Neighbourhood Character Overlay (INFO 055)

Heritage home on character street

Information Sheet 055

Overlays identify spatial areas within the Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme 2012 (the planning scheme) that reflect distinct themes that may:

  • be sensitive to the effects of development
  • constrain land or development
  • include valuable resources
  • present opportunities for development

Overlays are mapped and included in Schedule 2 of the Planning Scheme – Mapping. If a site is identified by an overlay then assessable development on the site will need to address the associated overlay codes contained in Part 8 of the Planning Scheme - Overlays. Overlays do not change the level of assessment for development unless specified in Part 5 of the Planning Scheme – Tables of Assessment (Table 5.10:1). The Overlay Codes raise issues for consideration in assessable development.


Understanding Neighbourhood Character Overlay

The Neighbourhood Character Overlay has been applied to areas within Toowoomba that have been identified as having a specific character due to their streetscapes and the consistency of built form. The housing in Neighbourhood Character areas is often set in a street environment that reinforces both the aesthetic value of the houses and their distinctive local character.

Important local character values vary between areas covered by the overlay, but generally include predominantly low set, often pre-World War II detached timber housing, mature street trees, established trees and residential gardens and bluestone kerbing.


What Neighbourhood Character Overlay Code seeks to achieve

The Neighbourhood Character Overlay Code seeks to achieve the following outcomes:

  • buildings and features which contribute to the local streetscape are retained;
  • other characteristics which contribute to the local character are protected;
  • the character, appearance, location, height and bulk of new development is compatible with those aspects of existing premises on the site or in the local streetscape; and
  • extensions or modifications to existing buildings do not detract from the particular character values of the premises or the local streetscape.

The form, scale and design of development, whether involving new buildings, additions or extensions to existing buildings, or the construction of garages, carports and sheds, needs to be sympathetic with the local streetscape and character of the surrounding area. Matters to consider when planning to undertake a development in a Neighbourhood Character area may include:

  • bulk and scale
  • height
  • setbacks, siting and landscaping
  • horizontal and vertical articulation
  • roof lines
  • building openings
  • orientation
  • materials and architectural detailing
  • eaves and awnings
  • access and on-site parking

Schedule A of the Neighbourhood Character Overlay Code (Code 8.3.2) provides examples of sympathetic and unsympathetic dwelling extensions and infill development.


Neighbourhood Character Code requirements

Schedule 6 of the Planning Scheme comprises Council's Planning Scheme Policies. Planning Scheme Policy 7 – Neighbourhood Character Places provides a list of all properties identified as being Neighbourhood Character Places. Not all properties in the Neighbourhood Character Overlay are listed as being character places. Only those that have been identified as having attributes which are consistent with, and complementary to, the character of the local streetscape are identified.

The Neighbourhood Character Overlay maps identify properties in Toowoomba that are affected by the overlay. Part 8.3.2 of the Planning Scheme contains the Neighbourhood Character Overlay Code which provides the design requirements and preferred outcomes for development in these areas.

The Neighbourhood Character Overlay Code is applicable to assessable development.

Not all forms of development require development approval. For example the construction of a Class 10a building (e.g. garages, carports, sheds) is self-assessable, and does not require a development approval provided they meet the self-assessable requirements of the overlay code. Similarly, additions or extensions to Neighbourhood Character Places are self-assessable, provided that all of the work being carried out is located at the rear half of the building (refer to the diagrams in Table 5.7:1 - Building Work of the Planning Scheme).

New buildings such as Dwelling Houses, Dual Occupancies and Multiple Dwellings located on land covered by the Neighbourhood Character Overlay require development approval for Building Works Assessable Against a Planning Scheme, and in the case where a Material Change of Use is applicable (e.g. Multiple Dwelling) an assessment will be required against the provisions of the Neighbourhood Character Code, in addition to any other applicable codes.


