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Melbourne Planning Scheme - Planning Zones and Overlays

Did you know, 2 properties on the same street can have vastly different values, even if they are right next to each other?  One factor that affects property valuation is the planning zone, planning schemes and overlays on the property.

Over 90% of the property buyers are not aware of the planning zones and overlays.  Which is OK, because if you're after just a property to live in or to lease out, planning schemes would not affect you 90% of the time.
 
But what if, you intend to renovate or redevelop your property in future?  Can you build an extra dwelling (house) on your land?  Can you build a granny flat?  Can you paint the exterior of your house pink?  What are these restrictions?

Conveyancers and solicitors do not usually know why you buy the property, as it is not in their usual scope of service.  Thus they would not usually know if the property you are buying is suitable for you.  This is where an independent buyer's advocate who is genuinely on your side will help guide your purchase.

You would not want to buy a property, only to realise that it is right smack in the middle of a major flood zone or bushfire zone, do you? 

Here is our quick reference guide with the common Victoria planning schemes and overlays.

What are Planning Schemes and Overlays?  Why should property buyers know them?

Planning schemes and overlays are essential regulations used by the government and local councils to define their plans and what can or cannot be built in a certain area, zone or block of land.  It is also used to indicate any characteristics of the area or land:  

  • Is the land prone to flooding or water overrun? 

  • Is the land prone to bushfire? 

  • Are there any contaminants in the land? 

  • Are there any features and landscape that the council wants to maintain in the area?

  • If you are renovating, or developing, what characteristics does the council wants to maintain? 

  • Does the council have any concerns if you want to paint your house pink?

It is very common to see overlays affecting one property, but not the other, even if they are right next to each other.  Which is why, due diligence is critical. 

If you are not sure what to check, you might end up with an unsuitable property.  When you are doing your due diligence, planning schemes and overlays should be reviewed and compared against your intentions and plans for the property, to make sure the property can do what you wanted it to. 

While most planning zones, planning schemes and overlays are straight forward, some are rather cryptic. Plus, the local council's ability to tweak the definitions, rules and guidelines within each Planning Scheme, making it more critical to have the property reviewed by a professional prior to purchase.

Here at Concierge Buyers Advocates, our team of trained builders and property development experts understand the complex nuances of these planning regulations and validate the land against our clients' plans to avoid any mistakes.  By reviewing planning schemes and overlays against your intentions for the property, we ensure that the property can meet your requirements.

Here are some of the common Planning Zones and Overlays used in Melbourne and Victoria.  Do feel free to get in touch if you need help understanding what they mean.

More information can be found at Planning Scheme Online

RGZ vs GRZ vs NRZ - What are the differences?

It is important to note that the local council manages the definitions and applications of the residential zones.  So, each council may have slightly different definitions and rules around its applications.

These are general guidelines:

NRZ - low density - up to 2 storeys or 9 metres

GRZ - mid-density - up to 3 storeys or 11 metres.

RGZ - high density - 4 storeys and above

Local councils tends to vary the definitions and requirements for these zones.  Minimum block size, green area, setbacks, types of fence, are some common variations between councils.  Each zone appeals to different types of buyers.  Some may prefer larger blocks, while some may prefer more leafy areas.

Details

GRZx - R1Zx, R2Zx or R3Zx General Residential Zone

​The GRZx zones are by far, the most common in Victoria.

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To encourage development that respects the neighbourhood character of the area.

  • To encourage a diversity of housing types and housing growth particularly in locations offering good access to services and transport.

  • To allow educational, recreational, religious, community and a limited range of other non-residential uses to serve local community needs in appropriate locations.

Refer to individual council for guidelines.

RGZ - Residential Growth Zone

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To provide housing at increased densities in buildings up to and including four storey buildings.

  • To encourage a diversity of housing types in locations offering good access to services and transport including activity centres and town centres.

  • To encourage a scale of development that provides a transition between areas of more intensive use and development and other residential areas.

  • To ensure residential development achieves design objectives specified in a schedule to this zone.

  • To allow educational, recreational, religious, community and a limited range of other non-residential uses to serve local community needs in appropriate locations.

Refer to individual councils for guidelines specific to your location.

NRZ - Neighbourhood Residential Zone

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To recognise areas of predominantly single and double storey residential development. To manage and ensure that development respects the identified neighbourhood character, heritage, environmental or landscape characteristics.

  • To allow educational, recreational, religious, community and a limited range of other non-residential uses to serve local community needs in appropriate locations.

 

Refer to individual council for guidelines.

RDZ - RDZ1, RDZ2 Road Development Zone

Being Superseded by TRZx Transport planning Zone

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To identify significant existing roads.

  • To identify land which has been acquired for a significant proposed road.

Refer to individual council for guidelines.

TRZx - TRZ1, TRZ2, TRZ3, TRZ4 Transport Zone

This new planning zone will progressively replace the old RDZ planning zones and PUZ4 (Public Use Zone 4) zones. The TRZ zone combines the function of the RDZ (categories 1 and 2) and the PUZ4 into a single zone for public infrastructure that is associated with land-based transport, including road and rail elements of the state transport network and significant municipal roads.  

Currently, declared arterial roads are zoned Road Zone, Category 1 (RDZ1), significant municipal roads are zoned Road Zone, Category 2 (RDZ2) and land for state transport infrastructure and other transport uses sits within the PUZ4.  

Under this new planning zone code:

1.  Transport Zone 1 (TRZ1) - Current Planning Zone Code: Public Use Zone 4 (PUZ4)

Used to indicate a state transport infrastructure, such as train station, major bus station/bus terminal, etc.

