Doherty Smith & Associates is now Compass Consulting Surveyors

Click here to see this blog and more on our new website

A common question posed to Surveyors is the old classic “Can my land be subdivided?” Often the answer to this question is relatively simple; however there are many factors which must be considered.

The factors to be considered when looking to subdivide land include, but of course are not limited to the following items.

The zoning of the land:

The zone or zones of the land in question will largely determine the ability of the land to be subdivided. In general, the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) will prescribe whether land within a particular zone can be subdivided. If the zone allows subdivision, the LEP will set out minimum standards for lots created by subdivision such as a minimum lot size. Land which is affected by more than one zone may be restricted in subdivision potential unless there is a provision in the LEP for this to occur.

Site-Specific restrictions

Other restrictions can apply to a site which may not be immediately obvious. Bushfire prone status, flood prone status, contaminated land, heritage status and other restrictions can prevent a site from being subdivided, or affect the manner in which a subdivision takes place, even if the zoning and LEP rules allow. Council’s can provide further information on any known restrictions on a site in a certificate called a Section 149 (or Planning) Certificate.

Practical Aspects

When subdividing land for a dwelling, there are three important factors to consider before any others:

  1. Access to the site
  2. Electricity supply to the site
  3. Water supply to the site

Access to the site should be considered early in the process, and may require consultation with civil contractors or Council on the best route and construction methods for an access. Access should also be legal, either by direct access to a Public or Crown Road, opening a new road, or creating a legal Right of Carriageway (or similar). If you plan to obtain access through a neighbour’s land, you should seek their approval in writing early in the process.

Providing electricity to a subdivided lot can be expensive. In rural areas, provision of power to a new lot can be the largest single expense in the subdivision process. In urban areas, the location of the power connection should be carefully considered, and may involve the necessity for easements over adjoining land. Provision of electricity services may include creation of easements for the infrastructure such as poles, transformers, underground cables and pillars. While there is a cost to be considered with easement creation, agreement of adjoining land owners can be difficult to obtain.

In an urban area, provision of water to a site is usually relatively straightforward if there is available access to Council’s reticulated water main. Water connections, and even extensions of water mains, are relatively inexpensive in the scheme of development. In rural areas, careful consideration needs to be given to water supply. Farm dams, rivers and creeks, springs and bores can be used as a water supply, however must be able to provide sufficient water for the proposed use of the new lot. In many cases, a water licence must be available. Where the water source is not within the subject land, easements may be required for the pipes and other infrastructure.

Beyond these three factors, a developer should consider sewage disposal or treatment, stormwater disposal and/or treatment, fencing requirements, structural limitations if subdividing a building, heritage status including aboriginal heritage, bushfire prone classification, setbacks from boundaries, flood levels and much more.

As each site is unique, a consultant should be engaged when you begin the subdivision process to assist you in obtaining the necessary information, certificates and advice.

Can your land be subdivided? Ask a surveyor!