Medium density infill in neighbourhood character areas

The following information has been prepared to provide design advice to developers and the broader community regarding infill development in Toowoomba's Neighbourhood Character Areas.

All houses nominated in the Planning Scheme are to be retained on site. This includes the relocation of these character buildings on site. Any redevelopment within character areas is to support the prevailing character of the area. Only those houses considered structurally unsound or not economically viable to be retained can be removed, subject to approval.

mdid technical sheet 1

Local character in Toowoomba's residential areas varies, but generally includes the following elements:

  • predominantly low set timber and tin dwellings
  • often pre World War II
  • mature street trees
  • garden settings within lots
  • bluestone kerbing
  • a formal grid pattern of streets
  • small individual houses on individual lots
  • a gently undulating topography
  • strong vegetation and landscaping elements to individual homes, streets and public realm

These elements need to be taken into consideration in the development or redevelopment of character areas within Toowoomba.

Residential block sizes in Toowoomba's character areas vary from less than 400m2 to well over 1200m2. All lots are generally rectangular in shape with depths varying to over 60m.

Incremental redevelopment of these sites over time has led to a pattern of development that has not always complimented the character of these areas or provided good site planning outcomes.

As a result of the deep lot configuration buildings often run perpendicular to the street, overlooking side boundaries rather than addressing the street. This results in long, thin, isolated buildings which do not relate to the streetscape; creates privacy issues; and leaves little in the way of useable private open space on the lot. This outcome is undesirable in relation to good city form and contrary to Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.

In order to achieve better built form outcomes, changes are necessary. It is agreed that buildings should be pushed forward, but the prevailing setbacks in the character areas also need to be maintained (generally) to ensure consistency in the streetscape. For larger development proposals it may be necessary to amalgamate sites to achieve a sensible development form that has a high yield and overlooks the street. Given the scale of development proposed, that is not unreasonable.

Allowing buildings to reorientate towards the street will also allow for opportunities for private open space at the rear of the site behind buildings (whether that be on podiums or on ground).

Technical sheets

We have put together technical sheets, which relate to built form issues and the retention or relocation on site of those Neighbourhood Character Places nominated for retention under the Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme.  

Medium density infill in neighbourhood character areas - technical sheet 1

This sheet describes some of the characteristics, qualities and principles to be considered when proposing infill development in character areas. Five design attributes are identified, urban context, scale and massing, streetscape relationships, design elements and materials and colours.

Urban context

  • The character of higher order streets enables larger and taller buildings more out of scale with the prevailing residential character. Transitions in height from single storey to three-storey developments need to be carefully considered.
  • Where a lower order street is reasonably intact with Neighbourhood Character Places, those houses and large trees should be retained. New development should occur either behind or beside the existing dwelling [pictures 1,2] to maintain the character and quality of the street.

Urban context examples technical sheet 1

Scale and massing

  • Higher density development will comprise more attached forms of housing contrasting with the simple smaller scaled box forms of Neighbourhood Character Places Buildings [picture 3].
  • It will be challenging to maintain the streetscape rhythm of individual buildings with higher density, more attached housing forms and larger building footprints [picture 3].
  • Slab on ground buildings with cut and fill and apartment buildings with large scale box like forms do not respect the scale and character of Neighbourhood Character Places [picture 4].

Scale and massing examples technical sheet 1

Streetscape relationships

  • Incremental infill developments are often built parallel to side boundaries, so do not address and overlook the street but orient to side boundaries overlooking neighbours. There are no front gardens and visible entries, just open expanses of grass or tall fences with little transparency. Driveways dominate with little or no landscape to break up expanses of concrete. Picture 6 - this development form neither compliments the character areas nor provides good site planning outcomes.

Design elements technical sheet 1 examples

Design elements

  • Contemporary design solutions for apartment buildings with flat and shallow pitched skillion roofs are less appropriate in Toowoomba [picture 7].
  • The bulk of larger buildings is emphasised with long horizontal expression and verandahs recessed into facades making design outcomes out of scale and character with heritage character places [picture 8].

