>> Access and Roads
>> Property with Inadequate Access
>> Road Design and Construction
>> Dedication of Road over Crown Land
>> Traffic
>> Offsite Road Improvements
>> Alternatives to Public Roads
>> Access to a Body of Water
>> Criteria for Access to a Body of Water
>> Highway Encroachments
>> Access to Lands Beyond
>> Access to Subdivisions off Section 42 Transportation Act Roads
>> Public Roads and Highways
>> Right of Way Widths
>> Frontage Roads
>> Intersections
>> Turnarounds
>> Subdivisions Adjacent to Controlled Access Highways
>> Lanes
>> Walkways
>> Storm Drainage (Runoff)
>> Drainage Easements
>> Plans Cancellation

Highway access through a rural subdivision is an essential component to the development. If you are subdividing, you will need to service your subdivision with roads.

The Land Title Act authorizes the Provincial Appproving Officer to determine the adequacy of roads in a subdivision.

Except in special circumstances, access to a subdivision should be via at least a two-lane, minimum-standard, all-weather road. In all cases, however, the road must be sufficient to serve the intended land use. For typical subdivision road standards, see the Subdivision Road Construction Specifications of the current British Columbia Supplement to the Transportation Association of Canada Geometric Design Guide for Canadian Roads (TAC Guide Chapter 1400)

Access requirements must conform to Section 75 of the Land Title Act. These requirements include:

  • necessary and reasonable access to all new parcels and lands beyond the subdivision
  • no unnecessary jogs in the alignment
  • clearing, drainage, construction and surfacing to the Approving Officer’s satisfaction
  • access to water

In addition, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure must approve subdivisions adjacent to a controlled access highway before it is approved by a local government approving officer pursuant to Section 80 (b) of the Land Title Act.  This is to ensure the lots in the subdivision plan have access other than to a the Controlled Access Highway.

Property With Inadequate Access

Property without adequate access may not be subdivided, although a subdivision that creates a timber block only may be approved by prior arrangement with the Registrar of the Land Title & Survey Authority. The subdivider may acquire and construct a public road to give access.

If the road approaching a subdivision is not a two-lane road with a maintainable and/or all-weather surface, the subdivision application should not be approved. The applicant may choose to upgrade the road to a maintainable all-weather standard (specified by the approving office) at their expense. The subdivision may then be approved, if everything else is in order.

Road Design and Construction

The Engineering Branch of the Highways Department develops all road construction guidelines. Guidelines for subdivision roads can be found in Chapter 1400 of the Ministries BC Supplement to TAC Geometric Design Guide. Requirements for geotechnical design can be found in the ministries Geotechnical Design Specifications for Subdivisions publication.

Construction standards are compiled and published by Construction and Maintenance Branch of the Highways Department.  They are contained in the standard specifications for highway construction books.  Engineering Branch, among others, contributes to the development of these standards. .

Section 90 of the Transportation Act authorizes the Minister of Transportation to establish highway standards for rural highways.  This includes highways dedicated on a rural subdivision plan.  In addition, Section 506 of the Local Government Act permits local governments to establish minimum highway standards in their Subdivision Servicing Bylaw.

Where there are existing agreements between the Ministry of Transportation and other parties, those agreements shall prevail. 

Dedication of Road over Crown Land

If a parcel of private land being subdivided requires a road across Crown land for access, the Minister of Transportation may authorize the Surveyor General to establish a public road allowance through Crown land under Section 80 of the Land Act to obtain rights to the Crown land proposed for access road development. The subdivider must apply to the FrontCounterBC office nearest you.


By their existence, nature, layout, or design, subdivisions should not contribute to undue traffic congestion, which would jeopardize the integrity of the highway and street system and reduce the level of service to the public. Evaluating a subdivision's impact on traffic involves three things:

  • Estimating projected traffic volumes
  • Relating projected traffic volumes to the characteristics and features of the street system
  • Ensuring that the characteristics of the subdivision layout do not promote congestion but promote safe operation and the accommodation of bicycles, pedestrians, and transit or commercial vehicle needs as required

The District Development Technician can advise if a traffic impact study may be required. For more information on traffic impact studies, consult the Planning and Designing Access to Developments Manual provided in .PDF form on this website.