2.  Transport Zone 2 (TRZ2) - Current Planning Zone Code: Road Zone, Category 1 (RDZ1) 

Used to indicate a Principal Road Network 
3.  Transport Zone 3 (TRZ3) - Current Planning Zone Code: Road Zone, Category 2 (RDZ2)

Used to indicate Significant municipal roads                   
4.  Transport Zone 4 (TRZ4) - Current Planning Zone Code: Public Use Zone 4 (PUZ4)
Used to indicate Other transport uses

Refer to state planning for guidelines.

LDRZ - Low Density Residential Zone

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To provide for low-density residential development on lots which, in the absence of reticulated sewerage, can treat and retain all wastewater.

Refer to individual council for guidelines.

SUZ - SUZx Special Use Zone

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To recognise or provide for the use and development of land for specific purposes as identified in a schedule to this zone.

Refer to individual council for guidelines.

TZ - Township Zone

  • To provide for residential development and a range of commercial, industrial and other uses in small towns.

  • To provide for residential development and a range of commercial, industrial and other uses in small towns.

  • To encourage development that respects the neighbourhood character of the area.

  • To allow educational, recreational, religious, community and a limited range of other non-residential uses to serve local community needs in appropriate locations.

Refer to individual council for guidelines.

BMO - BMO1, BMO2, BMO3, BMOx Bush fire Management Overlay

  • The Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) applies to land that may be affected by bushfires.Bushfires are classified into different bushfire attack levels, or intensity. There are specific requirements for each attack level for new buildings in these areas, to help protect the occupants and reduce the damages to the building.

DCPO - Development Contributions Plan Overlay

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.To identify areas which require the preparation of a development contributions plan for the purpose of levying contributions for the provision of works, services and facilities before development can commence.

DPO - Development Plan Overlay

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To identify areas which require the form and conditions of future use and development to be shown on a development plan before a permit can be granted to use or develop the land.

  • To exempt an application from notice and review if a development plan has been prepared to the satisfaction of the responsible authority

EAO - Environmental Audit Overlay

  • To implement the State Planning Policy Framework and the Local Planning Policy Framework, including the Municipal Strategic Statement and local planning policies.

  • To ensure that potentially contaminated land is suitable for a use which could be significantly adversely affected by any contamination.

From experience, this usually means the land is likely to be contaminated.  Typically, this would be an old service station site or old chemical storage location or factory.

HO - Heritage Overlay

Typically used to preserve the look of a building or buildings with cultural/historical/heritage significance.  Again, councils have the ability to tweak the application rules.

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To conserve and enhance heritage places of natural or cultural significance.

  • To conserve and enhance those elements which contribute to the significance of heritage places.

  • To ensure that development does not adversely affect the significance of heritage places.

  • To conserve specified heritage places by allowing a use that would otherwise be prohibited if this will demonstrably assist with the conservation of the significance of the heritage place.

You will need to understand this, if you intent to renovate, modify or rebuild the house.

Not all Heritage Overlays are the same.  It is important to understand which part or parts of the property is subject to heritage protection.  Some protects the entire house, some protects the front facade, while some may protect other parts of the property.  The devil is in the details.

UFZ - Urban Floodway Zone

  • Unlike the overlays, the UFZ controls land use as well as development, with land use being restricted to low intensity uses such as recreation and agriculture. Development is generally not encouraged in the UFZ.

LSIO - Land Subject to Inundation Overlay

  • These are planning scheme controls that apply to land affected by flooding associated with waterways and open drainage systems. Such areas are commonly known as floodplains. These overlays require a planning permit for buildings and works.

FO - Floodway Overlay

  • These apply to land that's identified as carrying active flood flows associated with waterways and open drainage systems. This overlay is categorised by depths in excess of one metre.

SBO - SBO1, SBO2, SBOx Special Building Overlay

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To identify land in urban areas liable to inundation by overland flows from the urban drainage system as determined by, or in consultation with, the floodplain management authority.

  • To ensure that development maintains the free passage and temporary storage of floodwaters, minimises flood damage, is compatible with the flood hazard and local drainage conditions and will not cause any significant rise in flood level or flow velocity.

  • To protect water quality in accordance with the provisions of relevant State Environment Protection Policies, particularly in accordance with Clauses 33 and 35 of the State Environment Protection Policy (Waters of Victoria).

Usually used where the land is subject to flooding / water overruns.

SLO - Significant Landcape Overlay

  • Purpose To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To identify significant landscapes.

  • To conserve and enhance the character of significant landscapes.

ESO - Environmental Significance Overlay

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To identify areas where the development of land may be affected by environmental constraints.

  • To ensure that development is compatible with identified environmental values.

VPO - Vegetation Protection Overlay

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To protect areas of significant vegetation.

  • To ensure that development minimises loss of vegetation.

  • To preserve existing trees and other vegetation.

  • To recognise vegetation protection areas as locations of special significance, natural beauty, interest and importance.

  • To maintain and enhance habitat and habitat corridors for indigenous fauna.

  • To encourage the regeneration of native vegetation.

PAO - Public Acquisition Overlay

  • To implement the Municipal Planning Strategy and the Planning Policy Framework.

  • To identify land which is proposed to be acquired by a Minister, public authority or municipal council.

  • To reserve land for a public purpose and to ensure that changes to the use or development of the land do not prejudice the purpose for which the land is to be acquired.

  • To designate a Minister, public authority or municipal council as an acquiring authority for land reserved for a public purpose.

It is very important to watch for this.  If this overlay has been effected on the property, it means there are plans for an acquisition.  This is good, if you had never intended to stay for too long.  But, bad, otherwise.  Unlike some countries, the authority acquiring the property will usually pay fair market value for the property.

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