13 March 2013 — Reforms to Victorian’s residential planning zones, due to implemented over 12 months from 1 July, have received a mixed reaction from planning organisations and councils.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy announced the final details last week after a consultation process which involved more than 2000 submissions from individuals, businesses, councils and community groups.

The three new residential zones are:

  • Residential Growth Zone – where new housing will be encouraged
  • General Residential Zone – where there will be stricter controls on new housing
  • Neighbourhood Residential Zone – which allows for moderate housing growth.

Mr Guy said the reforms would “protect what Melburnians love about Melbourne – our streetscapes, our amenity and our liveability which are too valuable to ignore”.

“At the same time the new zones will clearly define the appropriate locations where growth and density should occur,” he said.

Meanwhile, Municipal Association of Victoria president, and Golden Plains Shire councillor, Bill McArthur told the Geelong Advertiser that councils had, for years, sought a greater ability to tailor planning controls to help local planning policy and reduce backyard battles about overdevelopment.

“It is pleasing that the Minister has incorporated many of the suggested changes from the Ministerial Advisory Committee, councils and the MAV into the revised residential zones,” he said.

“Greater weight will be afforded to neighbourhood character in the neighbourhood residential zone which will limit change, and the general residential zone which will allow incremental change.

“These are good outcomes for communities and send clear signals to the development industry to help reduce common planning conflicts.

“Further changes had also been accepted by the Minister about non-residential uses within residential zones to help reduce neighbourhood amenity impacts such as parking.”

In favour of the changes is Mary Drost from the lobby group Planning Backlash.

Ms Drost told said in news reports that the new zones would help protect Melbourne’s liveability and amenity.

“We are relieved and thrilled, but developers are going to be furious about this because they will face strong regulation in established areas,” she said.

Property Council of Australia state executive director Jennifer Cunich said the reforms included sensible protections and changes, but the property sector was concerned about how councils applied the zones.

“Melbourne is home to many important thoroughfares and activity centres which are ideal locations for appropriate housing development,” she said.

“It is important these areas be zoned correctly in order to provide housing choice for our growing population.”

And while still reviewing the details, Wyndham chief executive Kerry Thompson said the council was supportive of the changes.

“In 2013, the council will commence a neighbourhood character and housing strategy which will include a strategic analysis of Wyndham’s housing,” he told the Wyndham Weekly.

“This will identify which, if any, areas of the municipality will be included within the new residential growth and neighbourhood residential zones.

“Council is yet to see the criteria that has been developed to assist in applying the new planning zones.”

A copy of the MAC report and the Victorian Government’s response is here.