Understanding how Council’s plan for housing growth & use residential zones

The State Government has recently released two new Planning Practice notes that provide practitioners with interesting insight in how Council planners are encouraged to apply neighbourhood character considerations and assess application for change.

The first is Planning Practice Note 90: Planning for Housing (PPN90), provides guidance to Councils on how to plan for housing growth and protect neighbourhood character to ensure a balanced approach to managing residential development in planning schemes. For practitioners PPN90 also explains the planning framework as it relates to housing and residential development.

PPN90 sets out the key planning policy from the Victorian Planning Provisions and sets out the planning processes which inform strategic planning for housing change, including:

  • the Housing Strategy which identifies the extent of future housing including supply and demand types; and
  • the Neighbourhood Character Strategy which assists in identifying valued characteristics of areas that need to be considered when identifying the preferred future character for residential areas.

Perhaps of more interest to practitioners, the practice note provides a hierarchy of planning provisions which refer to the minimal, incremental and substantial change areas, noting that:

  • Minimal change areas equate to the Low Density Residential Zone and Township Zone – to protect neighbourhood character;
  • Incremental change areas equate to the Neighbourhood Residential and General Residential Zones – to consolidate existing urban areas; and
  • Substantial change areas equate to the Residential Growth Zone and Mixed Use zone – to plan for intensification.

PPN90 clarifies that the Residential Development Framework is the output of a Council’s Housing Strategy, their Neighbourhood Character strategy and other features or constraints such as heritage, environmental and landscape considerations. It is this framework which seeks to balance competing objectives of housing growth and respecting neighbourhood character, by prioritising preferred development outcomes for different areas (being the Minimal, Incremental and Substantial change areas). Local policy in Sections 21 and 22 of each planning scheme usually allocates these categories to residential land within that municipality. The Practice Note provides guidance on the intensity of new residential areas within each character-type noting:

Minimal Housing Change – areas which have special characteristics that distinguish them from other parts of the municipality and should be protected. These areas are generally unsuitable for future housing growth and are often covered by an overlay which reinforces constraints;

Incremental Housing Change – areas where housing growth occurs within the context of existing or preferred neighbourhood character. These areas have a capacity for growth, but new development should respect the existing or preferred neighbourhood character;

Substantial Housing Change – areas close to jobs, services, public transport and areas which are to facilitate housing growth. It is expected that these areas will result in a new built form and neighbourhood character.

PPN90 provides guidance on the interpretation of neighbourhood character, noting that respecting neighbourhood character does not mean protecting neighbourhood character or preventing change. It does not mean mimicry and pattern book design but rather designing in response to the features and characteristics identified in the neighbourhood. The PPN90 includes a preference that the three categories of housing change are illustrated in each Planning Scheme in map form, as are the areas where preferred neighbourhood character statements apply.

Planning Practice Note 91: Using the residential zones (PPN91) is to be read with Planning Practice Note 90: Planning for Housing. PPN91 provides information and guidance about how to:

  • use the residential zones to implement strategic work
  • use local policies and overlays with the residential zones
  • make use of the key features of the residential zones.

The practice note provides strategic Council planners with strategic advice about how residential zones may be allocated to land, and other tools which may be used to implement strategic work on housing change including:

  • Neighbourhood Character Overlays (NCOs) which may include demolition controls. Areas chosen for a Neighbourhood Character Overlays are areas which have special characteristics which need to be protected but are unlikely to have enough protection under Clause 54 and 55 (ResCode) provisions and local planning policy
  • Local Planning Policy and character objectives
  • Variations to standards of Clauses 54 and 55 (ResCode) plus garden area, subdivision lot size, maximum building height
  • Heritage Overlays, Design and Development Overlays and some other overlays.
  • The mandatory Garden Area and Maximum Building Height Provisions of the General Residential Zone, Neighbourhood Residential Zone and Residential Growth Zone, Township Zone and Mixed-Use Zone (as applicable).

For practitioners PPN91 includes insight into the structure and various components of the Residential Zones, plus  useful tables for summarising the features of each residential zone and of the operation of maximum building height controls for each zone, and the parameters for strategic planners making variations to ResCode standards in the schedules to the zones.

If you are looking for some (not so inspiring) bedtime reading, both Planning Practice Notes are available via the DELWP website at www.planning.vic.gov.au

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Information contained in this publication should be considered as a reference only and is not a substitute for professional advice. No liability will be accepted for any loss incurred as a result of relying on the information contained in this publication. Seek professional advice in specific circumstances.
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