Residential aged-care facilities get a boost in residential zones

In late October the State Government introduced amendment VC152, which incorporates substantial changes into the planning scheme and affects how Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs) are defined and assessed under Victorian Planning provisions.

The changes simplify and clarify the assessment of aged-care facilities, remove the need to consider ‘use’ parameters and provide a more flexible approach to mandatory height and garden-area limits and some other residential amenity considerations.

The most significant changes to the planning scheme include:

A new definition specifically dedicated to RACF within Clause 73.03 Land use Terms as follows:

Land used to provide accommodation and personal or nursing care for the aged. It may include recreational, health or laundry facilities and services for residents of the facility.

Changes to a number of zones including GRZ and NRZ that now sees RACF moved to a Section 1, which removes the need for planning permit for the use. However, the changes also incorporation of the following:

A permit is required to construct a building or construct or carry out works for a residential aged care facility.

A development must meet the requirements of Clause 53.17 – Residential aged care facility

Perhaps most significantly a new Clause that provides clear guidance on how an application of this sort should be assessed is provided at Clause 53.17. The purpose of Clause 53.17 includes:

To facilitate the development of well-designed residential aged care facilities to meet existing and future needs.

To recognise that residential aged care facilities have a different scale and built form to the surrounding neighbourhood.

To ensure residential aged care facilities do not unreasonably impact on the amenity of adjoining dwellings.

Clause 53.17 has been designed to trump other conflicting planning considerations, as noted at Clause 53.17-3:

If there is any inconsistency between a requirement in this clause and a requirement in another provision of this planning scheme, this clause prevails

The new Clause 53.17 goes on to:

  • Provide for a maximum mandatory building height within GRZ, NRZ and Township Zones of up to 16m;
  • Provide for a non-mandatory maximum building height in the Mixed Use and Residential Growth Zones of 16m;
  • List several performance standards (derived from ResCode) that are relevant to the assessment of a new residential aged care building, some of which have been altered including the standards relating to:
    • ‘Site coverage’ which notes footprints should not exceed 80% of the site area, compared 60% normally specified for dwellings and;
    • ‘Overlooking’ that requires screening to only 1.2m above FFL, compared to 1.7m above FFL for residential buildings developments.

Clause 53.17 also incorporates the following decision guidelines.

Before deciding on an application, in addition to the decision guidelines in Clause 65, the responsible authority must consider, as appropriate:

The Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

How the proposed development responds to the site and context description.

Where the requirements of this clause are not met, the impact on the amenity of the adjoining dwellings.

The proposed amenity for future residents of the residential aged care facility.

The effect of overshadowing on an appropriately located existing rooftop solar energy facility on an adjoining lot.

The wording of the above Decision Guidelines, when read in conjunction with the purpose of Clause 53.17 and the increased height and site coverage provisions appear to provide a substantial advantage to applications for development of Residential Aged Care Facilities over apartment buildings and other residential development (such as dwellings) in similar locations.

Permit applicants should be aware of the benefit Clause 53.17 now provides for the provision of Residential aged care facilities.

As is the case with all new provisions, we expect there to be some teething problems as applicants seek to take advantage of these changes. Stay tuned – we will updated you as we learn more about how Councils and the Tribunal interpret VC152.

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