The new zoning system and residential amenity

I am sure that one of the most important tasks for the Council and residents over the next four years will be implementing a new system of zoning.

We know that throughout Port Phillip there are concerns about the impact on residential amenity of inappropriate developments, the viability of our shopping centres, problems relating to traffic and parking, and a range of related planning issues.

As a residents’ action group, unChain has a proud record of standing up for residents. We had our start with the St Kilda Triangle but now we are interested in the complete range of planning issues across the whole municipality.

The state government has recently outlined the biggest changes to planning zones in 30 years. There will be six zones – an Activity Centre Zone, 3 new residential zones and the five existing business zones will be combined into two commercial zones.

What will be the impact in Port Phillip? In particular what will be the impact on residential amenity?

The residential zones aim to identify where more intensive developments can occur and where there should be stronger limits.

  • The Residential Growth zone enables new housing growth and diversity. It is for medium density housing through a mixture of townhouses and apartments with underground car parking. It has a height limit of 12.5 metres but a higher or lower maximum building height can be set by Council.
  • The General Residential zone preserves urban character while enabling modest housing growth and housing diversity. It consists of single dwellings and some medium density housing with a 9 metre height limit.
  • The Neighbourhood Residential Zone restricts housing growth in areas identified for urban preservation. It consists of predominantly single dwellings with some dual occupancies.

 unChain Inc is one of 250 resident groups across the whole state that are in a coalition called Planning Backlash. The convenor, Mary Drost, says:

“The proposed zone reforms are very complex … (and) the majority of people don’t know what is happening … These proposed changes are very good for the suburban residential areas but there needs to be further refinement of the proposals relating to the Rural and Green Wedge areas … finally we can have the protection against development that we have been advocating for … The Residential zones are excellent … however there are a number of points requiring amendment.”

The improvements that the resident action groups want include:

  • Each Council working with residents to say where and how big the residential zones should be.
  • Measures to prevent commercial creep into residential zones.
  • A clear provision that there will be no reduction in residents’ right to object and appeal.
  • Maximum heights must apply to all buildings in the zone.
  • Current prohibitions must be retained with no dilution of present conditions.

Last year Council implemented a new Local Planning Policy Framework (Amendment C62). The amendment has already had an impact in that fewer applications for larger developments have been made in areas where they would conflict with existing neighbourhood character.

However it is not yet clear how the new zoning relate to the zones in the Local Planning Policy Framework. What is clear is that Councils will have stronger powers under the new zoning system to identify those areas are suitable for higher density development and those areas should have stronger protection of their heritage and their existing lower-density neighbourhood.

It will be the responsibility of the Port Phillip Council to work out, with the community, how to apply these zones to our municipality. I am sure that this will be a difficult task, but it does offer us the opportunity to effectively protect our residential amenity.

~ Peter Holland
President, unChain Inc

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