Design elements technical sheet 1 examples

Materials and colours

  • Lightweight materials in roofing and cladding are the dominant forms of material, but the use of timber in higher density housing is often not incorporated [picture 9].
  • Colours are generally lighter colours with whites, creams and highlights (roof awnings and balustrades) in reds and greens etc [picture 9].
  • Contemporary apartments can utilise planes of rendered masonry and full height glass facades at variance to the character of Neighbourhood Character Places [picture 10].

Medium density infill in neighbourhood character areas - technical sheet 2

This sheet examines common development issues related to integrating new housing amongst existing character neighbourhoods in relation to the five design attributes. 

Urban context

  • The urban context relates to the character of broader precincts within a city displayed in the scale of buildings on streets, lot size, street layouts, topography, landscape and other elements (bluestone kerb and channel etc).
  • The streetscape character on lower order streets is of smaller scale individual houses on single lots, with views between buildings to treed rear gardens [picture 1].
  • Higher order streets have a different urban character than lower order streets with a greater variety of land-uses with retail and commercial uses on strategic corners. Greater density and height may occur on higher order streets with lower scale more incremental infill in lower order streets [picture 2].

Urban context technical sheet 2 examples

Scale and massing

  • Scale and massing of buildings is a strong element of the character of a precinct. These areas are characterised by groupings of individual buildings in a landscape setting. Streetscape rhythm is of individual buildings 8 – 10m wide. Dwellings are raised up on stumps (essentially 1.5 storeys) displaying a distinct sub floor as part of their character. There is no cut and fill on sloping sites.
  • Dwellings have simple box like forms with visible traditional, pitched roof forms and attached verandahs and balconies [pictures 3, 4].
  • Appropriate infill development complements the scale and massing of existing development [picture 5].

Scale and massing technical sheet 2 examples

Streetscape relationships

  • Traditional dwelling houses have entries facing streets with windows and verandahs overlooking the street. Low front fences define front courtyard/gardens spaces which contribute to the setting of the house and assist transitioning from public space to private space. This arrangement is in accordance with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.
  • Car parking and garages do not dominate the streetscape. Driveways are narrow and garages and car ports are set behind the line of the dwelling.
  • Buildings look to the front and rear of lots, not to sides [picture 6].

Design elements technical sheet2 example

Design elements

  • Building forms should be generally simple box forms with attachments for balconies and verandahs. Long unarticulated wall planes are not evident. Roofs are visible with pyramid, hipped or gabled forms [pictures 7,8,9].
  • Balconies and verandahs are generally attached to the simple box of the main building. Roof forms extend over these elements [pictures 7,8,9].
  • Windows are generous with greater vertical than horizontal proportions. Double hung windows are typical. Horizontal windows are groupings of vertically proportioned windows [picture 9].

Design elements technical sheet 2 examples

Materials and colours

  • The city is dominated by tin and timber structures. These are the quintessential materials that comprise the built form in Toowoomba. Roofs are generally constructed of corrugated iron [pictures 11,12].
  • Cladding is chamfer board or weather board. Heavyweight materials are not common, although rendered masonry is incorporated in buildings over one storey [pictures 11,12, 13].
  • Colours are generally lighter colours with whites, creams and highlights (roof awnings and balustrades ) in reds and greens etc [picture 10].
  • Sub floors are not visually dominant and are usually enclosed with a darker colour.

Materials and colours technical sheet 2 examples

Medium density infill in neighbourhood character areas - technical sheet 3 (PDF)

This sheet introduces 5 possible development scenarios on standard lot sizes from lower to higher density to inform discussion about site planning, height, density, landscape and relationship to the street.

