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1 June 2020

Improved Guidelines for Assessing Industrial Land Uses

The Victorian Government recently gazetted Amendment VC175, making improvements to the planning controls used to assess many industrial-type land uses. These uses and activities, with the potential for adverse impacts, generally require ‘buffer distances’ between them and nearby sensitive land uses including residentially zoned land.

The recent updates clarify the buffer distances required and make the assessment processes clearer for many of these land uses. Amendment VC175 more clearly differentiates between small-scale operations that can generally be accommodated in appropriate zones, and large-scale operations that require closer assessment and monitoring.

We had previously provided a submission to the Smart Planning Program in 2017 in support of these proposed changes. We’re pleased to see that what was previously proposed as amendments has been adopted with limited changes. Overall, we view this as positive step for providing greater clarity and certainty for investment in these important job-creating industries.

The majority of the changes occurred within the particular provision at Clause 53.10 of the VPP’s, which prescribes the buffer distances for these uses and activities. 

Some key changes include:

  • For some common activities (like food and drinks manufacturing), a buffer scale has been introduced differentiating between smaller boutique operators and larger, more industrial land uses.
  • Some ‘small-scale’ manufacturing operations now only have a buffer distance of 30 metres to adjoining residential areas.
  • Land uses where the buffer distances are not met, or where there is a greater risk to the community (i.e. landfills, recycling plants, sewerage treatment facilities), will continue to be referred to the Environment Protection Agency as a determining authority.
  • The old ‘Note 1’ and ‘Note 2’ system has been removed, eliminating the ambiguity associated with these guidelines (especially for small-scale manufacturers).

At the State-policy level, Clause 13.07-1S has been updated to reflect that ‘human health and safety’ is now equally as important as the catch-all term ‘amenity’ for assessment purposes. Reverse amenity impacts are now also considered in that potentially sensitive land uses are discouraged from being located close to a use or activity that has potential for amenity impacts.

We view these changes as positive for a number of reasons: 

  • Although amenity is a very important consideration for the planning industry, pragmatic consideration of human health and safety should be at the forefront of regulators minds.
  • For small-scale operators, the old provisions were complicated, and assessment was often lumped in with large-scale operators.  The new provisions will allow them to have smaller buffer distances and be located on the periphery of industrial and commercial areas.

This gazettal will allow greater clarity and certainty to investment, particularly in more urban locations where land use conflicts may be more common. The assessment for small-scale manufacturing has been simplified and will support new businesses in activities like beer brewing, distilleries and other boutique food and drink manufacturing. 

Meanwhile, more intensive activities where a prescriptive buffer distance may not always be appropriate, will continue to be subject to assessment by the EPA. 

If you're considering a project in an industrial or commercial area that may include a use that may have potential impacts, feel free to call your ratio: contact to discuss further.


Author: Scott Matheson, Senior Planner


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20200601 amendment c175