When Are Building Plans Required? – What Property Owners Need to Know
Category Building or buying a new home?
While many property owners are fully capable of managing a building project or building development, the application and approval process of land use applications and building plans, as well as the actual business of building is strictly regulated.
1. Building plans are required for:
1.1 New Homes
1.3 Internal alterations - including:
1.3.1 Walls removed, moving or added
1.3.2 Walls raised or lowered
1.3.3 Door / Windows changes (made bigger or smaller or moved)
1.3.4 Use of a room is changed (example: garage into a habitable space)
1.3.5 Carport converted to garage
1.3.6 Existing patio enclosed
1.3.7 Mezzanine floor added
1.3.8 Material changes
2. Minor works that do not need building plan approval
2.1 Braais without a chimney
2.2 Garden sheds less than 3 m
2.3 Gate for cars – unless partly on pavement or the City’s land
2.4 Replacement of windows or doors– provided the existing frames aren’t load bearing, and that openings aren’t enlarged or that any openings needed for fire escapes aren’t removed
2.5 Minor repairs to a house or shop – for example, replacement of roofing or tile sheets
2.6 New appliances or new fittings – for example, installing a new toilet, bath or geyser, or changing the position of these, provided that the work does not include new or extended drainage or plumbing.
It is strongly recommended to work with accredited practitioners rather than trying to do it alone - here are some reasons why:
3. Factors To Consider
3.1 If your building in Cape Town is older than 60 years or a Provincial Heritage Site, the City cannot process your application without a Record of Decision from Heritage Western Cape.
3.2 Land use and buildings have to be considerate of complex social and environmental criteria and approval of plans can only be given if all criteria are taken into account appropriately and according to the law.
3.3 Only a SACAP registered professional can draw building plans. Even if you know how to prepare plans, the updated South African National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act (2008) states clearly that anyone drawing plans needs to be registered according to a recognised professional act, such as the Architectural Professions Act, 2000, the Engineering Profession Act, 2000, the Natural Scientific Professions Act, 2003, or any other relevant Act.
3.4 Your land use and planning applications to the City can be rejected if you have not submitted all the required documentation that refers to your build – again, unless you have experience, you could delay your plans considerably by even the smallest omission.
3.5 Accredited practitioners are familiar with the requirements for submission and can prevent delays caused by omission of documentation.
3.6 An experienced builder or project manager can keep your project within budget and will know how to manage the project’s financial status by helping you make the correct choices.
3.7 A new dwelling unit must be registered with the NHBRC and can only be built by a builder who is also registered with the NHBRC.
The City’s building inspectors conduct 3 compulsory inspections during construction to verify that the building work is carried out as per the approved plan. These inspections happen at trench, sewer and completion stage.
If you are certain you want to proceed alone, then we recommend consulting first with your local Development Management District offices.
When you however decide to make use of an accredited practitioner (such as The Plan Co), the following process will or should be followed:
Drawing of plans
Service agreement is provided for drawing of plans and submission to council – project dependent
On acceptance, a deposit is paid and sketches can be expected within 10 working days
On approval of sketches, council plans are prepared
On completion of plans, the building plan application is prepared. Owner is provided with a list of requirements and final invoice
Once all required documentation is received from owner the application can be submitted to Council.
Building lines are zone dependent and subject to the size of the property and other regulations.
Single Residential homes have a street building line of either 3.5m or 4,5m depending on the size of the property.
Common building lines are normally 3m depending on the size of the erf.
General residential properties (smaller Erf complexes) can have 0m building lines all around with the boundary properties having a 3m rear building line.
5m Street setbacks for carports and garages are subject to the size of the property and zoning.
Any property in an Estate or Complex is in most cases subject to a Site development plan. Changes can trigger an amendment of the Site Development plan which is an application that is done through the Town Planning department. This application has to be approved prior to building plan submission.
Title deed Restrictions
Restrictions can refer building lines and dwellings. In some cases there could also be material restrictions in a title deed.
Title deed building lines can be relaxed by means of a standard departure application should the title deed state that local authority can relax such a restriction
A restriction where only one dwelling is permitted and a second dwelling is involved will require a removal of restriction application done by a qualified Town planner.
Material changes will also require a removal of restriction application should there be no other alternative.
Removal / relaxation of title deed restrictions are to be approved prior to building plan submission.
Unauthorised structures – Admin penalty application
An admin penalty is required when a structure/s exist without plan approval and are over the building lines and not in line with the Town planning scheme (DAMS).
Once the application requirements are received from the owner it is submitted to Town planning.
Town planning checks the application for completeness and allocates the application to the Law enforcement department who is to do a report required for the application to be added to the agenda for the Municipal Tribunal.
The Municipal Tribunal meeting takes place once a month.
A penalty is determined based on the circumstances, the extend of the contravention, property value etc.
Such an application can take anything between 1-3 months depending on the time it takes for the law enforcement department to provide their report.
Departure Application (LUM)
Plans are submitted to Town planning who checks the application for completeness.
Once checked for completeness an invoice is issued for the application fees.
Payment is verified and allocated to a Planner.
Planner assess the application for acceptance and determine internal circulation and advertising.
Should there be any comments that require attendance, a letter with outstanding information is issued to the accredited practitioner.
Depending on the comments – allow 7 working days for re-submission.
Upon re-submission, the planner will write a report to recommend the application for approval.
Report is send to the Section Head for assessment and sign off.
Upon approval, the building plan application can be submitted to Building control.
Building plan Applications (BDM)
Plans are submitted for town planning clearance – approximately 7 working days
On clearance BDM issues an invoice for scrutiny fees.
On payment of the invoice, payment is verified and the application allocated to a plans examiner for assessment
Plans examiner assess the plan and determine internal circulation for comment from various departments - approximately 30 days.
Once comment is received, the plans examiner issues an amendment letter for attendance. Application is put on hold till amendments are re-submitted.
Upon re-submission, plans are recommended for approval to the Building control officer and Section Head – approximately 3-7 working days to approval.
Approval is made available electronically
Process can take anything between 4-8 weeks depending on the plan submitted, circulation periods and council’s work flow.
Draughting of plans : 2-6 weeks – project depended
Admin penalty Application : 1-3 months
Departure Application : 3-4 months
Building plan Application : 4-8 weeks
Time Lines are project dependent.
Council time lines are dependent on the type of application, circulation periods, comments and work flow.
Author: City of Cape Town / The Plan Co