Construct a retaining wall

A retaining wall is designed to hold back filling soil or to support excavation work.

You may need a Planning Permit, Building Permit or both to build a retaining wall.

How to use this guide

To help you work out which permits you need, begin at Step 1 and answer the questions one at a time. You may be asked to look at property zoning, measure the wall, and assess the wall's position in relation to property boundaries.

Before you begin

Before finalising your design:

Examples of retaining walls

Examples of retaining walls

If you need help with Planning Permits, contact our Statutory Planning team on 9278 4888 or email Statutory Planning.

If you need help with Building Permits, contact our Building Services team on 9278 4999 or email Building Services.

    Check if a Heritage Overlay affects your works

    1. Visit Planning Maps Online and search for the address of your property.
    2. Select Get Report. Follow the prompts to create and open a free Planning Property Report.
    3. On the Report, go to the Planning Overlay section to see whether a Heritage Overlay affects your property.
    4. In the Planning Overlay section, look at the map to see the area of your site covered by the Heritage Overlay. Refer to your plans to see whether you will be performing works in that area.

    Will you be building a retaining wall in a Heritage Overlay?

     

     

    Check if your property is on the Victorian Heritage Register

    1. Refer to the report from Planning Maps Online.
    2. Look for the Heritage Overlay Schedule link and take note of the schedule number.
    3. Click the Heritage Overlay Schedule link. The Schedule to the Heritage Overlay page appears.
    4. Find your schedule number. See whether the 'Included on the Victorian Heritage Register' column displays 'Yes' for your schedule number.

    If the property is on the Victorian Heritage Register:

    • You may need approval from Heritage Victoria for or any buildings and works including internal changes. Contact Heritage Victoria for advice on how to apply for their approval.
    • You may continue to apply for other permits while your Heritage Victoria application is being assessed. But you can only begin construction after all necessary approvals and permits are granted.

    Is your property listed on the Victorian Heritage Register?

     

     

     

    Check if other planning overlays affect the works

    Refer to the map from Planning Maps Online to see whether the proposed works fall within any of the following:

    • Design and Development Overlay (all categories except Design and Development Overlay Schedule 4)
    • Significant Landscape Overlay
    • Special Building Overlay
    • Land Subject to Inundation Overlay
    • Public Acquisition Overlay
    • Environmental Significance Overlay.

    Are you building a retaining wall in one or more of the overlays listed in this step?

     

     

     

     

     

    Check for commercial zones

    Refer to the report from Planning Maps Online and look at the zoning information for the property.

    See whether the property is in a Commercial 1 Zone or Commercial 2 Zone.

    Is the property within a Commercial 1 Zone or Commercial 2 Zone?

     

     

     

    Check if the property is in a Residential or Mixed Use Zone

    Refer to the report from Planning Maps Online. See whether the property is in any of the following zones:

    • General Residential Zone
    • Neighbourhood Residential Zone
    • Mixed Use Zone
    • Residential Growth Zone.

    Is the property in a General Residential, Neighbourhood Residential, Mixed Use or Residential Growth Zone?

     

     

     

     

    Check if the retaining wall will be used for a non-residential purpose

    As a property owner in a General Residential, Neighbourhood Residential, Mixed Use or Residential Growth Zone, consider whether the retaining wall will be used for a non-residential function. For example, will it be used as part of a medical centre?

    If the retaining wall is for residential purposes, you won't need to apply for a Planning Permit.

    If the wall is for non-residential purposes, email Statutory Planning to discuss any specific planning requirements and exemptions for your circumstances.

     

    Did Statutory Planning advise that you need a Planning Permit to use a retaining wall for a non-residential purpose ?

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Check if the property is in a non-residential zone that requires planning permission

    Aside from Commercial 1 and 2 Zones and the residential and mixed use zones, the property may fall into a number of other zones.

    Refer to the report from Planning Maps Online to see which non-residential zone affects your property. Then email Statutory Planning to discuss the specific planning requirements and exemptions for that zone.

    Did Statutory Planning advise that you need a Planning Permit for your non-residential zone?

     

     

     

     

     

    Apply for a Planning Permit, if needed

    1. Provide a clear copy of your Certificate of Title, including the lot plan. You can get this from the Landata website. The Certificate of Title must be no more than 28 days' old.
    2. Write a cover letter explaining your proposal.
    3. Write a neighbourhood and site description.
    4. Provide a design response or explanation of the proposed use. A design response is a plan that depicts how the proposed design responds to its context. It supports the proposal by showing how the design works within the site's constraints.
    5. Prepare a plan drawn to scale (1:100 or 1:200) with full dimensions. The plan must show the site, floor layout and elevations.
    6. Complete the Planning Permit application form and lodge the form, fee and supporting documents with Council. 
      To download the form and submit the application, see Apply for a Planning Permit.
      For fee information, email Statutory Planning
      If the project requires that you demolish an existing retaining wall, you nay also need to apply for a Planning Permit for demolition.
    7. Now, check whether you need a Building Permit.

     

     

     

     

     

    Check whether the wall height exceeds 1m

    Measure the distance from the top of the retaining wall to its lowest point.

    Is the height 1m or more?

     

     

     

     

     

    Assess whether the wall supports excavation

    Retaining wall supporting excavation

    Retaining walls that support excavation have different constraints to walls that support a filling.

     

    Does the wall support excavation?

    • If yesgo to the next step.
    • If no, you do not need a Building Permit. As long as there are no planning restrictions, you can proceed to construct a wall that supports a filling.  You may now exit this guide.

     

     

     

     

     

    Check whether the wall is low height

    Refer to the height measurements of the retaining wall.

     

    Is the height of the retaining wall for excavation 400mm or less?

     

     

     

     

    Check the distance of the wall from other structures

    A wall that supports excavation must be more than 400mm away from other structures and buildings.

     

    Is the wall more than 400mm away from other structures?

    • If yes, you do not need a Building Permit. As long as there are no planning restrictions you can proceed to construct the wall. You can now exit this guide.
    • If no, you need to consult a registered building surveyor for advice: 
      • If the surveyor advises that the wall is too close to other structures, apply for a Building Permit.
      • If the surveyor advises that the distance is adequate, and there are no planning restrictions, you may exit the guide and proceed with construction.

     

     

     

     

     

    Check whether the wall is adequately set back from boundaries

    Refer to the site plan to assess the position of the wall in relation to boundaries.

    Walls supporting excavation that are over 400mm in height must be set back from the boundaries the same distance as the height of the wall (1:1 ratio).

    For example, if the wall is 600mm high, it needs to be placed at least 600mm away from any property boundaries.

     

    Does your retaining wall meet the setback requirements for walls that support excavation?

    • If yes, you do not need a Building Permit. As long as there are no planning restrictions, you can proceed to construct the wall. You may exit this guide.
    • If noapply for a Building Permit.

     

     

     

    Apply for a Building Permit, if needed

    If you have determined that you need a Building Permit for your project:

    1. Read the Building Permit application checklist to determine which supporting documents you need for your circumstances. If you are unsure what you need, contact the Building Services team on 9278 4999 or email Building Services.
    2. Complete the Application for a Building Permit.
    3. Lodge the Building Permit application form, fee and supporting documents with Council. For fee information, email Building Services.

    You can only begin your construction after the Building Permit is granted.

    You may exit the guide.

     

     

    Timeline

    Statutory Planning aims to respond to Planning Permit applications within 60 days, as governed by the Planning and Environment Act.

    Building Permit applications are assessed within 10 business days. The response is usually a request for further information that is required before a Building Permit can be issued.