New residential zones and schedules to residential zones

Wednesday July 2 2014

Changes to residential zones in planning schemes have introduced new siting requirements across Victoria.

A series of new and revised residential zones – the General Residential, Residential Growth and Neighbourhood Residential Zones – were introduced into the Victorian planning system on 1 July 2013.  The Mixed Use and Township Zones were also amended at that time to update their siting requirements, consistent with the new residential zones.

Councils were given a year to amend their planning schemes to apply the new residential zones.  If a council has been unable to do this, from 1 July 2014 all land in the municipality previously zoned Residential 1, 2 or 3 has now been transitioned to the General Residential Zone. The Residential 1, 2 and 3 zones have been removed from the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes.

What are the key changes to siting requirements?

The new and revised residential zones allow councils more flexibility to vary the siting controls under Part 4 of the Building Regulations 2006 (the Regulations).  The key changes are:

  • Each residential zone can now have more than one schedule
  • A maximum building height may be specified in either a zone or a schedule to a zone.  For instance, the Neighbourhood Residential Zone sets a mandatory building height limit of 8 metres. The Residential Growth Zone sets a discretionary building height limit of 13.5 metres. The General Residential Zone sets a discretionary building height of 9 metres.  The height limits in all these zones can be varied by specifying a different height limit in a schedule to that zone
  • Where a discretionary building height is varied by a schedule, it becomes a mandatory building height limit
  • Two additional siting requirements in Part 4 of the Regulations - permeability (regulation 412) and walls and carports on boundaries (regulation 415) can now be varied by a schedule to a zone which specifies requirements that differ from those in Part 4.

What do the changes mean for building surveyors?

The siting standards of the new zones continue to be applied through Part 4 of the Regulations.

When assessing siting requirements for a building permit application under the new zones, building surveyors will need to check:

  • the planning scheme and residential zone that applies to the land
  • whether the planning scheme and zone is listed in Schedule 5 of the Regulations.

a. if listed, the building surveyor must go to the planning scheme and zone and check the relevant clause and schedule to see how a particular Part 4 siting standard is varied. The key changes under the new zones are that building height may be specified in either a zone or a schedule to a zone and that permeability and walls on boundaries can now be varied in a schedule; and

b. if the planning scheme and zone are not listed in Schedule 5, the default siting requirements in Part 4 apply.

Please note: Building surveyors should always check Schedule 5 of the Regulations for the current list of planning schemes and zones which vary the standard Part 4 siting requirements.

Schedule 5 of the Regulations is subject to change as planning schemes are amended.  Building surveyors should always check the most current version of Schedule 5 for the up-to-date list of planning schemes and zones that vary Part 4 siting requirements.  This can be done at http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/. All Victorian planning schemes can be accessed online at www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning/planningschemes

Clauses in the Zone

Section 11 of the Building Act 1993 applies to certain aspects of the new zones.  Section 11 of the Act provides that if a planning scheme contains a provision regulating the siting of buildings which is inconsistent with a requirement in the Regulations dealing with the same matter, and the inconsistency cannot be resolved, the building regulation ceases to have effect and the planning scheme requirement prevails.

For instance the maximum building height of 8m (or 9m on a sloping site) set out in clause 32.09-8 of the new Neighbourhood Residential Zone is a mandatory standard that applies to all dwellings or residential buildings in the zone.  This is a mandatory standard in the planning scheme that regulates the height of a building and is inconsistent with the maximum building height allowable under regulation 410(2).  Section 11 applies, so the current regulation 410(2) ceases to have effect.

The Residential Growth Zone sets a discretionary building height limit of 13.5 metres and the General Residential Zone sets a discretionary building height limit of 9 metres, both of which can be replaced with a mandatory building height limit in a schedule to the zone.  If a schedule to either of these zones sets a building height that is different from regulation 410(2) then that height becomes a mandatory standard in the zone and, if inconsistent with regulation 410(2), section 11 of the Act will also apply.

It is also important to note that, as these new standards in the zones are not a new or amended building regulation, section 10 of the Act cannot be utilised to provide a transition.  As the mandatory building height requirement of the zone is in the planning scheme and not part of the Regulations, a report and consent for a design not complying with the requirement cannot be obtained.

Updates on these changes will be provided as further information becomes available.

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