  * Note: assumes lot amalgamation required to achieve minimum frontage and site area. # Note: where additional Neighbourhood Character Places are required to be retained the maximum density may not be achieved.  legend pic    
Streetscape streetscape 1 l to r streetscape 2 streetscape 3 streetscape 4 streetscape 5

Site Planning


site planning 1 site planning 2 site planning 3 site planning 4 site planning 5
Scenario 1 2 3 4 5
Description Second residence located behind. Separate driveways and open spaces allows for individual titling of dwellings. Entry to rear dwelling is visible from the street (rather than car parking). A 1.5/2 storey residence may be located on the street beside the character house.Two storey townhouses are located at the rear of the site with parking incorporated, accessed via a central shared driveway. Garages are not visible from the street. Residences addressing the street may be individual townhouses or a single detached house of similar scale to the existing character dwelling adjacent. Garages are not visible from the street.Two storey townhouses are located at the rear of the site with parking incorporated, accessed via a central shared driveway. Visitor carparking is located behind the dwellings directly addressing the street. Residences addressing the street may be individual townhouses and/or single detached houses. Garages are not visible from the street.

Two storey townhouses are located at the rear of the site with parking incorporated, accessed via a central shared driveway. Visitor carparking is located behind the dwellings directly addressing the street.

Apartments up to 3 storeys address the higher order streets. Carparking is located in a basement/ semi-basement and not visible from the street. Ground floor apartments have individual entries and courtyards, accessed from the major street.

Two storey townhouses are located on lower order street and at the rear of the corner site with parking incorporated, accessed via a central shared driveway. Townhouses enable a transition in scale from apartments to detached dwellings on side streets.

Character House Retained  Retained Retained Not retained Not retained
Height  1.5 / 2 storeys 1.5 / 2 storeys 1.5 / 2 storeys 2 storeys 3 storeys
Min. Site Area 600m2 800m2 1200m2* 1200m2* 1600m2*
Min. Frontage 15m 20m 30m* 30m* 40m*
Dwellings 2 4 6(5) 12 - 16 
Density 33 du/ha 50 du/ha 40 - 50 du/ha# 50 du/ha 75 - 100 du/ha#

Medium density infill in neighbourhood character areas - technical sheet 4

This sheet breaks down the 5 design qualities and highlights them on a typical street elevation of the 5 development scenarios. The objective is to demonstrate how typical character elements can be integrated into new development.


Urban context

  • height massingBuilt form increases in scale and height from lower order streets to higher order streets.
  • Smaller scale infill development of individual dwellings, duplexes and town houses are in lower order. Residential streets with more intact character streetscapes retain and integrate original dwellings.
  • Larger scale townhouse and apartment buildings are located on higher order through-streets that connect into the city centre and other regional destinations.

scale and massing arrow up


Scale massing

  • street mass infill massSmaller scale massing elements occur within lower order residential streets. Groups of dwellings are expressed as connected individual buildings with varying expression.
  • Street facing infill respects the scale of neighbouring character dwellings with larger scaled massing to the rear of the block.
  • Larger more expressive built form elements are incorporated towards corners of major streets and facing major streets.
  • Corner buildings address both street frontages.

streetscape relationships 3


Streetscape relationships

  • vernadah terraceEntries are visible and accessible from the street, on street level or up to 1m above street.
  • Fenced front gardens provide a setting for development.
  • Driveways are narrow and do not dominate the streetscape.
  • Car parking areas are located behind street facing buildings where possible and do not dominate the streetscape.
  • Entries to corner buildings are on the major street.

design elements 3


Design elements 

  • hipped roofDesign elements include pitched roofs (20-25º pitch), gabled roofs facing streets or hipped roofs.
  • Verandahs with separate roofs are attached to the main building mass, roofs are not continuous over verandahs.
  • Chimneys are visible above pitched roofs.
  • Slopes are accommodated with raised floors enclosed below with battens or masonry minimising cut and fill on site.
  • Windows are vertical in proportion. Wider windows comprise groups of vertical windows.

materials and colours 3


Materials and colours

  • currugated steel roofColours and materials sympathetic to the character dwellings such as horizontal timber cladding, corrugated steel roofing, timber framed verandah balustrades, are incorporated into new dwellings.
  • Masonry elements reminiscent of city centre buildings in Toowoomba are incorporated near corners of higher order streets and facing onto higher order streets.

blu and brown houses

Last Updated: Sunday, 02 July 2017 13:44
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