The Victorian Government has released the final details of the ‘reformed residential zones’ which will now go through another round of testing with “Councils and other stakeholders” before being implemented into the Victorian Planning Provisions (VPP) – the overall ‘toolkit’ of planning measures but NOT a planning scheme / control in its own right.

It can be deduced from the recent press release that the VPP inclusion will occur on 1 July 2013.  Individual planning schemes will be amended over the twelve months to 30 June 2014, to incorporate the reformed zones.  It is expected that the zones may be implemented before the release of the new Metropolitan Planning Strategy.  The three reformed residential zones are known as the Residential Growth, General Residential and Neighbourhood Residential Zones.

The Residential Growth Zone will be implemented in areas identified for substantial change, the General Residential Zone will be applied to areas identified for incremental change and the Neighbourhood Residential Zone will be applied to areas identified for minimal change.  Draft criteria have been developed to guide councils with the application of the new zones.

Some of the key aspects of the reformed residential zones are:

  • more detailed purpose statements for each of the three zones with a greater emphasis on neighbourhood character for the General Residential and Neighbourhood Residential Zones;
  • the introduction of mandatory buildings heights of 8 metres in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone and 13.5 metres in the Residential Growth Zone;
  • restricting non-residential uses in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone and the General Residential Zone;
  • permitting some small-scale commercial uses in the Residential Growth Zone, including food and drink premises and a shop;
  • maintaining the planning permit trigger to construct or extend a dwelling on a lot less than 300 square metres;
  • allowing small-scale complementary commercial uses in the Residential Growth Zone;
  • additional decision guidelines in each zone which specifically relate to non-residential uses and development.

A critical aspect of the reformed residential zones will be the geographic areas to which each is proposed and implemented.  The Advisory Committee made only general comments in relation to this very significant issue.  The Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) will assist councils with their implementation.

The General Residential Zone has been labelled as the default zone and will be applied to all areas currently zoned Residential 1, 2 or 3 if councils do not undertake any strategic work to implement the two other zones.  This is concerning given that the General Residential Zone appears to be even more ‘conservative’ than the Residential 1 Zone.  As the General Residential Zone provides Council with more control than the existing zones, there will be little incentive for councils to undertake strategic work to implement the other two zones.

Also of concern for two reasons, are the proposed dwelling height limits in the ‘Residential Growth’ and ‘Neighbourhood Residential’ zones, which are 13.5 metres and 8 metres, respectively.  The first concern is that these heights can be reduced via a schedule in any particular planning scheme.  The second concern as alluded to above is that, if experience with the previous Residential 2 Zone is anything to go by, there will be real pressure to NOT apply the Residential Growth Zone.  In both of these cases, the Department / Minister has appeared too ready to agree to amendments that diminish flexibility and result in different approaches in different areas on political rather than good planning grounds.  There is no value (and just political spin) in a Residential Growth Zone that is little utilised.

The Department has stated that the new Neighbourhood Residential Zone is the “strictest planning zone in Australia” and will enable the protection of established residential suburbs by substantially limiting new development.  The implementation of this zone would require sound strategic justification.

In summary, the proposed zones are likely to further restrict development in residential areas.  The Residential Growth Zone will allow greater flexibility and further development however, we expect that this Zone will be applied sparingly as Councils have greater control / protection of the status quo by adoption of the General and Neighbourhood Residential Zones.

The reformed residential zones and Advisory Committee Report can be found at:


We invite you to contact Collie if you wish to further discuss the possible implications of these zones with us.