Local Council Requirements (Australia)

Below are some of the things that your local council may require when fitting out or refurbishing your surgery. It is important to note that if you are contemplating a substantial refurbishment (ie structural work) you will need to bring your building up to the current building codes.

1. What is the current zoning of the property?
It is important to know the zoning of the property as medical/consulting rooms have their own requirements. Even if the property is zoned commercial you may still have to apply for a ‘change of use’ to rezone the property as medical/consulting rooms. This may require full Development Application (DA) including planning approval, change of use application and a building license or construction certificate.

2. What parking is required?
Each council has its own definition of the guidelines and may calculate the number of bays required by a) per practitioner or b) per square metre of the total building area. There may be some concessions if you are near a train station or bus services.

3. What disabled access is required?
This will include disabled parking bays, ramps and rails, disabled toilet facilities, width of door ways and hallways and lift requirements. It is essential that all your patients can access the front door as it may be seen as humiliating if a secondary access door is used. It’s important to note that these facilities are not just for wheelchair access, but allow for access for people with frames, crutches or prams.

This a good start! I would be inclined to get your head around these questions first, then consider the following:  

4. Is a site plan or landscaping plan required?
Site plans are often required, but it is important to ask how detailed this needs to be. If a lot of details are required (eg parking, site contours, neighbouring buildings, waste connections etc) you may need to get a professional site survey done.

More and more we are asked by councils to provide a plan by a landscaping professional showing types of new and existing plants, trees and driveway finishes. Also details of external signage and the letterbox design may be required.

5. What staff facilities are required?
In the past we have been asked to provide bicycle storage, staff lockers, shower facilities, change rooms and a place for your staff to prepare and eat lunch. In some cases our client has been able to appeal the requests and compromise to some degree (for example, in one case we were able to incorporate a shower into the disabled toilet and this acted as a change room as well).

6. What are the waste removal requirements?
As part of your application, you may need to show existing a new sewrage connections, drainage points and enclosed bin areas. You may also need to provide information on removal of any biological waste.

7. What are the fire requirements?
This includes fire extinguishers, emergency lights, exit signs and fire egress (an exit door is required a certain distance from any point in the building)

Each council has their own guidelines (and interpretations of the regulations) – a lot of councils now have information of their requirements listed on their websites, otherwise a quick call to you local planning department is often the easiest way.