Town Planning Dictionary

Here is a list of common town planning terms, acronyms and their definitions.

BW - Building Work

In Queensland, building work, with the acronym BW is defined as any work involved in the construction, alteration, addition, repair, renovation, demolition, or removal of a building. 

This includes the construction of new buildings, extensions or renovations of existing buildings. The definition of building work is governed by the Building Act 1975 and the Building Regulation 2006, which outline the requirements for building work, including the need for building permits, compliance with building codes, and the provision of building inspections.

Conditions of Approval

Approval conditions, or Conditions of approval refer to specific requirements or restrictions that are attached to a development approval.

These conditions are imposed by the local council or relevant authority and must be satisfied by the developer prior to the start of the development.

Conditions of approval may relate to a wide range of matters, such as the design and construction of the building, the management of waste and stormwater, the protection of heritage features, or the provision of car parking.

The conditions of approval form an integral part of the development approval and must be complied with to ensure the development is carried out in accordance with the relevant legislation and regulations.

Non-compliance with conditions of approval can result in enforcement action being taken by the local council or relevant authority.


the number of buildings or people per unit of land area.


a right of way that allows access to a property for specific purposes, such as utility lines or public access.

Access Easement

An access easement is a legal right that allows a person or entity to access and use a portion of another person’s property for a specific purpose.

The purpose of an access easement is typically to provide a way to reach a property that is otherwise inaccessible, or to provide access to utilities such as water, gas, or electricity.

Access easements can be granted to individuals, companies, or government agencies, and are usually granted in perpetuity or for a specific period of time.

They can be established through a written agreement between the parties, or through a court order. Access easements are considered to be property rights and can be bought, sold, or transferred.

See also  Development Approval Currency Period

The specific terms of an access easement, including the scope of the rights granted and any limitations, are outlined in the easement agreement.

Land Use

the way in which a piece of land is used, such as residential, commercial, or industrial.

MCU - Material Change of Use

A material change of use, also known as a MCU, refers to a significant alteration in the purpose or nature of a property, that results in a different type of land use. 

This change often requires planning permission from the local authorities, as it can have an impact on the surrounding area and community. For example, a change from a single-family residence to a commercial office building, or from agricultural land to a short term accomodation, would be considered a material change of use. 

OPW - Operational Works

Operational works, sometimes referred to as OW or OPW,  are works that are carried out on land, but are not considered to be “building work”. 

Operational works are usually carried out for the purpose of managing or maintaining the land, and may include activities such as earthworks, the construction of retaining walls, the installation of fencing or drainage systems, or the removal of vegetation. 

Unlike building work, operational works do not require a building permit, but may still be subject to other approvals and permits from local authorities, depending on the specific circumstances of the project. The definition of operational works is governed by the Building Act 1975 and the Building Regulation 2006.

ROL - Reconfiguration of a Lot

The reconfiguration of a lot refers to the process of altering the boundaries of an existing property lot to create new lots or combine multiple lots into one. 

This is typically done to meet zoning requirements, improve land utilisation, or to facilitate the development of new structures. The reconfiguration process typically involves the survey of the property, the preparation of new plans, and the submission of applications to the local planning authorities.

Note: under the Planning Act 2016 the reconfiguring a lot definitions includes creating an easement giving access to a lot from a constructed road”


A refusal from the council for a development application means that the council has rejected the proposal for the development. This can occur if the proposal does not meet the council’s planning and building regulations or if it is considered to have a negative impact on the surrounding area and community.

See also  How to Obtain Development Approval in Queensland

The council’s decision will usually be accompanied by a written explanation of the reasons for the refusal. This can include concerns about issues such as zoning, density, building design, heritage protection, traffic management, or environmental impact. The council may also specify what changes would need to be made to the proposal in order for it to be approved.

In some cases, a refusal from the council can be appealed to a higher authority, such as the Planning and Environment Court. However, the appeal process can be complex and time-consuming, so it is important to carefully consider the reasons for the refusal and to seek legal advice if necessary.

If you receive a refusal, it is advisable to review the council’s decision and to consider whether you can make changes to your proposal that will address the council’s concerns. Alternatively, you may need to consider alternative development opportunities


the process of dividing a piece of land into smaller lots for development.

Subject to Council Approval (STCA)

But what does STCA mean? The meaning of the STCA acronym implies that a property has potential to be developed or re-developed but only with a Council development approval. 

The statement STCA is often utilised (sometimes over-utilised) by real estate agents in Queensland to imply a property has potential to be developed with the clause that the development is subject to Council development approval. An example of this usage of the term is provided below from an Australian real estate site. 

As an experienced town planner, the STCA acronym in property sales copy should be approached with caution. As sales copy is generally not written by someone with development assessment experience.

So why would someone put ‘Subject to Council Approval’ on their property listing? To create interest and drive sales prices up for sellers. In the example below STCA is used both to indicate renovation potential of the existing house. This particular listing also alerts the potential purchaser that there are development regulations which may impact future renovation options.


the process of dividing a city or town into areas with specific uses such as residential, commercial, industrial, etc.