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15 January 2021

Amendment GC172 - Reformed Residential Zones Clean-up

In the lead up to the festive period late last year, the gazettal of Amendment GC172 was approved by the Minister for Planning aimed at correcting building height inconsistencies resultant of the reformed residential zones under Amendment VC110 in 2017. 

As a refresher, Amendment VC110 sought to strengthen building height controls in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) and General Residential Zone (GRZ), among other things, by introducing a mandatory default maximum building height requirement of:

  • 11 metres and 3 storeys in the GRZ; and
  • 9 metres and 2 storeys in the NRZ.  

At the time of approval of VC110, the Department highlighted its intention to rectify (within 3 years) a number of instances where Council’s with a maximum building height in a local schedule to a zone were lower than the maximum building height afforded by the state-wide parent zone.

On this basis GC172 affects residential land in a number of metropolitan municipalities including Boroondara, Glen Eira, Knox, Whitehorse and Melbourne, as well as a number of regional Councils including Greater Geelong, Ararat, Queenscliff and Wellington, where such discrepancies exist.

Whilst the amendments are said to be ‘policy neutral’, it is evident that GC172 may have a material impact on existing landowners with respect to development outcomes that can be achieved in terms of overall building height. Of particular note, is that certain areas within the municipalities of Boroondara, Whitehorse, Melbourne, Knox and Greater Geelong have been immediately rezoned from the GRZ and NRZ.

Whilst there is no reduction in terms of the maximum height limit that can be achieved in metres, it is important to note that the NRZ has a maximum height limit of two-storeys whereas the GRZ allows for height up to three-storeys. Furthermore, the purposes of the NRZ and GRZ can be clearly distinguished in terms of the intensity of residential development that is expected, as the GRZ actively encourages a diversity of housing types and housing growth in well serviced locations (such purposes are absent in the NRZ). 

As a case study, within Boroondara there are large areas that have been rezoned from the General Residential Zone – Schedule 1 (which included a maximum building height of 9.0 metres) to the Neighbourhood Residential Zone – Schedule 1 (which also included a maximum building height of 9.0 metres). Prior to Amendment GC172, developments within this area could achieve three-storey buildings (where context supported such height), whereas now they are limited to a two-storey height.

Another feature of Amendment GC172 is that there are no transition provisions. This means the rezoning of residential land will have implications for ‘live’ development applications.  Using the above example, if there is a live application for a three-storey development within the GRZ, and the land has been rezoned to the NRZ, then that development would now be prohibited given it exceeds the mandatory height requirement of two storeys.

A further point of difference between the NRZ and GRZ is the types of non-residential uses that are permissible, as the NRZ is more restrictive in nature compared to the GRZ. Therefore, any current or future applications for non-residential uses in these rezoned areas would be affected.

Significantly, there was no public notification or consultation with landowners as part of the recent approval of Amendment GC172, as the Minister exercised his powers of intervention to exempt notice pursuant to Section 20(4) of the Planning & Environment Act 1987.  

The news of GC172 will present further challenges to the needs of the Victorian community relating to increased housing choice and affordability in established urban areas. 

If you require any further information or have any queries with respect to live or future applications that may be affected by Amendment GC172, please get in touch with Henry Johnstone or your usual ratio: contact.


Author: Henry Johnstone, Senior Planner

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