rating the more stringent the requirements are. These requirements can relate to anything from glazing and window framing and screening requirements; external materials including roof, walls and decking; roof guttering; water storage requirements; and allowing vehicle manoeuvring on site for a Fire Truck.


Is it expensive to build or renovate on Bushfire Prone Land?


It is usually the case that building to meet BAL rating requirements will add some additional costs to your new build or renovation and usually the higher the BAL rating, the greater the additional cost. However, knowing what BAL rating is applicable from the outset enables your architect or designer to work within the constraints of the site, the BAL rating and your budget to come up with a solution that ticks all the boxes.


How can Sanctuary Design Studio help?


Whether your site is mapped as Bushfire Prone Land or Flood prone land, Heritage Conservation or other Constraints, we can help find the right Consultants to assess your situation. We then advise you on the requirements and implications that may be applicable and come up with solutions to that not only respond to these requirements but also create passively designed, beautiful spaces that our clients love to live in.



Take Lorikeet Lane as an example. This was a new build on a vacant block in a new land release. Due to the proximity to a regenerated bushland strip their block was constrained by an Asset Protection Zone (APZ) along their rear boundary and needed to comply with BAL29 requirements. So informed by these constraints we designed a building form that responded to the available area on the site and used a material palette that met with the requirements. The result is a robust yet warm family home, that meets all the planning requirements without compromising on the clients’ vision for their home or their budget.

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