Heritage home on character street

Information Sheet 055

Overlays identify areas in the Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme 2012 (Planning Scheme) that require special consideration for specific reasons. The area may:

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

Overlays are mapped and included in the Planning Scheme Schedule 2 – Mapping. If a site is identified within an overlay, then assessable development on the site will need to address the associated Overlay Code contained in the Planning Scheme Part 8 – Overlays. Overlays only change the level of assessment for development where specified in Planning Scheme Part 5 – Tables of Assessment (Table 5.10:1).


Understanding Neighbourhood Character Overlay

The Neighbourhood Character Overlay applies to areas in the Toowoomba Region that have a specific character due to their streetscapes and the consistency of the built form in the street. The houses in Neighbourhood Character areas are 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 residential gardens and property trees, and bluestone kerbing. 


What the 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, form, 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. When planning to undertake a development in a Neighbourhood Character area, the following issues should be considered:

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

Schedule A of the Neighbourhood Character Overlay Code (Section 8.3.2 of the Planning Scheme) 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 Neighbourhood Character Places. Not all properties in the Neighbourhood Character Overlay are listed Neighbourhood 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 specifically listed.

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 applies to Assessable Development and Accepted Development subject to requirements.

Some development may not require a development approval. For example, constructing a Class 10a building e.g. a garage, carport or shed, is Accepted Development subject to requirements. This type of development does not require a development approval provided it meets the requirements stated in the overlay code. Similarly, certain additions or extensions to a Neighbourhood Character Place are Accepted Development if, for example, all of the work is located at the rear half of the building (refer to the diagrams in Table 5.7:1 – Building Work within the Planning Scheme).

New buildings such as Dwelling Houses, Dual Occupancies and Multiple Dwellings on land within the Neighbourhood Character Overlay require development approval for a Material Change of Use. Assessment will be undertaken against the provisions of the Neighbourhood Character Overlay Code, in addition to any other applicable codes.

Where there is a design conflict between the Neighbourhood Character Overlay Code and other codes, the Neighbourhood Character Overlay Code overrides the criteria of any other code. 


Demolition/removal of Neighbourhood Character Places

The demolition or removal of a Neighbourhood Character Place, including works and alterations to the front half of a Neighbourhood Character Place, requires an impact assessable development approval for Building Works assessable against the Planning Scheme. Impact assessable applications require the applicant to undertake public notification, which gives third parties the opportunity to lodge a submission about the proposal. Submitters have the right to appeal to the Planning and Environment Court about Council’s decision on the development application.

For the demolition or removal of a Neighbourhood Character Place, it must be demonstrated that the removal or demolition of the building will not diminish the streetscape or overall character of the 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 to assist in the preparation of a Neighbourhood Character Assessment, which must be submitted to support any application for demolition or removal of a Neighbourhood Character Place.

The assessment criteria are based on four elements:

  1. Style - Is the building a good representation of a particular style?
  2. Integrity and Design - Are the building’s design 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 not listed in Planning Scheme Policy 7 - Neighbourhood Character Places, is Accepted 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 heritage advisory service seeks to assist owners and applicants by providing comments on design issues to maintain 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, verandahs, garages, sheds, carports, awnings, fencing and gardens for properties contained within the Neighbourhood Character Overlay.

There is also a range of:


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 Development - Pre-lodgement meeting information sheet INFO 001 (for print).


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

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

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

Development - Pre-lodgement meeting information sheet INFO 001 (PDF for print)

Planning scheme

Heritage advice page