The Baillieu Government’s reforms to Victoria’s planning system have continued in full force with the recent announcement of the creation of new Residential Zones and Commercial Zones and the amendment to existing Farming and Rural Living Zones.
The most prominent of the Government’s proposed amendments is to delete all existing residential zones and replace them with three new streamlined zones. These zones will be the Neighbourhood Residential Zone, the General Residential Zone and the Residential Growth Zone.
The Neighbourhood Residential Zone is designed to ensure that any development in this zone respects the existing character of a neighbourhood. The General Residential Zone will be used to encourage modest growth and development that balances neighbourhood character objectives while the Residential Growth Zone will aim to allow more medium density residential development. In the Residential Growth Zone, the maintenance of neighbourhood character will not be a planning objective to be considered at the time planning permit applications are determined by local councils.
The new zones introduce new permitted and prohibited uses of residential land. For instance, in most cases land within the General Residential Zone and the Residential Growth Zone will be allowed to be used for shops, fast food premises, medical centres and small offices without the need to apply for a planning permit.
All land currently zoned within an existing residential zone will be re-categorised into one of the new Residential Zones by local councils. This process is expected to take approximately 12 months after the new zones are formally introduced.
Farming and Rural Living Zones
Changes to the Farming and Rural Living Zones will also come into effect. Councils may now allow lots in the Rural Living Zone to have a minimum size of two hectares rather than the current requirement of eight hectares. This will encourage the development of more hobby farms which may not have been established under the current standards. Further, councils will also be allowed to relax the current requirement that all lots in the Farming Zone have a minimum size of 40 hectares. Councils will be empowered to determine on a case-by-case basis whether the subdivision and creation of lots smaller than 40 hectares is appropriate in this zone.
The Government also proposes to overhaul the five existing Business Zones by replacing them with two new Commercial Zones. The new Commercial 1 Zone will be applied as a commercial mixed use zone allowing retail, offices, business, entertainment and higher density residential uses within the same space. Retail uses in this zone will no longer require a planning permit (unless the land is subject to other existing planning overlays). The new Commercial 2 Zone will be appropriate for larger commercial use such as office buildings and light industrial purposes. In this zone, there will be no floor area caps on office spaces and most retail uses will not require a planning permit.
Where to now?
The State Government has appointed an advisory committee to consider all public submissions which have been made in respect of the changes to Victoria’s zones. That committee will provide advice back to the Government by 30 November 2012. It is anticipated that the proposed amendments will be passed by the Victorian Parliament before the end of the year.
In the meantime, all prospective developers of residential, commercial or rural land should become familiar with the anticipated changes as it is clear that there is potential for new development of land in all of these zones once the amendments are passed by Parliament.
If you would like further information please contact Mark Donaldson.