Offsite Road Improvements

Sometimes a developer will want to subdivide land accessed by a road with inadequate drainage, poor horizontal or vertical alignment, running surface or top width.  It could also be a road with inadequate bridges or structures. These problems could be overcome by the developer upgrading the road at his or her own expense, under Ministry direction.  The extent and nature of any road inadequacy should be detailed and reviewed with the Approving Officer.  The developer should then be advised to contact the District Development Technician for a detailed discussion of requirements.

Alternatives to Public Roads

The Land Title Act requires all new parcels to be provided with necessary and reasonable highway access.  The Minister of Transportation may consider various factors specified in the Act, and may in exceptional circumstances grant relief from the provision of highway access to the new parcels as well. The Provincial Approving Officer administers this authority. 

Ask your District Development Technician for details.

Access to a Body of Water

When a property that is proposed for subdivision is contiguous with a body of water, highway access to the water is required under Section 75(1)(c) and (d) of the Land Title Act.  This is to allow upland property owners and/or the general public access to bodies of water at regular intervals. 

If the bed is owned by a person other than the Crown, access is not required in the following cases:

  • Lakes or ponds where the surface area at mean annual high water is less than 1.5 hectares and the mean depth at mean annual high water is less than 0.6 metres
  • Rivers, creeks, or watercourses where the average width at mean annual high water is less than 6 metres and the average depth at mean annual high water is less than 0.6 metres
  • Reservoirs or ponds where the bed is owned by a public body other than the Crown and used to supply water for domestic or industrial purposes

Historically these accesses were used to provide livestock access to water and to transport logs from the water to the mill. Their main use today is for recreational access. Other uses for these accesses may include:

  • Access to coastline oil spills
  • Access for public inspectors to test for water quality, red tides, and pollution
  • Facilitation of search-and-rescue operations on bodies of water
  • Water access for firefighting, irrigation from lakes and to install utilities such as telecommunication cables, sewer lines, storm drains, and domestic water pipes

The Approving Officer must ensure that subdivisons comply with Section 75 of the Land Title Act. Section 75(1)(c) applies where the bed of the body of water belongs to the Crown.  Section 75(1)(d) applies where the bed is owned by a person other than the Crown.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has two regulatory roles regarding accesses to water.  The first role is in granting relief from providing highway access to water bodies pursuant to Section 76(3) of the Land Title Act.  The second role is granting relief from providing these water accesses for shore land subdivisions where a municipality is the subdivision approving authority.  The Minister of Transportation or the Provincial Approving Officer may grant relief from providing access to these water bodies pursuant to Section 76(4) of the Land Title Act. However, in these local government areas, the request for granting relief from access to water requirement must be supported by the local government Approving Officer.

Criteria for Access to a Body of Water

Access layout for a body of water can be complicated. Ask your practitioner or the District Development Technician for assistance in placing access points.

Access spacing is 200 metres except in rural areas when the lots are equal to or greater than 0.5 hectares in size. In such cases, the spacing is 400 metres.  This difference is reflected in the following criteria where access is said to be either 200 or (400) metres.

If one or more waterfront lots is less than 0.5 hectares in size, the 200-metre rule applies to the whole waterfront in the subdivision.

If the layout of the proposed lots follows the contour of the waterfront, the length of waterfront for determining number and location of accesses is measured as a series of 15-metre traverse legs along the waterfront.

If the layout does not follow the contour of the waterfront, the length is measured along the general trend of the waterfront as a series of 200-metre traverse legs.

If there is already an access in the vicinity of the subdivision, the required access points should be located at 200 (400)-metre intervals. If there is no access, the Ministry and the subdivider should choose a suitable location for one in the land being subdivided. Other accesses may then be located at 200 (400)-metre intervals.

The road allowance width for an access is 20 metres. The Approving Officer may reduce this if the waterfront is less than 200 (400) metres long.

A remainder shown on a subdivision or reference plan is considered as a lot. The Approving Officer must require access to water at 200 (400)-metre intervals in the remainder.

