The Victorian Government has announced planning reforms to Victoria’s planning zones which, if enacted, will have significant consequences to property zonings in Victoria. A draft form of the changes has been released, with the potential for the changes to substantially affect commercial, residential, rural and industrial planning. Law Graduate, Wayne Harrison explains the reforms.

The proposed reforms are open for public comment until 21 September 2012 with the final reforms due to be introduced in October.

What is changing?

Click here to see table.

Reformed Residential Zones

The proposed reformed Residential zones have been developed taking into account the Victoria in Future 2012 population estimate which anticipates that a number of areas within Melbourne and regional cities are expected to experience sizeable growth. The reforms propose three new Residential zones:

  • Residential Growth Zone which enables housing growth and diversity, allows for a mixture of townhouses and apartments with underground parking and a discretionary three storey, 12.5 metre height control which can be modified by Council.
  • General Residential Zone which focuses on preservation of urban character whilst encouraging housing growth and diversity. It will allow a mixture of single and dual occupancies and allow Council to modify maximum building height.
  • The Neighbourhood Residential Zone which supports urban preservation, with a maximum of two dwellings per lot, and default height controls of 9 metres which may be further reduced by councils and which cannot be exceeded by a permit.

There are also changes proposed to the Low Density Residential Zone so that land can be subdivided into lots having a minimum area of 2000 square metres where sewerage is connected.

Reformed Rural Zones

The proposed rural zones will:

  • Remove the need for a permit in relation to farming related development, sale of farm produce and removal of restrictions on the sale of processed produces.
  • Facilitate tourism by reducing or removing permit requirements related to tourism uses.
  • Make many prohibited uses discretionary in rural zones.
  • Reduce the current default minimum lot size in the Rural Living Zone from 8 to 2 hectares.

Reformed Commercial Zones

The five current business zones will be replaced by two commercial zones. The proposal promotes competition in existing business as well as encouraging new entrants into the markets. Increased competition is likely to be experienced in the retail industry as the proposal seeks to remove existing planning controls which were favourable to the existing dominant retail companies.

The proposed Commercial 1 Zone combines the existing Business 1, Business 2, and Business 5 zones. The new zone broadens the range of activities that land can be used for without the need for a planning permit and removes floor area restrictions.

The proposed Commercial 2 Zone combines the existing Business 3 and Business 4 Zones. The new zone provides additional opportunities for office, retail and commercial activity.

Reformed Industrial Zones

The existing industrial zones floor space limit of 500 square metres on office space will be removed, providing greater incentive for business investment. The changes seek to respond to modern developments in the industrial area by providing greater flexibility within which to operate.

Changes to Industrial 3 Zone will allow small supermarkets with supporting shops, not exceeding 2000 square metres, to no longer require planning permission to commence building. The amendments will allow for increased competition as well as providing additional commercial opportunities for businesses to operate within.

The reforms are part of the Victorian Government’s major overhaul of the Victorian planning system, and it remains to be seen if other states facing similar planning and development challenges will follow Victoria’s lead in this area.

Wayne Harrison, Law Graduate