New and updated apartment standards

Recent State-wide Planning Scheme Amendment VC174 has introduced new provisions for apartment development applications, to implement the recently revised Better Apartment Design Standards. The changes were approved by the Planning Minister on 20 December 2021 and seek to improve external amenity and design outcomes for all apartment developments and update the existing Apartment Design Guidelines for Victoria (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning).

The changes relate to Clause 55 (Two or more dwellings on a lot) and Clause 58 (Apartment Developments of five storeys or more) and include:

  • Amending the Neighbourhood and Site Description and Design Response requirements to include If the application is for an apartment development, the design response must explain how the proposed design selects materials and finishes for the external walls.
  • Amending Standards at Clause 55.07-2 and Clause 58.03-2 Communal Open Space objective to:
  • Include an additional objective that communal open space meets the needs of residents and enhances residential amenity;
  • Previously the standard for a minimum area of communal open space for apartment developments was required for developments of 40 dwellings or more. This has been reduced to 10 dwellings or more. The minimum has been changed from 2.5m2 per dwelling or 250m2 (whichever is lesser) to a minimum 30m2, and that apartment developments of 13 dwellings or more should provide an additional communal open space area of 2.5m2 per dwelling or 220m2, whichever is lesser. This additional area may be indoors or outdoors and consist of multiple separate areas of communal open space;
  • Further subjective standards apply in relation to open space accessibility, utility, size and shape, passive surveillance and outlook and landscaping.
  • Standards at Clause 55.07-4 and 58.03-5 Landscaping objectives have been amended to:
  • Retain trees and increase canopy cover, landscaping to support the urban context and reduce visual impact of buildings and landscaping which is climate responsive, supports biodiversity, wellbeing and amenity and reduces urban heat;
  • Development should replace any significant trees which have been removed in the 12 months prior to the application being made;
  • Provide canopy trees over deep soil areas;
  • Provide a range of plant types and sizes, use shading plants or materials which reduce heat absorption;
  • Utilise sustainable irrigation systems;
  • Amend the tables which set out canopy cover and deep soil requirements, generally increasing the coverage required. These changes define the area and depth of deep soil required, which in turn will require additional information provided in applications, showing how trees and their soil requirements can be provided on site.
  • Providing a new objective at Clause 55.07-6 and Clause 58.03-6 Access Objective which includes a number of new standards relating to vehicle access and crossover design;
  • Relocating Clause 55.07-8 Building entry and circulation objectives to Clause 55.06-16;
  • Amending standards at Clause 55.07-9 and Clause 58.05-3 Private open space objective, generally increasing minimum area requirements;
  • Including new Clause 55.07-17 Integration with the street objective;
  • Including new Clause 55.07-18 Site services objective
  • Including new Clause 55.07-19 and Clause 58.06-4 External walls and materials objective which seek durable materials which weather well.
  • Expanding the standards in Clause 52.08-5 Integration with the Street in relation to how a building appears from the street view;
  • Add new objective 58.04-4 Wind impacts objective (for developments of 5 storeys or more) including that new development should not cause unsafe wind conditions. This clause includes a numerical standard setting out “Unsafe” and “Comfortable” wind conditions in public land, publicly accessible areas on private land, private open space and communal open space. Decision guidelines for this clause include Whether it has been demonstrated by a suitably qualified specialist that the development will not generate unacceptable wind impacts within the site or on surrounding land. 
  • Amendments to Clause 58.06-02 Site Services objectives;
  • Amendments to Clause 58.07-1 Functional layout objective, including minimum areas for the main bedroom (10.2 m2) and other bedrooms (9 m2).


Transitional provisions are provided in the various zone requirements of planning schemes. This means the previous planning scheme provisions will apply to applications for planning permits (or amendments) lodged prior to VC174/20 December 2021. Practitioners should keep in mind that any current application lodged prior to 20 December 2021, if amended under Section 50 of the Planning and Environment Act , will reset the application date to the Section 50 Amendment date. This will remove your transitional provisions rights if your Section 50 amendment application is made after 20 December 2021.

The above changes appear to update the standards for all proposed apartment developments, and bring apartment developments considered under Clause 55 (4 storeys or less) more in line with the objectives and standards under Clause 58 (5 storeys or more). The changes will make professional wind assessments standard for applications for 5 storeys or more. The changes require a greater consideration of landscaping at application stage to ensure deep root areas are provided to result in minimum canopy tree cover. The changes also bring more focus onto materials and finishes, seeking materials with a longer life and better longer term weathering properties.


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