The Growth Areas Authority (GAA) has released the Small Lot Housing Code Standards.

On 14 July 2011, the Minister for Planning announced that new (not yet approved) precinct structure plans would include provisions that will remove the need for planning permits for lots under 300 square metres provided that the dwelling complies with the Small Lot Housing Code.

While at this stage unclear, we presume that the Code will be implemented through the Schedule to the Urban Growth Zone.

The Code will not automatically apply to all land within the Urban Growth Zone. Rather, it is expected that the relevant Urban Growth Zone will identify land to which it does apply, with this land identified through consultation with the relevant Council and other stakeholders during the planning scheme amendment process.

The Code includes a set of nineteen design standards. If all of these design standards are met, a planning permit will not be required. A planning permit will be required however, if one or more of the design standards is not met.

The design standards are by no means a reflection of ‘ResCode’. They often outline requirements quite different from those identified in Clause 54, Clause 55 and Part 4 of the Building Regulations.

Application of the Code and subsequent exemptions from requiring a planning permit on lots under 300 square metres in growth areas, raises a number of questions:

  • why is it appropriate to exempt permit requirements for lots on 300 square metres in growth areas only – why are there no exemptions for the rest of Melbourne?
  • why are the matters outlined in the Code different from Clause 54, Clause 55 and Part 4 of the Building Regulations – is this a vote of no confidence in ‘ResCode’?
  • why is it appropriate to have different standards for development in growth areas as opposed to the rest of Melbourne?
  • why was there no public consultation in the preparation of the Small Lot Housing Code?

These questions are not a comment on the merits of the Code, as providing planning permit exemptions for appropriately designed dwellings on lots under 300 square metres certainly has merit. We query however, why such exemptions could not apply to certain parts of Melbourne outside the growth areas. As noted in the ‘info sheet’ for the Code “the planning permit process for a single house on a lot less than 300 square metres can be time consuming and expensive”.