Park dedication is unacceptable for access to water. There must be public road dedication.

A ferry landing or bridgehead is not an access to water unless it was originally dedicated by a subdivision or reference plan.

Access to a body of water must be provided and labelled as “road” on the subdivision plan, but it may not be required to be constructed.


Section 76 of the Land Title Act authorizes the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure to grant relief from strict compliance to requirements for subdivisions providing access to water.  This authority extends to municipal and rural areas of the province whether the Municipality, Regional District, Island Trust or Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is the subdivision approving authority. The reason for this is that the water body or water course is considered to be a public resource.

Under certain conditions, the Provincial Approving Officer may consider granting relief from the requirements regarding access to a body of water. Partial relief is required in order to:

  • Vary spacing of accesses from the strict 200 (400)-metre spacing
  • Consolidate up to three accesses into one where desirable

This is done at the Preliminary Layout Review stage.

Varying of Spacing

The normal 200 (400)-metre spacing can be varied freely to take into account topography, beach quality, and so on. However, spacing should generally not exceed 300 (600) metres unless accesses are being consolidated. The location of the access[es] to water should be representative of the entire waterfront (neither all cliff nor all beach).

Consolidation of Accesses

Consolidation of accesses may not be demanded, but District staff may suggest it to the subdivider and recommend it to the Provincial Approving Officer. The following guidelines for consolidation apply:

  • Normally no more than three accesses should be consolidated into one. The width of each access to be consolidated is 20 metres before consolidation, regardless of slope grade at the point where the access would be if it were not consolidated.
  • To calculate the number of accesses to be consolidated, divide waterfront length by 200 (400) and round the answer to the next higher integer.
  • If accesses in adjoining properties are closer than 200 (400) metres to the boundary of the subdivision, reduce the waterfront length accordingly.

Example: A subdivision has a waterfront length of X metres.  The adjoining property has an access Y metres from the boundary of the subdivision, where Y is less than 200 (400) metres. The number of accesses required is

(X+Y-200)  or  (X+Y-400)

200                     400

This is known as the 200 or 400 Rule.

Calculate the consolidation width, multiply the number of accesses by 20 metres. This width should be carried from the waterfront to the next cross street or for 100 metres from the high water mark, whichever is less.

A consolidation must be located where the waterfront's quality is comparable to that of the rest of the accessible waterfront.

Relief Requirements

The Provincial Approving Officer may consider granting absolute relief from the requirements regarding access to a body of water under any of the following conditions:

  • A parcel is being conveyed to the Crown Provincial or an agency thereof
  • The subdivision's purpose is solely to adjust a boundary, and it will not create additional lots
  • The subdivision is within the Agricultural Land Reserve

Highway Encroachments

On occasion structures will be found to be encroaching on highway rights of way from adjacent properties.  Most often these structures are corners of houses, garages, barns, fences, and signs.  However, other structures are such as old underground gasoline storage tanks, tourist information booths, telecommunication kiosks, fire department storage buildings, and motel buildings have been found on highway rights of way.  These encroachments are usually discovered when a new property owner commissions a survey of the lot for a mortgage, a property is subdivided, or upon inspection by a Ministry employee.

An encroachment is an illegal intrusion onto the highway right of way constructed without Ministry of Transportation permission and which would not normally be issued a permit prior to construction.  The encroachment will diminish the width or area of the right of way; however, it may or may not cause an obstruction.  Usually these encroachments are located on the edge of the right of way, not on the traveled portion of the highway, and encompass only a portion of the structure.  Rarely does the entire structure encroach onto the highway right of way.

Existing Buildings

If the new road dedication for a proposed subdivision will cause an existing building to encroach upon the right of way, the subdivision should be redesigned to accommodate the building, or remove the building.

Buildings must be located so that Sewage Disposal Regulations are satisfied. Thus, no lot line may be located within 1 metre of a septic tank or 3 metres of a sewage drain field. See sections 12 and 18 of BC Regulation 411/85.

