• VCAT

December 1, 2020

Planning schemes amended to pave way for Victoria’s big housing build plan

The Labour government has promised to deliver a historic $5.3 billion Big Housing Build plan to construct more than 12,000 new homes throughout metro and regional Victoria as part of the 2020/2021 state budget. On December 1st 2020 the planning minister Richard Wynne introduced a sweeping change to planning schemes in the entire state to fast track planning approvals for the housing to be delivered. The package announced in the budget promises to boost the state’s social housing supply by 10 per cent in four years, including replacing 1,100 old public housing units. The program will deliver secure, modern, and affordable homes throughout Victoria – with 25 per cent of funding to be allocated to regional Victoria. The new homes will meet 7-star energy efficiency standards, making them more comfortable during summer and winter, and saving tenants on their power bills.

To ensure the timely delivery of housing, amendment VC187 has been approved on the 1stDecember 2020, to introduce a new particular provision at clause 53.20 to all planning schemes throughout Victoria to streamline the planning permit process for housing projects by or on behalf of the Director of Housing. The amendment considers the net community benefit and aims to ensure that planning applications assessed under the new provisions will pose no negative amenity impacts on neighbours. The new clause applies to applications on residentially zoned land only.

The new particular provision does not exempt development from the requirements of other planning controls such as overlays. These will continue to apply and a proposal must comply with the requirements of any overlay and the new clause 53.20 to receive a permit. The amendment ensures a permit application for a project on behalf of the Director of Housing considers matters such as neighbourhood character, amenity impacts, vehicle access, heritage, built form and environmental values.

The new particular provision specifically exempts planning applications made by or on behalf of the Director of Housing from the following provisions:

  • The Municipal Planning Strategy or Municipal Strategic Statement and the Planning Policy Framework.
  • An application requirement or decision guideline of a zone.
  • A requirement to meet clauses 54, 55 and 58 of a zone.
  • A schedule to a zone except for a specified building height requirement.
  • Clauses 52.06 and 65.

The clause also exempts these applications from the notice requirements of section 52(1) (a), (b) and (d), the decision requirements of section 64(1), (2) and (3) and the review rights of section 82(2) of the Act. This means the planning applications will not be subject to public advertising and neighbouring properties will not be able to object to the applications made by the Director of Housing in their neighbourhood. The particular provision also removes any appeal rights of neighbours to appeal decisions by council to VCAT.

While the clause exempts the applications made by the Director of Housing from multiple traditional clauses and guidelines such as ResCode, the clause 53.20 itself consist of multiple application requirements and development standards which apply to all applications made by the Director of Housing across all municipalities. The most notable development standards are noted below:

Other than the above, the clause includes other standards that are similar to the ResCode, such as Private Open Space, Access, Walls on Boundaries, Overlooking and Overshadowing requirements.

The clause also includes requirements for the design of new driveways and vehicular access and car parking arrangements. These requirements are consistent with Clause 52.06 of the planning scheme are largely a transfer of pre-existing requirements and no new measures are introduced.

The particular provision also applies standards for new apartment design in relation to energy rating requirements and also dedicated deep soil areas for canopy tree planting in relation to numbers of trees to be planted on site as part of apartment developments. The requirements are set out in the table below:

The full clause can now be found in all planning schemes of Victoria. Throughout 2020 the planning team at CS have been working with Simmonds Homes in obtaining planning permits for these projects throughout the state on behalf of the Director of Housing. We welcome the introduction on the new clause and believe it will fast track the delivery of these projects throughout the state and we congratulate the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services on the approval of this amendment and wish them every success in providing the housing. There has been a negative reaction to the change by a number of the Victorian Councils who fear that it paves the way for social housing projects with no consultation with existing residents. The liberal members of parliament and CEO’s from Boroondara and Stonnington have expressed concerns and criticised the Labour government for the change in a recent article published in the Age newspaper.  The mayor of Bayside Council has expressed concerns that the proposal will allow for high rise public housing towers in suburbs like Bayside but added that he supports the development of low rise public housing that combines both public and private ownership.