Zoning Reforms: Devil's in the Detail?

Last week, the Minister for Planning released a suite of planning reforms for Victoria that include some big changes to our planning zones.  According to DPCD, these reforms seek to allow a broader range of activities to be considered, improve the range of zones to better manage growth and simplify requirements.

These changes to the zones (self proclaimed many, many times as 'sweeping') are summarised in the table below:

The major changes are for residential, farming and commercial zones.  Here's a quick run down on the residential zones.

The existing Residential 1, 2 and 3 Zones will be replaced with Neighbourhood Residential, General Residential and Residential Growth zones.

The Neighbourhood Residential Zone aims to restrict housing growth in areas identified for preservation.  According to the Minister, in this zone, you can expect to see single dwellings with some dual occupancies.

The General Residential Zone will be used 'in most residential areas where modest growth and diversity of housing is provided' (consistent with existing neighbourhood character).  Here, you can expect to see medium density housing, with a mixture of townhouses and apartments.

Lastly, the Residential Growth Zone will be applied in 'appropriate locations near activity centres, train stations and other areas suitable for increased housing activity'.  In this zone, you can expect to find apartments and town houses of up to 3 storeys and higher.

Schedules to each zone provide more information about no. of storeys and height controls.

There's been a few commentaries dotted around the media, including one from Michael Buxton (The Age)Miller and Dowling (The Age) and Peter Mares of the Grattan Institute, also published in The Age.  The articles are well worth a read!

Your take on the new zones will depend on how you feel about the notion of using zones to convey built form controls and to determine levels of change (as opposed to simply land use controls, with levels of change and built form controls dictated by overlays).

Overall the zoning changes seem fairly sound, and are not dissimilar from earlier policies of development concentrated in and around activity centres (including this).  The zoning changes are likely to provide more certainty for residents, developers and councils alike; with these zones there should be less ambiguity about what is appropriate and where.

However, like in many other instances, the devil is in the detail.  Implementation is of particular concern, and there is little on how the zones will be implemented other than that local councils will determine how and where the zones are applied, and they will have 12 months do so.  

How will the application of the zones be tested?  Will zones be fairly applied between various municipalities? Will councils be hesitant to apply the Neighbourhood Growth Zone?  Furthermore, who is going to pay for these changes?

What do you think?  The Minister's changes are open for comment, so have your say.  Just follow the links below.

Read up on the zoning reforms here.
Comment here
You can view the latest media releases from the Planning Minister here


  1. The conversation in the media and on networking sites are concentrated on the changes to the residential and rural zones.

    I am concerned about the changes to the commercial zones, whereby there will be no floorspace limits on any shopping centre. I find this disturbing in a growth area context - what is the role of the activity centre hierarchy now? How do we allow a network of smaller centres supplemented by a few larger centres? What does this do for accessibility?

  2. Yes - I agree there would be greater potential for out of centre commercial development with these new zones. This could potentially weaken the activity centre hierarchy. Interesting questions!


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