Legalization of Highway Encroachments

The Ministry of Transportation may issue a permit to legalize the encroachment structure to facilitate the property owner’s situation.  An H-112 form “Permit to Authorize Existing Structures Constructed within the Right of Way of Any Arterial Highway within A Municipality or Any Highway in A Rural Area” is used to legalize the encroachment.  Utility policies and permits in the Utility Policy Manual will administer all facilities and structures related to utility encroachments on the highway right of way.

Permits will be issued pursuant to Section 62 of the Transportation Act and also to grant consent for a 4.5 meter setback according to Section 12 of the Provincial Public Undertakings Regulation BC Reg. 513/2004. The legislation and regulations authorize the Minister of Transportation to permit encroachments. This power was delegated to the Regional Director, Provincial Approving Officer and District Manager, Transportation positions by Orders-in-Council 2434/81 and 47/82.


Access to Lands Beyond

Subdivisions should provide highway access to land lying beyond or around the subdivided land where it does not already exist.  This secures access to other properties, which otherwise would not have access.  It provides for expansion of the highway network, especially in rural areas, and for access to Crown land. The requirement is only for the legal dedication of the right-of-way.  This highway access would be constructed at the discretion of the Provincial Approving Officer

Access to Subdivisions off Section 42 Transportation Act Roads

A highway designated under Section 42 of the Transportation Act is defined as a travelled road on which public money has been spent.

If the development will be accessed from an unmaintained Section 42 road, the road must be upgraded and dedicated on the subdivision plan. All roads shown on a subdivision plan must be established by a legal survey. If the status of the road is in question, consult the local District Transportation Office.

Public Roads and Highways

The Highway Functional Classification Study adopted in June 1992 provides a system for categorizing the provincial roadways according to the function that the road provides. Different types of roads and highways provide for access to subdivisions. Others may be affected by traffic from subdivisions nearby.

Local roads provide access to properties fronting directly on the road as well as to lands beyond, in accordance with Section 75(1)(a)(ii) of the Land Title Act. Roads located within the common property of a strata development are not public roads and service only lots in the development.

Major and minor roads carry vehicles between major traffic-generating areas or between such areas and the primary and secondary highways. They are defined in the Ministry's Major Road or Street Network Plan. Local access to individual properties from major and minor roads should be minimized.

Primary and secondary highways allow high-speed movement of inter-and intra-provincial traffic. These are often designated Controlled Access highways. They are expected to provide high overall travel speeds with minimum interference to through movements. Access to individual properties is minimized.

Right-of-Way Widths

In general, the minimum right-of-way width required for a public road is 20 metres or cross section plus 3 metres on each side, whichever is greater. Cross-section is defined as road prism (travelled road surface, shoulders, containment slopes) plus any slope areas necessary to contain the road prism.

The following diagram shows a typical roadway cross section (not to scale). It shows how the right of way should be established relative to the cross section of the road. Cut and fill slopes will vary depending on specific soil conditions and standards. Applicants should contact the District Development Technician for details.

The minimum right-of-way width for roads accessing lands beyond should be 20 metres unless adjacent to an existing 10-metre dedication. There should be no subdividing off of a right of way less than 20 metres across. Special consideration is given to the development of ski village development. See theTAC guide chapter 1500.

Frontage Roads

The Ministry prefers to use a service road system to access local businesses located on or fronting primary and secondary highways. If local road systems cannot be obtained, a frontage or backage road may be approved as an alternative. The frontage road is not an ideal solution, however, because of intersection problems and the high services-to-lot ratio.

A local road system is a firm requirement along primary highways in rural areas.

The normal right-of-way width for a frontage road is 15 metres.


Corner cut-offs (truncations) of six metres along each boundary are required at all road intersections. This is to maintain safe sight distance. The authority for corner cut-offs is found in Section 11 of the Provincial Public Undertakings Regulation BC Reg. 513/2004.


In progressive subdivisions, it may be preferable to establish the additional right-of-way necessary for the creation of a cul-de-sac turnaround by means of a Statutory Right-of-Way in favour of the Province, pursuant to Section 218 of the Land Title Act.  This would allow those portions of the cul-de-sac rendered surplus by the further extension of the public road to be quit-claimed, avoiding a lengthy road closure process.  The turnaround would still have to be constructed for maintenance purposes.

