Building Height Inconsistencies Corrected after Reform of Residential Zones

On 23rd Dec 2020, Amendment GC172 was approved by the Minister for Planning and was published on the Government Gazettal, marking the end of building height inconsistencies in residential zones across Victoria which was caused by the Amendment VC110 in 2017.

Back in 2017, Amendment VC110 was introduced to strengthen building height controls in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) and General Residential Zone (GRZ), by introducing a mandatory default maximum building height requirement of:

  • 11 metres and 3 storeys in the GRZ; and
  • 9 metres and 2 storeys in the NRZ.  

At the time of approval of VC110 amendment, local councils of Ararat, Boroondara, Greater Geelong, Glen Eira, Knox, Melbourne, Queenscliffe, Wellington and Whitehorse had lower maximum building height in a local schedule to a zone compared to the VC110 amendment. This resulted in these councils of Victoria having a maximum building height specified in a schedule to a residential zone that is lower than the maximum building height specified in the reformed residential zone.

For example, a building height lower than 9 metres specified in a Neighbourhood Residential Zone schedule and a height lower than 11 metres specified in a General Residential Zone schedule at the date the reformed residential zones came into operation under Amendment VC110 on 27 March 2017.

To rectify the discrepancies, Amendment GC172 was prepared by the State Planning Service of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) with the following changes:

Ararat Planning Scheme

  • Amends Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 1 (NRZ1) to modify the maximum building height from 8 metres, to 9 metres and 2 storeys.

Boroondara Planning Scheme

  • Rezones land of specific areas from the General Residential Zone - Schedule 1 (GRZ1) (except land affected by Design and Development Overlay - Schedule 1 (DDO1)) to Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 1 (NRZ1) to retain the maximum building height of 9 metres.
  • Amends General Residential Zone - Schedule 1 (GRZ1) (land affected by Design and Development Overlay - Schedule 1 (DDO1)) to modify the maximum building height from 9 metres, to 11 metres and 3 storeys
  • Amends General Residential Zone - Schedule 2 (GRZ2) to modify the maximum building height from 10.5 metres, to 11 metres and 3 storeys.
  • Amends General Residential Zone - Schedule 3 (GRZ3) to modify the maximum building height from 10.5 metres, to 11 metres and 3 storeys.
  • Amends Clause 21.01-3, Clause 22.02-3 and Clause 22.05-5 to make consequential changes to the strategic framework plan and the content of the clause to be consistent with the reformed residential zones.
  • Amends clauses 21.05-1 and 21.05-4 to make consequential changes to Table 1 and the housing framework plan to be consistent with the reformed residential zones.

Glen Eira Planning Scheme

  • Amends General Residential Zone - Schedule 1 (GRZ1) to modify the maximum building height from 10.5 metres, to 11 metres and 3 storeys.
  • Amends General Residential Zone - Schedule 2 (GRZ2) to modify the maximum building height from 10.5 metres, to 11 metres and 3 storeys.
  • Amends General Residential Zone - Schedule 3 (GRZ3) to modify the maximum building height from 10.5 metres, to 11 metres and 3 storeys.

Greater Geelong Planning Scheme

  • Rezones land of specific areas from the Residential Growth Zone - Schedule 2 (RGZ2) to General Residential Zone - Schedule 4 (GRZ4) and modifies the maximum building height from 10.5 metres, to 11 metres and 3 storeys
  • Rezones land of specific areas from the General Residential Zone - Schedule 2 (GRZ2) to Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 8 (NRZ8) to retain the maximum building height of 9 metres.
  • Amends Clause 21.06-3 to make consequential changes to the content of the clause to be consistent with the reformed residential zones.

Knox Planning Scheme

  • Rezones land of specific areas from the General Residential Zone - Schedule 2 (GRZ2) to Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 4 (NRZ4) to retain the maximum building height of 9 metres.
  • Rezones land of specific areas from the General Residential Zone - Schedule 5 (GRZ5) to Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 5 (NRZ5) to retain the maximum building height of 9 metres.
  • Rezones land of specific areas from the General Residential Zone - Schedule 6 (GRZ6) to Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 6 (NRZ6) to retain the maximum building height of 9 metres.
  • Amends General Residential Zone - Schedule 3 (GRZ3) to modify the maximum building height from 9 metres, to 11 metres and 3 storeys.
  • Amends Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 1 (NRZ1) to modify the maximum building height from 8 metres, to 9 metres and 2 storeys
  • Amends Clause 21.06-6 to make consequential changes to the content of the clause to be consistent with the reformed residential zones.

