Council Permission for Shade Sails

Do I need council approval to build a shade sail?

If you’re planning on getting a shade sail for your business, it is important to consider the council approval and planning permissions you’ll need. Your local council will have rules surrounding development approvals in your area. Whether you need council permission for your shade sails and what kind you need is dependent on a range of factors. These include your type of business and the design, size and placement of your potential sail. If you don’t gain the appropriate permissions your council could demand you remove it, or it could cause more trouble later on.

Playground Shade Sail

Childcare Centres

As far as planning permission, childcare centres are usually distinguished from Education Establishments. In Australia, informal education and childminding facilities, such as crèches, early childhood centres, kindergartens, and before and after school care are subject to local council rules for planning permission and building approvals. However, kindergartens offering formal pre-preparatory education, including Queensland’s Approved Kindergarten Program, are grouped together with schools.

In New South Wales the State Environmental Planning Policy makes special allowances for childcare facilities, so if your shade sail is less than 40m2 and made of non-combustible materials you wouldn’t usually need to seek planning permission before building your sail, depending on your local council.

Schools and Formal Educational Establishments

Generally, around Australia, schools do not need any local permission to complete operational works that don’t constitute a material change of use. Which essentially means the addition of a shade sail to an already existing school is not a local council matter. There are still varying requirements from state education departments and federal policy. These apply across government-funded public, independent, and Catholic schools in varying ways, so it’s best to check with your state’s education departments.

For example, in South Australia, the Department for Education requires all shade structures to gain approval from the Development Assessment Commission, including proof that the proposed structure meets all legislative requirements and complies with the Building Code of Australia. Schools also need approval from the owner of the site, in the case of public schools the owner of the site would usually be the Minister for Education and Child Development.

Commercial Shade Sails

Retail & Hospitality

Depending on the size and placement of your planned shade sail, local governments around Australia have different requirements. If the sail is behind the facade of your building for an outdoor seating area or otherwise clear of the property boundaries, for example, to cover a carpark it is generally easier to meet the requirements of your council to avoid needing to apply for planning or development permission.

If you’re planning on having your shade sail on the face of your building it’s more likely you’ll need permission, particularly if you’re wanting to cover part of a footpath. If you plan on printing any sort of branding onto your shade sail the sail may be considered signage by your local council and therefore subject to different restrictions. The Brisbane City Council, for example, has a range of signage requirements for self-assessment, otherwise, a signage assessment will need to be completed by the council.

Other Things to Consider

Planning permission is not the only kind of council approval you might need. Council’s have different local requirements, so it’s always best to confirm with your council exactly what kind of approvals you need. Even if your shade sail doesn’t need to be approved by the council you may still need to get other permissions, usually relating to building codes and fire safety requirements. Your council can also ask to see proof that your shade sail meets all relevant regulations.

Many local governments are making it easier to see the zoning, overlays and planning conditions for your property online helping make the process simpler. Local governments also offer other services including consultations and helplines to walk you through the process and help you understand what exactly you need for your business shade sail.

How we can help

Our team can help you ensure that your new shade sail design will fit within your council’s guidelines and help you through the approval and certification process. Commercial Shade Sails has extensive experience designing and installing a variety of custom shade sails across Australia. Call us today to start planning your business’s new shade sail with a local expert.


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