Demolition/removal of Neighbourhood Character Places

The demolition or removal of a Neighbourhood Character Place requires an impact assessable development approval for Building Works Assessable against a Planning Scheme. This applies unless an existing approval, for Building Works Assessable Against a Planning Scheme and/or a Material Change of Use, exists over the subject land for a new/replacement building (e.g. Dwelling House, Dual Occupancy, Multiple Dwelling, Office etc.). Where there is an existing approval over the subject land no further approval is required for the demolition/replacement of the existing building.

An impact assessable application requires the applicant to undertake public notification, which gives third parties the opportunity to lodge a submission about the proposal. Submitters also have appeal rights whereby they may appeal any decision made by Council regarding a development application to the Planning and Environment Court.

If an applicant proposes to develop a site and the proposal requires the removal/demolition of the existing Neighbourhood Character Place, a development application, for Building Works Assessable Against a Planning Scheme or for a Material Change of Use, for the new building/s is required. However, it should be noted that the removal of the existing building will also be assessed, during the assessment of the application for the replacement building/s, against the relevant removal/demolition criteria of the Neighbourhood Character Overlay Code.

When the demolition/removal of a Neighbourhood Character Place is proposed, it must be demonstrated that the new development will make a positive contribution to the streetscape by being sympathetic to the character of the local streetscape. It must also be demonstrated that the removal/demolition of the building, will not diminish the streetscape or overall character of an area and that any new development will make an equal or greater contribution to the streetscape. Appendix 2 to Planning Scheme Policy No. 1 provides an assessment matrix and a Neighbourhood Character Assessment must be submitted to support any application for demolition/removal of a Neighbourhood Character Place. The assessment criteria are based on four elements:

1. Style - Is the building a representation of a particular style?

2. Integrity and Design - Are the building’s features highly intact?

3. Condition - Is the building structurally intact and to what degree?

4. Group Value - Is the building part of a group or collective of buildings that contribute to the streetscape?

Demolition or removal of a non-character place, being a property that is not listed in Planning Scheme Policy 7 - Neighbourhood Character Places,  is exempt development and no development approval is required.


Heritage advisory service

Council provides a free heritage advisory service. The service is available to all property owners of commercial, residential and rural buildings throughout the Toowoomba Regional Council area.

The advice seeks to assist owners/applicants by providing comments on design issues for maintaining the character and style of their properties and the local streetscape character. The service typically offers advice on colour schemes, all new buildings, building extensions, verandas, garages, sheds, carports, awnings, fencing and gardens for properties contained within the Neighbourhood Character Overlay.

There are also a range of free ‘heritage advisor notes’ (i.e. for fences, carports & garages, exterior colours, alterations and additions and gardens), technical sheets (i.e. medium density infill neighbourhood character areas technical sheets 1 – 5) and other publications (e.g. The Toowoomba City Centre Heritage Review – local heritage places 2013; Toowoomba house styles and history – 2nd Edition March 2000 etc.) to assist you in maintaining the character of your property. These resources are all available on the heritage advice page.


Pre-lodgement meetings

A pre-lodgement meeting is a meeting between prospective applicants and Council technical staff to discuss development proposals prior to the formal lodgement of a development application with Council. Pre-lodgement meetings are not required for the majority of developments, however, for more complex and/or impact assessable developments, pre-lodgement meetings are recommended. For further information see INFO 001 Pre-lodgement Meeting Information Sheet.


Further information

For further specific information on the Neighbourhood Character Overlay, please contact the Duty Planner on 131 872 or visit your nearest Customer Service Centre. To access Council's free Heritage Advisory Service please contact the Heritage Advisor on 131 872.


The information contained in this article is a guide only. This information has been prepared by Toowoomba Regional Council to help people gain an understanding of the Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme. Please consult the Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme for detailed information including maps (zones, local plans, overlays and priority infrastructure plan), provisions and policies. The content of this article is not intended to replace the provisions of the Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme.

Related information

Online form Development - Pre-lodgement meeting request APP 001 form (online)

PDF Development - Pre-lodgement meeting request APP 001 form (for print)

Online form Planning scheme

Online form Heritage advice page

Last Updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2019 11:12
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