New Zones Update: Implementation Underway (Glen Eira)

Last month Glen Eira was the first of Victoria's local governments to implement the new zones, and two weeks ago, transitional arrangement were detailed. Earlier posts have looked at what the new zones will involve, but really, it all comes down to how the zones are implemented - of particular interest are the residential zones (summarised below):

Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ): Overall mandatory building height reduced from 9m to 8m and no more than 2 dwellings allowed on a lot (unless specified in the schedule).

General Residential Zone (GRZ): Includes a default discretionary height limit of 9m (equivalent to three storeys) which can be increased or decreased to a mandatory height limit by each Council.

Residential Growth Zone (RGZ): Includes a discretionary default height of 13.5m (equivalent to four storeys) which can be increased to a mandatory height limit by each Council.  ResCode standards will apply to four storey development.

The GRZ was intended as the 'default' zone, whereas NRZ was intended to protect areas of special, valued character, and RGZ for residential areas on main roads, close to activity centres where more intensive built form could be contemplated.

However, Glen Eira's implementation of the new zones has placed 78% of the municipality in the NRZ zone, limiting these areas to no more than 2 dwellings on a lot, and an 8m height limit.  The implementation was based on Glen Eira's change areas and diversity areas from strategic work undertaken almost a decade ago - you can see the map of the new zones in Glen Eira here.

There have been a number of discussions going around debating the implications of this - some have criticised the Council for adding to sprawl, particularly if other municipalities follow suit.  I think this is debatable.  It raises questions about how this fits with the Metro Planning Strategy discussion paper, which highlights the need to realise the potential of middle ring suburbs to provide more housing and employment opportunities.

Another consideration is that this manner of implementation could limit diversity of the municipality outside of activity centres.  Opportunities for low rise multi-dwelling development in residential areas that exist currently thanks to being well located to shops and services (and in keeping with the existing character) could be lost.  For instance, there are areas in Glen Eira such as along Alma Road, that have an existing character including multi-dwelling development (low rise apartment blocks), and this is the form of development that will suffer.  Under the new zones, remember only 2 dwellings are permitted on a lot, so no more low-rise multi-dwelling development in residential areas like this.  It also shows that the point of the NRZ (to protect character) is not truly being achieved, because it prohibits what exists in the character of the area it seeks to protect.  Important point here: low change does not always equal detached housing.

Aside from considering impacts on housing diversity, character and integration with the Metro Planning Strategy, concerns could also be raised about consultation and State government 'checks and balances' to ensure that Council's have the whole state's best interests at heart - not just their own residents.

Read the media release from Glen Eira here, check out a related Age article here or view Glen Eira's map of the new zones here.


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