Cul-de-sac turnarounds should be at least 15 metres in radius plus required right-of-way to include ditches.  In areas where snowfall is heavy, increase right-of-way accordingly.

Subdivisions Adjacent to Controlled Access Highways

The Minister of Transportation can designate controlled access highways pursuant to Section 48 of the Transportation Act.  These highways may be located in municipalities or rural areas of the Province.  The Ministry has zoning, access and subdivision regulatory role over the land in proximity to these highways. 

Very few subdivision applications contain lanes nowadays, although they are allowed and may even be beneficial in some cases. Lanes can provide secondary access to parcels. They are useful if direct access is not desirable, such as in business districts or major streets where entrance conflicts would reduce the level of service to through traffic or pedestrians. In narrower lots, they can be used to access carports or garages.

The minimum width for a lane is six metres.  When the lane provides alternative access to lots on a controlled access highway, the lane should have a minimum width of 8 metres.

It must be made clear that lanes do not receive the same level of maintenance as roads.


Local government sometimes promotes walkways, particularly in blocks longer than 200 metres. Pedestrian desire lines to schools, beaches, parks, commercial areas etc. are checked against the street layout, and walkways are required where necessary. Walkways are shown as “road” on the subdivision plan.  Where walkways are dedicated as "road" on a plan of subdivision, then the Ministry is responsible for maintenance.  However, as it is usually local government who commits to walkways, it’s not unreasonable to ask them to take care of the maintenance, or to create the walkways as parks.

Refer to the TAC guide for construction criteria.

Storm Drainage (Runoff)

Drainage is a critical requirement for every subdivision. Inadequate drainage can lead to flooding , resulting in erosion, loss of stability or in property damage.  In addition, subdivisions that are not properly drained can result in damage to highways both in and downstream from the subdivision, resulting in a public safety hazard.

Storm water must be considered both in the subdivision and outside of it. The applicant may be required to have a drainage study or design prepared by a Professional Engineer or hydrologist. Drainage should be carried to a natural outfall or approved storm drain capable of carrying the additional flow.

Storm drainage requirements are developed and maintained by the Construction and Maintenance Branch.  The design guidelines are contained in the Hydraulics Manual, which is also in the most recent edition of the TAC Guide. Storm drainage systems should be certified for construction and location and designed by a registered hydrologist.

Section 86(1)(c)(iv) of the Land Title Act permits the Provincial Approving Officer to refuse subdivisions if the land has inadequate drainage installations.  A local government may regulate drainage for subdivisions by a Subdivision Servicing Bylaw.  The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure specifies drainage requirements for highways.

Drainage Easements

Easements for road drainage are required if the District Development Technician determines that there may be a drainage concern. They are necessary to ensure that runoff of groundwater does not collect in the development but is carried to an approved natural outfall.

Drainage easements should be located where they have a minimal effect on property values, such as along a property line rather than through the middle of the property. They should be a minimum of six metres wide, so that equipment can be brought in to maintain the drainage channel.

Note: Diversions of, or altera tions to, watercourses require the approvals the Ministry of Environment, Water Stewardship Division.

The subdivider should do the following:

  • Arrange for the preparation of any necessary legal survey plans
  • Prepare the easement documents in a form acceptable to the Registrar of the Land Title & Survey Authority
  • Submit the documents to the District Transportation Office with the final subdivision plan
  • Submit a current State of Title Certificate to the District Transportation Office. The District Development Technician checks this against the easement document to ensure that all persons with a financial interest in the land have signed the easement document.
  • Deposit the easement documents in the Land Title & Survey Authority together with any necessary plans.

If charges of a financial nature are registered against the title of the parent property, the chargeholders must submit postponement or priority agreements. These allow the easement to be registered with priority over the financial charge.

Plans Cancellation

If you are cancelling a plan and there is a right of way within it, please consult the District Development Technician.

This guide is a living document; it is subject to change without notice. Please check the Rural Subdivisions Website (http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/DA/Subdivision_Home.asp) to make sure you version is sufficiently current.