Whitehorse City Council, like most other councils in Victoria, is in the process of implementing the reformed residential zones into the Whitehorse Planning Scheme.  Whitehorse is seeking to implement the new zones in association with a Housing Study, Neighbourhood Character Study and Neighbourhood Activity Centre Design Guidelines.

Whitehorse City Council (Council) placed a draft Housing Study, draft Neighbourhood Character Study and Neighbourhood Activity Centre Urban Design Guidelines on public consultation between 9 September and 21 October last year.  The Housing Change Areas map (shown below) is to be used as the basis for implementing the new residential zones.  Limited change areas are to be rezoned Neighbourhood Residential, natural change and natural change with access areas are to be rezoned General Residential and substantial change areas are to be rezoned Residential Growth.

Consultation version of zoning map

Council received over 950 submissions (from a municipal population of 159,133 in 2012) from the consultation period.  Following a review of the submissions by Council officers, changes to the neighbourhood character precincts and housing categories of change areas were prepared to address a number of the issues that were raised by submitters.  The revised documentation along with a summary of submissions was presented to Council at a meeting on 9 December 2013.  At this meeting Council resolved to endorse the updated draft Housing Categories of Change Map and the proposed translation to the new residential zones (see below).

Whitehorse CC - Council adopted zoning map

The map endorsed by Council in December differs substantially from the map that was publicly exhibited in September and October last year.  An overview of the changes to the rezoning of residential land is provided below.

  • The percentage of land to be zoned Neighbourhood Residential (NRZ) has increased from 12 per cent to 52 per cent (an increase of 40 per cent).
  • The percentage of land to be rezoned General Residential (GRZ) has decreased from 80 per cent to 43 per cent.
  • The percentage of land to be rezoned Residential Growth has decreased from 8 per cent to 5 per cent.

Many of the submitters are likely to have raised concerns about the scale of change that the new residential zones may allow and were likely concerned that the new controls may erode neighbourhood character by permitting increased densities and vegetation removal.  While we acknowledge that it may be appropriate to limit development in areas of significant character or heritage value by applying the most restrictive zone (the NRZ) we do not accept that councils should be applying this zone to the majority of residential land if it is just to please existing residents; afterall, they are meant to be making responsible planning decisions.

We understand that a further report will be presented to the January 2014 Council meeting to seek endorsement of the updated Housing, Neighbourhood Character and Neighbourhood Activity Centre documents, the draft planning controls and a consultation program.  It is anticipated that a further round of consultation may take place in early 2014.

It is understood that once Council has adopted a final version of the strategic documents and zone implementation map, it will seek a planning scheme amendment under Section 20 (4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (the Act).  This process could exempt the amendment from public exhibition and consequently a Panel Hearing where the amendment would be tested by an independent panel.

With the population of Melbourne growing at such a rapid rate, each municipality must absorb some increase in population and permit higher density development in established suburbs.  It is concerning to see that some councils are seeking to ‘lock up’ more than half of their residential areas by applying the NRZ (where only limited development can occur) to a large percentage of their residential land.  It will be difficult to reverse these controls in the future.

As we mentioned in a previous coll-e-bulletin article on Plan Melbourne, the trend in the application of residential zones across Melbourne appears to contradict the advice provided in the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure Practice Note 78 (Applying the residential zones).  Practice Note 78 clearly states that the GRZ should be applied “in most residential areas where moderate growth and diversity of housing that is consistent with existing neighbourhood character is to be provided”.

Application of the new residential zones will have a significant impact on the way Melbourne is developed and where further residential growth can be accommodated in the future.  If the current pattern of zone implementation continues, housing diversity in established areas will not be provided and people will be forced to move to areas well away from those they know.

The Minister for Planning has only approved the implementation of the new residential zones in two municipalities (Glen Eira and Greater Dandenong).  Other councils, including Boroondara and Bayside have requested that the Minister approve their translation to the new residential zones under Section 20 (4) of the Act.

Councils have until the end of June this year to implement the new residential zones otherwise the GRZ will be applied to all residential areas.

Further information about the Whitehorse Housing and Neighbourhood and Character Review can be found at:  http://www.whitehorse.vic.gov.au/hanc.review.html