New Development in Bushfire Prone Areas

Large areas of the Shire of Jerramungup are prone to bushfires due to topography, vegetation and climate. In 2015 the state government released a suite of reforms in response to the Keelty Report 2011 that apply across the state and elevate bush fire issues to the highest level of planning policy.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), Building Commission and Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) collectively released:

  • State Planning Policy 3.7 ‘Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas’;
  • Amendments to Planning Regulations;
  • Amendments to Building Regulations;
  • An order by the Fire & Emergency Services Commissioner designating bushfire prone areas;
  • Published the Map of Bushfire Prone areas; and
  • Published the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas.

WHAT IS A BAL ASSESSMENT AND WHAT DOES THE BAL RATING MEAN?

A Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment is an assessment set out in Australian Standard 3959 Construction of Buildings in Bushfire-Prone Areas (AS 3959) which determines the BAL rating for a proposed building. A BAL is one way of determining a proposed building’s potential for bushfire exposure and is used to establish the construction requirements you can use to improve the protection of your building from bushfire attack.

BAL ratings include:

BAL–LOW If the BAL assessment indicates that the development is rated BAL–LOW then there are no further bushfire planning or building requirements.
BAL–12.5 to BAL–29 If the rating is between BAL–12.5 and BAL–29 you will need to build your house to the corresponding standard set out in the Building Code of Australia.
BAL–40 or BAL–Flame Zone If the rating is BAL–40 or BAL–Flame Zone (BAL–FZ) then you will need to lodge a development application with your local government. The development application will need to address the bushfire protection criteria in the Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas with the aim of achieving BAL–29 or less for the site. You will then need to build to the corresponding construction standard set out in the Building Code of Australia.


APPROVAL PROCESS

All habitable development (i.e. houses including extensions & additions, ancillary accommodation and associated outbuildings) require assessment against the bushfire policy framework.

The first step is to check the state-wide mapping designating 'bushfire prone' areas. If any part of your property is designated 'bushfire prone' then:

(a) If in Bremer Bay or Jerramungup Townsite:

  • The BAL rating is applied through the Shire’s Local Planning Policy 22 - BAL Contour Plan for Jerramungup & Bremer Bay.
  • If the BAL Rating is BAL 40 or Fz and/or the property is greater than 1100m2 in area then a planning approval is required.
  • If the BAL rating is BAL LOW to BAL 29 then only a building permit is required.

NB: An applicant may opt to lodge a planning application seeking to reduce the BAL rating even if the current rating is BAL 29 or less.

(b) If in the ‘Rural Residential’ zone in Point Henry:

(c) If in any other zone:

  • You may need to have a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) Assessment prepared by an accredited person, these can be found at: http://www.fpaa.com.au/bpad.aspx.  Alternatively the Shire of Jerramungup may be able to provide this service for a fee.
  • If the BAL Rating is BAL 40 or Fz or the property is greater than 1100m2 in area then a planning approval is required.
  • If the BAL rating is BAL Low to BAL 29 then only a building permit is required.

DEVELOPMENT ASSESSMENT CONSIDERATIONS

Basically this process informs the design response to the bushfire threat. Development requirements can include:

  • Constructing in accordance with Australian Standard 3959 'Construction of buildings in bushfire prone areas' (A copy can be made available for viewing at the Shire office); and
  • Development in accordance with the requirements of "Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas".  This can include a compliant access, turnarounds for emergency service vehicles, water for fire-fighting and 'Asset Protection Zones' (APZ). APZ are low fuel areas immediately around the house.

The WAPC "Guidelines for Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas" establish the standards for developing in a bushfire prone area.

AUSTRALIAN STANDARD 3959 – CONSTRUCTION IN BUSHFIRE PRONE AREAS

Standards Australia has published the Australian Standard 3959 for construction of buildings in bushfire prone areas. New houses or accommodation in bushfire hazard areas will be required to be built in accordance with relevant provisions of AS3959.

This Standard details building measures that improve the likelihood of the house surviving a bushfire, including:

  • External walls of non-combustible materials such as brick, stone, rammed earth;
  • Roof tiles, roof sheets and roof covering accessories of non-combustible material;
  • Vents in external walls screened with corrosion resistant metal mesh; and
  • External doors, windows and frames of non-combustible or low risk materials, or fitted with ember screens or bushfire shutters.

The Australian Standard is a licenced document so the Shire cannot distribute copies, however you may view it at the Shire Offices or your builder may already have a copy.

A summary table of the various requirements under AS3959 can be found here.

SHIRE POLICIES

The Shire has drafted two policies with the intention of achieving a consistent application of the various requirements and with the aim of simplifying the process for people wishing to develop in the Shire of Jerramungup:

1. DRAFT Local Planning Policy No 22 - BAL Contour Plan for Jerramungup & Bremer Bay

This draft policy proposes to assign a BAL rating to each property capable of residential development in Jerramungup and Bremer Bay townsites. It also states the aspiration for all development in the Shire’s townsites to achieve a BAL29 or lower.

2. Review of Local Planning Policy No 18 - Point Henry Fire Management Strategy

This policy was originally adopted in October 2014 along with a list of associated actions. The Policy is currently being reviewed by:

  • Removing completed actions adopted in 2014;
  • Acknowledging that the new Bushfire Policy Framework supersedes many of the development requirement listed in the current Local Planning Policy;
  • That the policy still needs to respond to local conditions including the landscape, topography, vegetation communities and local community issues beyond what the state Bushfire Policy Framework addresses;
  • Some previous clauses are best addressed through other fire management mechanisms including the BRMP;
  • Adopting a standard Bushfire Management Statement for development in Point Henry rather than requiring a site specific bushfire management plan prepared by an accredited fire professional; 
  • Adding a new section “Aspirations” to describe the goals for planning in Point Henry; and
  • Reviewing the function and number of strategic fire breaks in Point Henry and proposing the removal of a number of breaks in order to use resources more effectively and efficiently.

FURTHER INFORMATION 

This information is intended as an overview of the current building and planning requirements in relation to building houses, ancillary dwellings and associated outbuildings in bushfire prone areas within the Shire of Jerramungup.

The Shire has prepared the following information packs and relevant policies/information:

Fire Control Information Notice
Variation Form
Defining Community Resilience 
Potential Upgrading Measures for Existing Dwellings

Refer to the Shire's Point Henry Fire Management page for additional information.

DFES
Bushfire Publications

Department of Commerce
Designated bush fire prone areas – Frequently asked questions

Department of Planning
Bushfire Planning Publications
Bushfire Planning Reform

This item was last updated on 5 December 2016


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