11 July 2012 – Proposed sweeping reforms to Victoria’s residential, commercial, industrial and rural planning zones have been released by the Victorian Government and are now open for feedback.

Key features include: the introduction of a Neighbourhood Residential Zone; new General Residential and Residential Growth zones; improvements to the existing Mixed Use, Comprehensive Development and Activity Centre zones; new and more flexible Commercial 1 and Commercial 2 zones; reform to support tourism activities in Farming, Rural Conservation and Green Wedge zones; and reforms to rural zones to promote the growth of agricultural activity.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the package of reforms would provide greater certainty in Victoria’s planning system.

The proposed Neighbourhood Residential Zone would restrict housing growth in areas identified for preservation of the existing urban amenity and protect neighbourhoods from inappropriate development, Mr Guy said.

The zone’s features include mandatory height controls, stricter subdivision regulations and the consideration of minimum lot sizes along with protecting existing streetscapes and amenity.

In addition, the new General Residential and Residential Growth zones would allow councils to work with local communities to determine the most appropriate locations for built form change to occur, Mr Guy said.

Business zoning
The Government also proposes two new commercial zones to replace the five existing business zones.

Mr Guy said Commercial Zone 1 would replace the existing Business 1, 2 and 5 zones to create vibrant mixed-use commercial centres for retail, office business and high density residential.

The Commercial Zone 2 would replace the existing Business 3 and 4 zones to develop areas for office and industrial uses that do not impact on the safety and amenity of adjoining areas, he said.

Key points include removing floor-space caps on office and retail uses, and allowing greater variety of uses to be considered in commercial zones. The default 500-square metre cap on office space in industrial areas will also be removed.

The proposed reforms will help shopping strips compete against larger centres by allowing modest expansions of small shops on land within 100 metres of an existing shopping strip. Supermarkets will also be allowed in a greater variety of locations.

Rural zones are also set to change.

Rural zones reforms would promote the growth of agricultural activity and give councils flexibility to adapt planning requirements to local circumstances.

The reforms would also make it easier for farmers to operate and to attract and retain people living and working in regional areas along with promoting agriculture in Melbourne’s Green Wedge Areas by removing the requirement for a planning permit, he said.

Mr Guy said the 40-hectare minimum lot size in the Farming Zone would remain as a default, but councils would be encouraged to vary it to match conditions such as climate, topography and land settlement patterns.

Stakeholders included in discussions about the rural zones reforms included the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Victorian Farmers Federation and Rural Councils Victoria.

Deadline for feedback on all zone reforms must be received between 17 July and 21 September with final reforms to be introduced into Victoria’s planning system in October.