• VCAT

November 30, 2022

What information is required for a residential development application?

Greater Melbourne is unique amongst Australian cities as it has, for several decades, experienced significant population growth as a major node for migration within Australia. For this reason, among others, residential development has been undertaken at record levels. More recently, the Victorian State Government has aimed to guide residential development through tools such as Plan Melbourne, as well as through the State Planning Policy Framework. As a result, the following types of residential development have become commonplace throughout Victoria:

  • Growth areas volume development.
  • High-density residential development in key commercial and employment areas.
  • Infill development in general suburbs.
  • Incremental development in historic or sensitive areas.
  • Regional/rural dwelling development.

This article will explore the planning permit requirements of all forms of residential development within Victoria to help inform our clients and stakeholders to better understand the planning process.

Urban Growth Zone:

The Urban Growth Zone is a planning zone that aims to “manage the transition of non-urban land into urban land in accordance with a precinct structure plan”. Essentially, land within this zone has been identified by a local Council as land that has the capacity to be reformed into a new residential community. Precinct Structure Plans (PSP) are the planning documents that guide these large-scale developments. Dwelling developments within the Urban Growth Zone generally carry their own rulings as determined by the applied zoning and PSP controls, and these are the kinds of dwellings that are seen all over Melbourne’s growth areas in regions such as Melton, Hume, Casey and Wyndham.

Dwelling development applications for areas within Urban Growth Zones must coincide with the approved subdivision layouts and residential design guidelines. While there are strict parameters that must be considered in a dwelling development, these are generally the easiest and quickest developments to be approved by Council.

Many of these dwellings do not require planning permits, however, for the ones that do, it can be expected that architectural plans, supporting planning reports and other documents should be prepared to be lodged with Council. It is also recommended that an applicant consults with a growth areas planner from Council at this stage.

High-density Development:

The Residential Growth Zone and the Mixed Use Zone are two planning zones that encourage high-density residential development. Areas encumbered by these zones are generally well-located in proximity to commercial precincts, activity centres, major employment nodes and other various clusters. Higher density residential developments in such areas have taken place in the form of apartment buildings and units.

Unit and apartment developments must be consistent with the policy objectives set out in the relevant Planning Scheme, as well as ensure an outcome that is consistent with the requirements of Clause 58 of the Scheme. Clause 58 sets out specific guidelines for apartment developments to ensure that they are liveable and meet all relevant safety and amenity needs.

A large emphasis on urban design must also be considered, as apartment and unit developments generally result in a large interface along primary and arterial roads. It is common for architects to also employ urban designers to create a suitable design.

Infill Development:

Infill development is the most common form of residential development occurring across Greater Melbourne and in some regional areas. Infill development refers to where older housing stock in established residential suburbs is removed and replaced with medium-density outcomes such as townhouses. Most residential sites have the capacity to contain anywhere between two to four dwellings, however there are instances where larger sites can accommodate many more.

To prepare for a townhouse development application, the requirements of the Planning Scheme, including any residential design guidelines, Clause 55 compliance, and the Zoning must all be considered in a design. Clause 55 – Rescode, sets out the defining design guidelines for developments of two or more dwellings (in a residential zone) to ensure the scale, siting, appearance, and amenity impacts are reasonable.

Architects’ plans for such developments should include the following:

  • A survey plan
  • A site and neighbourhood plan
  • Existing conditions plan
  • Demolition plan
  • Proposed floor plans
  • Existing and proposed elevations
  • A garden area plan
  • Shadow diagrams
  • Materials schedule

Similarly, other information submitted to Council should include:

  • A current full copy of title
  • A technical planning report, including a Clause 55 assessment
  • Any consultant documents where required

Incremental Development:

In areas encumbered by more stringent policy objectives, the level of change expected for older housing stock is decreased to a more incremental level. Incremental change is expected for dwellings that exist within areas focused on heritage conservation, environmental protection, and strong neighbourhood character values. For instance, areas such as Altona and Laverton within Hobson’s Bay may often experience residential growth via townhouses and the like, however areas such as Newport and Williamstown with more historic significance do not reflect the same.

In areas where this notion applies, the most common form of development is by way of dwelling extensions and restorative procedures, in essence, to make older dwellings more appropriate for the current liveability needs of residents.

Whilst not much changes in terms of the planning process, Council’s will generally assess these kinds of applications with a more granular level of detail. Therefore, ample time must be placed into preparing a design that is consistent with the requirements of Clause 54, and other relevant areas of the Planning Scheme. Clause 54 – Rescode, sets out objectives similar to Clause 55, but only applies to single dwelling proposals.

Rural Living:

In areas located outside of Greater Melbourne, the landscape shifts from urban sprawls to lower density rural subdivision patterns. On sites capable of housing a dwelling, the zone falls into either a Low Density Residential Zone, Rural Living Zone, Green Wedge Zone or Farming Zone. On these zones, the Planning Scheme strictly indicates that one dwelling may be permitted per lot.

As a result, these areas are generally devoid of development, however, there are often instances where older rural dwellings are being removed and replaced with newer dwellings, again to meet the current needs of residents. Similarly, associated outbuildings are a common development proposal.

There are no Rescode requirements as part of these development proposals, as the core issues faced by urban development are not relevant in this context. However, other notable factors such as environmental protection, bushfire management and infrastructure provision are important matters to ensure are considered in any regional development proposal. Similarly, rural residential guidelines are important to consider as Council’s require dwellings and outbuildings to be designed in a manner that contributes to the natural landscape.

We at CS Town Planning have demonstrated experience of obtaining planning permits for a wide range of dwelling typologies across Victoria. As part of our expertise, we provide reputable and reliable advice to our clients and stakeholders in order to ensure certainty for residential development outcomes. Contact us at www.cstownplanning.com.au to speak with one of our experts if you are seeking guidance on your next residential development.