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Frequently Asked Questions


Q – How do I find out the zoning of my property?

A – The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage have a public mapping tool that provides access to planning, land and heritage data across Western Australia.  Plan WA Maps is available here.  Alternatively, you can speak to the Shire's Planning Department.

Q – When do I need development approval?

A – Development (or planning) approval is required when you are proposing to establish or change the use of a property.  There are exemptions that apply to residential development, such as new dwellings, extensions to dwellings and ancillary development.  It is always best to check if you require development approval prior to applying for a building permit and commencing works.

Q – What information needs to be provided in my development application?

A – The Shire has a development application pack, including a checklist, that can be obtained from the Shire or downloaded here. If you are unsure, you can speak to a Shire Planning Department.

Q – Can I submit my application electronically?

You can email you application to the shire via the [email protected] . Please include the address in the subject line

Q – Can I get development and building approval at the same time?

A – If you require development approval for your proposal, then this must be obtained before submitting your application for a building permit due to the statutory processing time frames associated with issuing building permits.

Q – How do I find out if my property is affected by bushfire or flood?

A – Public mapping for bushfire prone areas in Western Australia is available on the Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ website at

Similarly, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation have a Floodplain Mapping Tool available to the public at

If you have any difficulties accessing this information, please contact a Shire Planning Department.

Q – I have brought land in the Shire of Northam, Can I live on the property in a caravan or shed, until I build my home?

A - Firstly, congratulations and welcome to the Shire.

You cannot live on your land in any means unless you have approved Building Permit to construct your dwelling and a permit for the installation and use of a septic system has been issued. With the Caravan and Camping Act 1995 and Caravan Parks and Camping Grounds Regulations 1997, you can camp on your property for 3 days out of 28. More information can be found at:

If your dwelling has started construction then, please read this information and fill out the form. Click here 

Q – Is there a building envelope on my property, if so, where is it located?

For most Rural Residential and Rural Smallholding properties, the building envelope is indicated on an approved structure plan. The developers or real estate agent should have these on hand. If a building envelope is not applicable on the property then zone setbacks apply. You cannot build outside of the building envelope or zone setbacks. If you need to vary the building envelope. A development application is required for a variation with justification.

More information can be found here – Click here

Q – Can I build a shed on a vacant lot?

A – Sheds are ancillary development unless it is a farm shed on a property zoned Rural.  Unless there is an existing house or a house under construction, sheds are not permitted on vacant land.  The Shire has adopted a Local Planning Policy to guide the development of outbuildings, which is available below;

Residential properties – Click Here

Rural Residential, Rural Smallholdings and Rural – Click Here

Q – Do Sea Containers require development approval?

A – Yes.  The Shire has adopted a Local Planning Policy that regulates the number and location of sea containers for storage. Development Approval and Building Permit are required before placement of the sea container on the property for more than 7 days. There is requirement to the number, size and length of time the sea container is to be on your property. Approval will not be given for “Residential” zoning. 

More information on Sea Containers - Click Here

Q – I’m moving house; can I use a sea container to help move my items?

A - Yes, a sea container can be on your property for a maximum of 7 days without obtaining a Development Approval. It will need to be in a location, that does not hinder the neighbours or road users. If a complaint is made about the sea container, it will be asked to be removed immediately.

Q – Do second-hand or repurposed dwellings require development approval?

A – Yes. If you are proposing to relocate a second-hand dwelling or repurposing a structure to be used as a dwelling, you will require development approval.  Photographs and a condition report will need to be submitted with your application.  A bond of $32,700 will be required if your application is approved to ensure that the building works are completed within 12 months. It is strongly recommended that you speak to a Shire Planning and Building Department prior to purchasing a second-hand dwelling or structure.

Q – Can I have a Granny Flat or Ancillary Dwelling on my property?

A - In a Residential zone, the Residential Design Codes permits an ancillary/granny flat dwelling to have a maximum area of 70m2 not including verandahs and garages/carports, on land of a minimum of 450m2 size and an existing single house, it does not require development approval, only a building permit.

In ‘Rural’, ‘Rural Residential ‘and ‘Rural Smallholding’ zones, development approval is required to construct an ancillary/granny flat dwelling to have a maximum area of 100m2 not including verandahs and garages/carports. It should be located within 50m and not in front of the main dwelling. If building envelope is on the property, it must be located in the building envelope.

More information can be found here – Click Here

Q – Do I need development approval to erect an advertising sign?

A – Generally yes.  Some minor signage is exempt as outlined in Schedule 5 of the Northam Local Planning Scheme.  A copy of the Scheme is available to view and download at

Q – Do I need development approval to keep horses or other livestock?

A – Yes. However if your property is zoned Rural Residential or Rural Smallholding and the horses or livestock are not being kept for commercial purposes and the stocking rates comply with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Stocking Rate Guidelines (copy available at, then approval is not required.

Q – I want to start a Home Business; do I need to tell the Shire?

A – Yes you are required to get development approval for conducting your business at home. Please contact the Shire Planning department for more information.

More information can be found here – Click Here