The wonderful world of planning has been changing at a fast pace in recent years, keeping all of us involved in the planning sphere very busy! 2018 saw large planning reforms such as Smart Planning changing the operation of the scheme, a buoyant housing market keeping Council’s and Consultants busy, the State Election seeing many announcements and as usual, the Tribunal issuing Red Dot decisions that kept everyone on their toes (such as the numerous Garden Area decisions).

It appears that the following year will be no exception. Whilst the State Election has passed and the housing market is cooling, the momentum of change does not appear to be disappearing soon! We’ve had a look at some of the changes already occurring which are likely to impact the development potential of many sites in Melbourne, as well as the planning process. Some of these changes are as follows:

Whitehorse Residential Corridors Built Form Study

Whitehorse City Council has marked the beginning of 2019 with a decision to formally adopt their Residential Corridors Built Form Guidelines and prepare a Planning Scheme Amendment to place these guidelines within the Planning Scheme. A suite of changes are proposed to be applied to the Residential Growth Zone along major arterial roads, including several variations to the usual ResCode requirements that allows 5 metre front setbacks, mandatory height controls (6 storeys) as well as larger side and rear setbacks. Additional space for deep soil planting is also proposed, whilst developments over 4 storeys will trigger a requirement for a wind tunnel assessment.

Keen Planning believes that the amendment is an overall reasonable approach for the development of medium density corridors along key arterial roads, however several requirements appear onerous for a residential growth zone. For example, it is proposed that a 9 metre rear setback be required in order to create a landscaped buffer between more dense built form and the less intense residential zones abutting these sites. We question whether 9 metres is appropriate, noting many effective examples of vegetation buffers which are smaller than this, whilst the proposed requirement for a wind tunnel assessment will add a layer of complexity and cost for applicants. Mandatory height limits are also questionable in some locations, particularly where other large buildings already exist or where sites are located in excellent positions in terms of access to existing transport and services (i.e. such as sites within close proximity to Deakin University).

Planning Decisions can often be surprising, but it will be interesting to see if the Planning Minister is willing to support this amendment, particularly as it includes some restrictive controls in a residential growth zone.

Mornington Peninsula Housing and Settlement Strategy – Amendment C219

Mornington Peninsula Shire caused havoc to the development community in early 2018, submitting to the Planning Minister a series of very restrictive changes (known as Amendment C219). The key change proposed by this amendment is the rezoning of the majority of the General Residential Zone to the Neighbourhood Residential Zone, coupled with the introduction of mandatory minimum lot sizes. This will restrict the size of new lots in infill sites such as Rosebud, Mornington, Dromana and Safety Beach to a minimum of 450 – 500 square metres.

If you have had an application on the Peninsula in 2018, you may know that despite the Minister not yet supporting this amendment, Council Officer’s are using the amendment to assess current planning applications resulting in a large number of refusals for arguably modest proposals.

Many questions arise as to the future of this amendment – will the Minister seek to progress the amendment after a series of restrictive planning changes to other scenic areas near Metropolitan Melbourne (such as the Surf Coast and Macedon Ranges), or does the amendment contradict the overarching state policy to encourage growth in existing urban areas? Could the upcoming Federal Election have any impacts on this amendment (given the increasingly marginal nature of the Mornington Peninsula’s State and Federal Seats)?

We will be closely watching this amendment and hoping that common sense prevails!

Notice of Decision dates

A problem that has been emerging in many Council’s has been the delay time between a Planning Decision being signed off by a Planning Officer at Council and the ultimate sign off and send out of the decision! The result has been substantial days and in our experience, this sometimes takes many extra days, even over a week!

Thankfully, 285 Lennox Pty Ltd v Yarra CC has put us out of our misery and clarified the matter! Tribunal Member Gibson noted in the notable Red Dot Decision that the date begins the day the NOD is issued (i.e. the date of decision), rather than when it is provided to the applicant / objector. Therefore, the onus is now on Council to ensure all parties receive decisions promptly after being signed off to ensure that the parties are given the full allowable time to weigh up whether they would like to appeal a decision.

Whitehorse Significant Landscape Overlay (SLO9)

In late 2018 the interim Significant Landscape Overlay – Schedule 9 was extended until June 2019. Its application across all of the residential areas in Whitehorse has certainly caused some headaches for applicants, as well as lengthy delays at Council, given the vast amount of vegetation that now requires planning permission to remove. Whether Council will replace the SLO9, or whether it will become permanent, remains to be seen.

Updates to Overlay Mapping – Bayside and Yarra Ranges

Bayside Planning Scheme Amendment C153 and Yarra Ranges Planning Scheme Amendment C149 have both been gazetted into the Planning Scheme in early 2019, bringing to an end the lengthy processes it can take to update the Special Building Overlay (SBO) and Land Subject to Inundation Overlay (LSIO). The amendments ensure that these overlays are consistent with the current mapping of Melbourne Water and we encourage you to check whether your site in either of these municipalities now has either of these overlays added or deleted.

We hope that 2019 brings many well considered, positive changes to the Planning Scheme and process. If you have any questions about how any of these matters may influence the development potential of your site, don’t hesitate to give Keen Planning a call on 9596 9000.

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