Retaining Wall Height/Setbacks

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    Lawrence Slagter

    Looking for confirmation that front or side/rear boundary setback requirements only apply to a class 1 dwellings and associated Class 10 buildings and not to a class 10b structure such as a retaining wall

    Division 4 – Class 10b defines a fence as a class 10b building (?)

    Class 10b swimming pools do not have setback requirements

    Seems like an anomaly that a 3m high retaining wall can be built up to the frontage or side/rear boundary, corner blocks, north facing windows, etc.

    Marcus Collard


    The NCC classifies a fence, freestanding wall or retaining wall as a class 10b, along with mast and poles.

    Regulation 403 provides a definition of a fence for Part 4:
    fence includes—
    (a) a screen; and
    (b) a structure similar to a fence.

    Therefore I believe the front fence heights in Division 4 of Part 4 should be applied to a retaining wall as it is similar to a fence in visual impact and classified in the same class as a 10b.

    Agreed that class 10b swimming pools do not have a setback requirement.


    Lawrence Slagter

    Thanks Marcus, you’re interpretation makes sense.

    Would be good if Division 4 made it clear that it applied to retaining walls as well

    Ian Robson

    In the case of an elevated retaining wall (ie one that resembles a fence when viewed from natural ground level) I would ordinarily call this a fence – because it ‘is’ basically a fence with soil behind it. Under the Fences Act however retaining walls are expressly not defined as fences. On balance, for the purposes of the Building Act I would still treat an ‘elevated’ RW is a fence as I reckon it is both. A sunken RW is not a fence though and, like a pool, is not a visible intrusion worthy of ResCode control for setbacks.

    On this topic however, I have always been concerned at the way the Regs attempt to re-define the criteria for building classifications under the BCA. For example, if a screen is not a fence under the BCA, it is illogical and inconsistent to say it is a fence only for the purposes of Part 4. There are other examples in the regs – signs (not classifiable), pergolas (not classifiable) mentioned in siting and exemption rules despite most not needing building permits in the first place.

    Lawrence Slagter

    Thanks for comments.

    Retaining walls are expressly not defined as fences in Fences Act because a retaining wall can not be built over a title boundary: it must be on the land it benefits

    Yarra Ranges has had many instances where the holes for a retaining wall were centered on the string line between survey pegs, which meant that the retaining wall was constructed on other land.

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