Property subdivision overview

25 October 2016

Posted in: Town planning

Residential property subdivision has become increasingly popular, particularly since land values have skyrocketed in Brisbane’s inner suburbs. Larger blocks present an opportunity to split, or in planning speak “subdivide”. It sounds easy to slice and dice a residential lot, but there are a number of factors you need to consider. Site-specific advice from a Town Planner is the best way to avoid the common traps that catch first-time subdividers. There is no question that professional town planning advice will save you time and money.

We offer a free desktop assessment of a residential site to give you a quick overview of the relevant issues, along with a tailored fee proposal. Our Town Planners explain how a subdivision must be executed for your site, and the likely costs to do so. We investigate site constraints under the relevant planning scheme and regional plan, as well as the availability of services. Some people simply forget that water and sewerage run down hill and this can be a costly oversight. Subdivisions may also require the advice of other professionals such as a civil engineer or surveyor.

The way we explain the residential subdivision process is in 3 stages: 

  1. Preparing the Development Application (DA);
  2. Engineering design and construction; and
  3. Plan sealing and registration.

Stage 1
Consult Planning prepares the DA and submits it on your behalf. A subdivision application is categorised as a Reconfiguration of a Lot (ROL) and requires a DA. Every council has their own planning scheme outlining their requirements. Preparing a DA involves assessing the proposed lot layout and engineering issues to see if it meets council requirements and can be serviced by the required infrastructure. 

In the most cases ROL DAs are code assessable, so no public advertising is required. A typical code assessable application takes 3-4 months to be processed. Some DAs are eligible for review via RiskSMART, a fast-track program that sees assessments completed within an average of 1 week. If an ROL is impact assessable it requires a publicly notified DA. This usually happens if lot sizes are non-compliant, the site is in a sensitive area, or it is within a low density and rural zones. Impact assessable DAs take approximately 6 months to complete.

Once your DA is approved you are issued with a Decision Notice from Council in the form of a development permit for the ROL. 

Stage 2
An ROL DA always has conditions, which are typically requirements to submit Operational Works (OPW) or Compliance Assessment (CA) applications. Once submitted, it takes about 1-2 months to receive approval. An example of a typical condition would be undertaking an engineering assessment for a sewer main extension. 

Stage 3
Following construction of all required works required the site is now fully serviced. A surveyor can now prepare the survey plan and apply to council for plan sealing. Council review all the approval conditions to ensure they were complied with. If council is satisfied they seal the survey plan and submit it to the titles office for registration. It is only at this point that you are likely to get permission for a dwelling to be constructed on the new lot created by the subdivision.


The entire subdivision process can take between six to nine months, depending on the scale of the project and what needs to be constructed. The cost to subdivide one into two lots can vary greatly, as every site is unique. The estimated cost for the entire subdivision process, including infrastructure charges, statutory fees, civil works, and consultants is usually between $65,000–$85,000. The reason for such a broad range is the required civil works on each project can vary significantly. Each subdivision warrants a custom financial analysis. Consult Planning frequently works with other consultants to firm-up costs for subdivision proposals as part of project feasibilities. 

Consult Planning are town planning specialists and offer their clients industry best assessment timeframes to minimise holding costs. As with any project, the cheapest quote is not necessarily the best choice. Additional holding costs can quickly outweigh any savings made in consultant fees. If your DA is inadequate, lacks important information, or your consultant is not experienced, the application outcome might not be what you were seeking. 

Town Planners are development application experts. Preparing and submitting development applications is what we do best. Get in touch, via 1300 017 540 or email, for a free desktop assessment of your site and a tailored quote.