Fences and Retaining Walls

If you are intending to construct a fence, retaining wall or embankment, find out whether you require a building permit and/or planning approval before starting any building work. It is an offence to commence construction work without a valid building permit or planning approval. Please note that if planning approval is required, this must be obtained before applying for a building permit.

Residential fences

Dividing fences

A dividing fence separates the land of different owners. It can be located along the common boundary of adjoining lands or on a line other than the common boundary (i.e. the fence can be on either side of the common boundary), subject to an agreement between the property owners. A dividing fence does not include a retaining wall.

If you are a property owner and want to build a dividing fence, you are strongly advised to find out your obligations and responsibilities under the Dividing Fences Act 1961 before construction. Alternatively, you can consult the Dividing Fences – A Guide booklet for more information. Please note the City does not administer the Dividing Fences Act 1961. Any dividing fences disputes should be directed to the Building Commission.

Please be aware that some lots and subdivisions within the City may also be subject to covenants and/or Local Development Plans that may restrict the type of fencing permitted.

If ground levels are altered at or near a boundary, either by filling above or cutting below natural ground level, to support the installation of a dividing fence, you have an obligation to provide a suitable retaining wall or embankment. Please see the section on Retaining Walls for more information.

More information and contact

For information on fencing requirements between non-residential lots, please contact the City’s Statutory Planning Services on 08 9411 3444 or at customer@cockburn.wa.gov.au

Front fences

A front fence is a screen wall, retaining wall or similar located within the front setback area of a property. Under the Building Code of Australia, a front fence is a Class 10b structure  Please note some lots and subdivisions may also be subject to covenants or Local Development Plans that may affect the type of fencing allowed. It is the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that the proposed fence complies with the Developer’s design guidelines or LDPs. A title search can be done through Landgate to check whether there are any existing encumbrances on the property. Further information on Local Development Plans can be obtained from the City's Statutory Planning Services if required. 

Please note that a front fence may also be a dividing fence between different properties. In such situations, the Dividing Fences Act 1961 may apply. You may need to discuss your proposed front fence with your neighbour.

Building a front fence - criteria for Council approval

Under the Residential Design Codes (R-Codes) and the City’s Fencing Local Law 2012, the following front fence guidelines must be complied with:

  • A front fence must incorporate a 1.5m x 1.5m visual truncation on each side of any driveway if the proposed fence is over 750mm in height
  • On corner lots without the standard street corner truncation, a front fence more than 750mm high is not permitted within the 6m x 6m corner truncation area
  • With the exception of properties fronting onto main arterial roads with high traffic volume, front fences must be visually permeable 1.2m above natural ground level
  • A front fence (including all footings) must be wholly located within the lot boundary and not encroach into the road reserve, including the verge
  • Front fences may be built with brick, timber, wrought iron and tubular steel. For other materials, please refer to the City’s Fencing Local Law 2012 or contact the City’s Statutory Planning Services.

When is Council approval required for a front fence

You need to obtain a Building Permit if your proposed front fence is masonry (limestone, brick or similar) and is higher than 750mm above ground level. Please refer to the Front Fence Building Permit Application Checklist for a list of all the documents you are required to submit with your application.

When is planning approval required for a front fence

Planning Approval is required for a front fence if the proposed structure does not comply with the requirements stipulated under the R-Codes.

Front fences compliant with Parts 5.2.4 and 5.2.5 of the R-Codes will not require Planning Approval.

If you require further information on front fence design requirements and the planning application process, please kindly contact Statutory Planning on
08 9411 3444. Please ensure that Planning Approval has been obtained before you lodge an application for a Building Permit.

Other fences

Swimming pool safety barrier

If a proposed front fence forms part of a mandatory swimming pool safety barrier, the fence is required to be 1.8m in height to comply with Australian Standard 1926.1 – 2012 (Safety Barriers for Swimming Pools). Please be aware that as the front fence will exceed 1.2m in height, Planning Approval may be required in such instances. For more information or an on-site consult, please contact the City’s Swimming Pool Inspectors on 08 9411 3444.

Retaining walls

Retaining walls on adjacent lot boundaries

The natural ground level at the lot boundary must be maintained. If excavation below the ground level or fills above the ground level is carried out, the person responsible for the works is required to provide a retaining wall. This is to ensure that the natural ground level and any existing surcharge load at the boundary is maintained. Retaining walls must be constructed from durable materials such as brick, limestone, concrete or similar.

When is a Building Permit required for a retaining wall?

Please note that if the proposed retaining wall is equal or greater than 500mm in height above or below natural ground level, a Building Permit would be required. Structural engineering details for the proposed structure must be submitted with the Building Permit application, and the engineering plans must be endorsed in ink by a structural engineer.

Retaining walls that are 150mm or more in height do not require a Building Permit. However, the City strongly recommends that a Building Permit is obtained.

When is a planning approval required for a retaining wall?

If the proposed retaining wall exceeds 500mm or more above natural ground it is likely that a planning approval will be required.

More information and contact

Please contact Building or Statutory Planning Services for more information on retaining walls on 08 9411 3444 or at customer@cockburn.wa.gov.au.

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