Melbourne Planning Scheme

  • Rezones land of specific areas from the General Residential Zone - Schedule 2 (GRZ2) to Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 3 (NRZ3) and modifies the maximum building height from 8 metres, to 9 metres and 2 storeys.
  • Rezones land of specific areas from the General Residential Zone - Schedule 4 (GRZ4) to Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 4 (NRZ4) and modifies the maximum building height from 9 metres and 10 metres, to 10 metres and 2 storeys
  • Amends Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 2 (NRZ2) to modify the maximum building height from 8 metres, to 9 metres and 2 storeys.

Queenscliffe Planning Scheme

  • Amends General Residential Zone - Schedule 1 (GRZ1) to modify the maximum building height from 8.5 metres, to 11 metres and 3 storeys.
  • Amends Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 1 (NRZ1) to modify the maximum building height from 8.5 metres, to 9 metres and 2 storeys.
  • Amends Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 2 (NRZ2) to modify the maximum building height from 6 metres, to 9 metres and 2 storeys.

Wellington Planning Scheme

  • Amends Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 1 (NRZ1) to modify the maximum building height from 4.5 metres, to 9 metres and 2 storeys.

Whitehorse Planning Scheme

  • Amends General Residential Zone - Schedule 2 (GRZ2) to modify the maximum building height from 10.5 metres, to 11 metres and 3 storeys.
  • Rezones land in the General Residential Zone - Schedule 6 (GRZ6) to Neighbourhood Residential Zone - Schedule 8 (NRZ8) to retain the maximum building height of 9 metres.
  • Amends Clause 21.06-9 to make consequential changes to the housing framework plan to be consistent with the reformed residential zones.

The full gazetted Explanatory Report can be downloaded here.

The planning scheme controls maximum building heights throughout Victoria. The amendment GC172 ensures that there is consistency and certainty about maximum building heights through the reformed residential zones. The department hopes this will improve the usability of the affected planning schemes and provides greater certainty for landowners and the community with respect to consistent use and application of residential zoning tools across Victoria.

How does this amendment affect land owners?

Although Amendment GC172 seems to be simply rectifying the oversight caused by Amendment VC110 back in 2017, the Devil is in the details and GC172 may have a material impact on land owners in terms of development outcomes that can be achieved.

In areas such as Boroondara, Whitehorse, Melbourne, Knox and Greater Geelong, where some land are immediately rezoned from the General Residential Zone to Neighbourhood Residential Zone, whilst there are no reduction to the maximum height that can be achieved, it is important to note that the Neighbourhood Residential Zone has a maximum height limit of two-storeys whereas the General Residential Zone allows for height up to three-storeys.

Furthermore, the objectives of the Neighbourhood Residential Zone and General Residential Zone are clearly different in terms of the intensity of residential development that is expected.

Using Knox Planning Scheme as an example.

The objectives of General Residential Zone reads:

  • To encourage development that respects the neighbourhood character of the area.
  • To encourage a diversity of housing types and housing growth particularly in locations offering good access to services and transport.

Whereas the Objectives of Neighbourhood Residential Zone reads:

  • To recognise areas of predominantly single and double storey residential development.
  • To manage and ensure that development respects the identified neighbourhood character, heritage, environmental or landscape characteristics.

Given difference of the objectives, council planners may assess development proposals differently.

How does this affect current applications?

Amendment GC172 does not have transition provisions meaning the rezoning of residential land takes immediate effect. If there is an application for a three-storey development within the General Residential Zone, and the land has been rezoned to the Neighbourhood Residential Zone, then the application will now be assessed against the new zoning and it is likely the development would now be refused given it exceeds the mandatory height requirement of two storeys. On the flip side, if a permit was approved under Neighbourhood Residential Zone, the permit applicant can lodge a permit amendment to take advantage of the new zoning.

All the documents that are published on the Government Gazettal can be found here. If you require further information or have any queries in relation to the Amendment GC172 or any town planning matters, please feel get in touch with our team.

Kinson has experience in property development feasibilities for the commercial, retail and office sector for multinational corporation CBRE. Kinson has experience negotiating with multiple stakeholders to achieve the best results for his clients. Hi is bi lingual and has well developed customer service skills that make him a huge asset for our clients. Kinson has a bachelor of science in property from the university of Melbourne and at the time of joining our team he was completing his masters of property from RMIT with the aim of obtaining certification as a practising property valuation professional.