The long-awaited amendments to the residential zones will be gazetted on 27 March 2017 via scheme amendment VC110.

Two dwelling restriction

The most notable change includes the removal of the mandatory two dwelling restriction per lot in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ). It appears from the announcement that Councils would not be allowed to introduce restrictions on the number of dwellings by a schedule to the NRZ.

Maximum building height

The key changes are as follows:

  • NRZ – Increasing mandatory maximum height from 8m to 9m but with a two storey maximum.
  • General Residential Zone (GRZ) – Increasing maximum height from 9m (discretionary) to mandatory 11m (three storeys).
  • Residential Growth Zone (RGZ) – Discretionary height limit of 13.5m remains, but Councils can set a mandatory height limit of 13.5m in a schedule to the zone.

Councils have the ability to increase the maximum building height within each zone and for particular sites, but not decrease such heights. A building can exceed the above maximum building heights in limited circumstances, namely:

  • Where the new building replaces an immediately pre-existing building and it does not exceed the pre-existing building’s height or number of storeys
  • There are existing buildings on both abutting allotments that face the same street and the new building does not exceed the height or contain more storeys than the abutting existing buildings
  • The lot is a corner lot abutted by lots with existing buildings and the new building does not exceed the height or contain more storeys than the lower of the abutting existing buildings; or
  • The building was constructed pursuant to a valid building permit that was in effect prior to the date of the gazettal of Amendment VC110.

Minimum garden area A new minimum garden area requirement for lots of 400sqm or greater is contained in the changes proposed to the GRZ and NRZ, as shown in the table below:

Lot size Minimum percentage
400 – 500 sqm 25 per cent
501 – 650 sqm 30 per cent
>650 sqm 35 per cent

The garden area requirement applies even where a permit is not required i.e. for the construction or extension of a dwelling on a lot, and also applies to subdivision applications. This will likely mean that plans of subdivision will be required to nominate the garden area to meet this requirement potentially by showing an indicative building envelope.

‘Garden area’ is defined as “an uncovered outdoor area of a dwelling or residential building normally associated with a garden” and includes:

  • Open entertaining areas
  • Decks
  • Lawns
  • Garden beds
  • swimming pools
  • tennis courts; · etc.

Notably, ‘garden area’ does not include a driveway, any area set aside for car parking any building or roofed area and any area that has a dimension of less than one metre. This will likely see a reduction in covered outdoor entertaining areas, pergolas and the like as this area will not count towards ‘garden area’.

Design objectives

A new clause has been inserted into the RGZ which requires a schedule to the RGZ to contain design objectives to be achieved for the area.

A new purpose has been inserted into the RGZ which ensures that ‘residential development achieves design objectives specified in a schedule’.

Neighbourhood character objectives

A new clause has been inserted into the NRZ which requires a schedule to the NRZ to contain the neighbourhood, heritage, environment or landscape character objectives to be achieved for the area. Notably, the purpose limiting opportunities for increased residential development in the NRZ has been deleted as has reference to the implementation of neighbourhood character policy and adopted neighbourhood character guidelines.

The neighbourhood character requirement in Rescode will continue to apply while waiting for councils to introduce the neighbourhood character objectives for applications lodged following the introduction of Amendment VC110.

A new clause has been inserted into the GRZ which allows Council to insert neighbourhood character objectives to be achieved for the area in a schedule to the GRZ. Unlike in the NRZ, this is not mandatory. The reference to the implementation of neighbourhood character policy and adopted neighbourhood character guidelines has been removed from the purposes of the GRZ.

Transitional provisions

The amendments to the GRZ and NRZ incorporate a transitional provision which provides reassurance to developers who have pending permit applications including subdivision applications.

To avoid any argument that a permit application does not have the benefit of the transitional provisions, amending permit applications that are awaiting decision should be avoided.

Councils have been given three years to align their residential zone schedules to reflect the above changes.