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Norman Waterhouse

Environment & Planning – Draft Building Inspection Policy

On 21 October 2019 the State Planning Commission (Commission) issued a draft practice direction for Council Inspection Policies (Policy). This has been released along with a Background Paper which sets out the rationale behind the policy and the way it has been drafted. It has also been prepared following a report by Botten Levinson and advice from the Commission’s Building Committee.

Why

Under the Development Act 1993, councils must prepare and adopt a building inspection policy. In doing so, councils are required to comply with minimum levels of inspections set out in the Development Regulations 2008 as well as those committed to by each council.

Section 144 of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016, shifts the onus of the preparation of these policies to the Commission and requires it to issue a practice direction in relation to inspections that councils must comply with.

The Object of the Policy is for inspections to provide for occupant and public safety as well as maintaining confidence and integrity in the development control system.

The Policy is currently out on public consultation until 18 December 2019.

What

The number of inspections required by the Policy is found in the tables comprising Appendix 2 of the Policy, which is separated into 4 categories of buildings: domestic dwellings, and small, medium and large commercial or public buildings. Those categories are further defined by reference to building size and classification under the Building Rules.

The Policy sets out in Clause 2(2) of Part 2 certain elements that require inspection and assessment during an inspection, namely: primary structural elements; structural framing and roof trusses; balustrades; cladding; egress provisions; bushfire protection systems; passive and active fire safety elements; private bushfire shelters and performance solutions.

Relevantly, in relation to dwellings, the Policy imposes an inspection requirement of 66%, being the same as currently exists under the Development Act 1993. However, as previously drafted, it doesn’t require the inspection to be undertaken at a particular time, although encourages it to occur on completion if there is fire risk, or it contains balustrades or performance solutions.

In relation to commercial or public buildings, all buildings require inspections on at least one occasion with small buildings requiring inspection at completion. There is a discretion as to when the inspection(s) occurs for medium or large buildings, with councils encouraged to list notification stages at the time it issues development approval.

Who

The scheme of the Policy is such that inspections can be carried out by authorised officers with the qualifications in Regulation 112 of the Planning, Development and Infrastructure (General) Regulations 2017, i.e. any of building levels 1-4. Theoretically that means that an officer who is accredited at Building Level 4 could inspect multi-storey buildings, of which they would not be qualified to assess for Building Rules consent purposes.

However, the Policy suggests that councils must ensure that the inspection and any subsequent assessment is carried out by a person who has the appropriate qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the inspection (clause 1(2) of Part 3). To our mind, given the obligation imposed on councils is to assess the adequacy of the listed building elements; this effectively means that an inspecting officer should be accredited to a level that would permit him or her to provide advice or grant Building Rules consent to the building being inspected.

Whilst there is scope under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 for different requirements to apply to different councils, the requirements in the Policy are proposed to apply equally to all councils.

For more specific information on any of the material contained in this article or for assistance in preparing a submission during the consultation period, please contact Aden Miegel on +61 8 8217 1342 or amiegel@normans.com.au or Gavin Leydon +61 8 8210 1225 or gleydon@normans.com.au.

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