New Commercial Zone and Solar Panel Protection

On October 4th 2018, Planning Scheme Amendment VC149 was gazetted into the Planning Scheme. VC149 continues the momentum of a series of state wide reforms introduced this year (such as the Smart Planning, Garden Area and Cultural Heritage Sensitivity Reforms).

VC149 seeks to primarily respond to two (2) emerging Planning Challenges of the twenty first century.

The first of these challenges is a response to the emerging, post industrial and digital age, which is resulting in the growth of creative, start up and niche industries. These types of businesses are typically attracted to light industrial and commercial areas, particularly those with excellent transport links that are within Melbourne’s inner ring, such as Collingwood, Richmond and North Melbourne. In response, the Commercial 3 Zone has been introduced, which includes objectives such as to provide for a range of industrial, commercial, office and other employment generating uses which support the mixed use employment function of the area, whilst also promoting collaborative and high quality working environments.

We believe the introduction of this zone is positive, as it creates a zone with flexible provisions that seeks to ensure the long term retention of these industrial areas as employment focused zones. We are sure that this zone will be applied to many Industrial 1 Zones and Commercial 2 Zones and we will be monitoring this closely! Some of the key elements of the new zone includes:

  • Low impact uses, such as Art and Craft Centres, Food and Drinks Premises (cafes), Education Centres, Offices and Places of Assembly (a broad category, incorporating uses such as Function Centres, Exhibition Centres and Art Galleries) without Planning Approval (sometimes subject to conditions.
  • Allowing a small number of light industrial uses with minimal amenity impacts without Planning Approval, but restricting the location of heavier industrial uses that may have detrimental impacts to the surrounding, mixed use nature of the area.
  • Acknowledging the demand for a level of residential growth within these precincts, whilst also ensuring their primary focus as an employment precinct is retained. Up to 35 percent of the gross floor area of a building can now be for residential purposes (or up to 50 percent, if Council decides to amend the zone to allow this). This will be a large change from Dwellings previously being prohibited in many Industrial and Commercial 2 Zones.

The State Government has also responded to the second emerging challenge, the protection of sunlight to rooftop panels, although this response has been underwhelming! The primary focus of the change is the introduction of Objectives and Decision Guidelines to the Residential Zones, ResCode and the Better Apartment Standards which seek to consider solar panels on adjoining residential properties.

The changes are no more specific than the considerations which have already been established through case law at VCAT. The changes seek to ensure that any impacts to solar panels are not unreasonable and we believe this is likely to continue to result in all parties at VCAT butting heads about what can be considered a reasonable impact.

You can view the details of these changes at

Please call if you wish to discuss how these changes may affect your proposal.

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