• VCAT

August 1, 2017

Case study – Vacant backyard subdivision

Back in 2011 our client approached us about subdividing his backyard and selling the land as a vacant block.

Our client was clear that he didn’t want to develop the back of the property and he also did not want to undertake the process of designing a house for the purposes of getting the subdivision approved. He simply wanted to subdivide the land and let the future purchaser build whatever house they wished on the property. This is a common request for the team here at CS. In this particular case we successfully applied to Banyule to approve the subdivision without house plans through the use of a ‘Building Exclusion Zone’ on the back section of the site. As the name suggests this was an area we designated on the plan as being exempt from any buildings or structures. This exclusion zone essentially hugged the property boundary line but was set back from the boundary by a distance of three metres on all sides. The remaining area on the site became known as the ‘Building Envelope Area’ and this was the area any future house could be constructed on the site. The city council were comfortable with this proposal but as part of Banyule Council’s approval of the subdivision the Building Exclusion Zone had to be registered on the title for the land as a Restriction. This meant that in the future if any landowner of the back section of the site wanted to build outside the designated building envelope they would have to apply to Banyule City Council for consent to do so. Our client placed the back yard on the market as a vacant block on completion of the subdivision in 2016. It was quickly acquired by a new owner eager to build their dream home in Greensborough on an affordable block of land. The new owner complied with the Building Exclusion Zone as registered on title and was able to obtain a building permit for their new home prior to settlement of the land. It was a great success story for both our client and the new owner of the site.

Approvals for vacant lot land subdivisions such as this one in Greensborough are difficult to obtain. This is because the local council planning department prefer approving subdivisions with house plans attached to provide them and the neighbours more certainty about how the new house will look. In the town planning process if the council approve a vacant lot land subdivision there is rarely any avenue for the community or councils planning department to have a say in the design and appearance of the new building. Almost every metropolitan Council will discourage vacant lot subdivision applications in established neighbourhoods and for this reason we discourage our clients from pursuing them.

It is much easier to get Council on board with a subdivision where house plans are included and a vacant lot subdivision application has a much higher chance of rejection by Council.