Removal of Vegetation versus Fire Protection

Regular readers will be aware that significant changes to the state-wide bushfire planning controls were undertaken in mid 2014. The reforms are designed to provide greater flexibility for new, replacement and upgraded single dwellings. It is generally held that the new controls provide greater flexibility for permit applicants seeking to develop in bush fire prone areas.

Of particular note is Clause 52.48-5 of the Bushfire Protection: Exemptions. This provision provides permit applicants with the ability to avoid permit triggers associated with vegetation removal (remove, lop or destroy vegetation without a permit) to create a defendable space around a dwelling if all of the following requirements are met

  1. Land is in the Bushfire Management Overlay.
  2. Land is in the General Residential Zone, Residential Growth Zone, Neighbourhood Residential Zone, Urban Growth Zone, Low Density Residential Zone, Township Zone, Rural Living Zone, Farming Zone or Rural Activity Zone.
  • The removal, destruction or lopping of vegetation:
    1. Does not exceed the distance specified in Table 1 to Clause 52.47-4 of this planning scheme based on the bushfire attack level determined by a relevant building surveyor in deciding an application for a building permit under the Building Act 1993 for a dwelling or alteration or extension to the dwelling; or
    2. Is required to be undertaken by a condition in a planning permit issued after 31 July 2014 under Clause 44.06 of this scheme for a dwelling or an alteration or extension to the dwelling.

Clause 1 is of the opinion that practitioners can use these provisions to propose dwellings, in areas meeting the above criteria, without fear of Council’s raising concerns about the significance or value of vegetation required to be removed in order to create the requisite defendable space.

We are yet to see a test case on this matter. However, if you have had projects in the past that have been stifled by the conflict between ‘vegetation removal’ versus ‘defendable space requirements’ now might be a good time to rekindle them – forgive the pun.

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