Obtaining demolition approval – what you need to know

Obtaining demolition approval – what you need to know

Tips and Advice

Getting demolition approval BrisbaneSo you’ve gone to an auction and purchased an old, rundown home that’s literally falling to pieces with a view to knocking it down and starting again. A sound strategy you figure as you’ve stuck to the old adage of buying ‘the worst house in the best street’. What could possibly go wrong?

But something does go wrong.

You discover that despite the fact the building is falling to pieces it is protected under the Brisbane City Council’s Traditional building character overlay codes and cannot be demolished, leaving you stuck with prime land that can’t be built on and a home that’s so run down it will cost several fortunes to get back to its former glory.

So how do you avoid this scenario? Well, it’s a tricky one. Let’s start by understanding more about the code itself.

Building Overlay Codes

The Traditional building character overlay codes are part of the Brisbane City Plan 2014 which replaces the Brisbane City Plan 2000 – Demolition Control Precinct.

Essentially the aim of the code (technically ‘codes’) is to preserve Brisbane buildings of historical significance or character homes from certain eras.

It should be pointed out that most homes are not affected by these codes. Some are able to be demolished or removed without even needing planning approval from the Brisbane City Council, but it pays to be sure before you start knocking things down or taking things away.

Some of the types of buildings that are affected by the various codes are those:

  • Listed in the Heritage Register
  • On a site in the Traditional building character overlay codes where the entire building was constructed prior to 1946
  • On a site in the Pre-1911 building overlay
  • Commercial character buildings
  • On a site where demolition must be assessed under a neighbourhood plan

What can be demolished without approvals?

Homes that fall under the codes can still be renovated and improved. If you’re planning on returning the home to its original state you’re unlikely to meet much resistance. For example, you can typically demolish any post-1946 alterations to help reveal the original home or to help you return the home to its original appearance. This includes things like wall cladding, roof material, verandah enclosures and the like. You can also, in most cases, demolish things like doors, windows, balustrades etc providing you replace those features with new ones of the same appearance and style that are consistent with the traditional character of the home.

You also typically don’t need planning approval to demolish things like internal walls, stairs or any post-1946 extension, addition or separate free standing outbuilding.

What can’t be demolished?

Any home that resides on a site in the traditional building character overlay codes where the entire building was constructed prior to 1946 or on a site in the Pre-1911 building overlay, will potentially have problems getting an approval to demolish.

Even those that have been deemed structurally unsound by a professional engineer are not always guaranteed of getting demolition approval.

However, a pre-1946 home in the traditional building character overlay can gain demolition approval if a structural engineer certifies that the home is infested with termites. But understand whilst a termite-riddled home may be able to be demolished, one that is structurally unsound but not infested with termites might not get demolition approval.

So should you buy a traditional pre-1946 home?

Well, the answer is maybe.

The first thing you need to know is whether or not the home is Heritage Listed or if it falls under the Traditional building character overlay codes or the Pre-1911 building overlay code. You can find these through the Brisbane City Council Plan Interactive Mapping tool.

If the home you intend to purchase falls under one of these codes, you are best to get expert advice before you go ahead with the purchase. Contact dion seminara architecture and let us investigate any demolition or alteration restrictions that may be in place on the property. We can then inform you if there are any restrictions and you can make an informed decision from there.

You don’t want to find that you’ve purchased a dump in a sensational location, but then can’t improve it in the way you would like. So if you’re in any doubt at all get professional advice. Don’t risk getting a nasty surprise after you’ve purchased it, let us do the research for you so you’re aware of any potential problems right up front.

Dion Seminara Architect


Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 20 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.