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New Dwellings in Rural "Green Wedge Areas" - Shire of Yarra Ranges

The following advice is “Preliminary Advice Only” of a generic nature, and should only be used for such purpose.

Planning History of the site should be reviewed, together with any covenants/restrictions on title that may affect the property and the proposed development project.

Within the Rural Conservation & Green Wedge Zones of Shire of Yarra Ranges, the Use of the land for a dwelling “is not as-of-right”, but is subject to planning permit approval. There are recent permit applications where dwelling applications in the rural areas have been refused, as well as many applications that have been successful. Any dwelling application would need to respond and appropriately satisfy the zoning & other planning requirements affecting the site, with some of these potentially being:

  • Amendment C148 was mplemented into Planning Scheme on 1/12/2022.
  • Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO)
  • Environmental Significance Overlay (ESO)
  • Erosion Management Overlay (EMO)
  • Significant Landscape Overlay (SLO)

 Amendment C148 was recently incorporated into the Yarra Ranges Planning Scheme on 01 December 2022. This Amendment  is a major reform of the Yarra Ranges Planning Scheme. In addition to the Zoning & Overlays requirements, Amendment C148 included a “Dwellings in Green Wedge Areas Policy”, within which Council identified three types of areas within the Green Wedge Areas of the Shire, for which any dwelling application would be considered in relation too. In summary these are:

  • Productive Agricultural Areas: Generally cleared Lots of >10 hectares in area. Any dwelling would need to not restrict future farming opportunities.
  • Rural Landscape Areas: Generally partially cleared rural residential lots of >2 hectares.
  • Rural Residential Areas: Generally rural residential lots of <2 hectares="" --2--="">

The descriptions of these three rural land categories are now found in Clause 02.03 Strategic Directions component of the Plannign Schme related to Settlement.

Amendment C195 was recently implemented on 2/12/2022, the day following the implementation of Planning Amendment C148. This Planning Amendment redistributes the policies adopted in Amendment C148, incorporating them into various new clauses areas of the Planning Scheme in the Purpose & Vision and Planning Policy Framework Sections. There is now no single "Dwellings in Green Wedge Areas" policy section within the scheme, as Clause 22.02 which it was introduced in Amendment C148 has been deleted. The underlying principles of Council's Dwellings in Green Wedge Policy have however been retained.

The Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) typically requires a Bushfire Management Statement & Assessment to be prepared  for any dwelling located within the BMO, and such assessment is likely to be a critical element in the decision making of the application. It is recommended this report be undertaken prior to any purchase, design of the dwelling or formal planning application being considered. Protection of Human Life and property from Bushfire overrides all other planning considerations.

 Any proposed Vegetation Removal or works in proximity to protected vegetation will likely require planning permit assessment under the Significant Landscape Overlay (SLO) and/or other areas of the planning scheme. Any native vegetation removal might also trigger Native Vegetation Offset Contributions as a permit condition, particularly for lots >4000m². An Arborist Report assessment will typically be required for existing trees in the vicinity of the proposed works, regardless of whether they are proposed for removal or retention.

 The Erosion Management Overlay (EMO) relates to landslip risk. A Soil Geotechnical Report Landslip Assessment will likely be required for “buildings & works” located within the EMO. This adds additional costs and conditions of compliance during construction.

 The Environmental Significance Overlay (ESO) generally applies to land with significant remnant habitat areas, that may be critical to the survival of both Flora and Fauna species of significance. This overlay would typically trigger a need for Ecological Assessment of the site as part of the planning application. Native Vegetation Framework of Avoid, or Minimise and Offset needs to be applied. Native vegetation offsets can be costly to purchase through third-party providers, if the vegetation nett gain asssessment can't be achieved onsite.

 A Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) assessment is not normally required for “building and works” directly associated with a Dwelling, as such works are considered an exempt activity. This should be confirmed by Council - such reports if required can be quite costly and result in substantial time delays to the planning process.

A critical element in any planning application assessment, will be the sites ability to retain its effluent waste (septic field) within its lot boundaries, should mains sewer not be available. The proximity to any waterway / dam may also impact the development area of the site. This should be investigated prior to finalising a decision to purchase, as the effluent field may need to be located a certain distance away from any watercourse / dam. Development won’t be approved if the site is unable to retain its septic effluent waste appropriately within the site boundaries, in the abscence of mains sewer.

It is possible to apply for a planning permit for a dwelling on a vacant rural allotment under the planning scheme. However, formal application to Council is the only way to test the merit of any application. Council, VCAT or the Supreme Court can ultimately decide whether a planning permit should issue with regard to any proposed application. The permit application & dwelling siting, should be about balancing the various factors under the planning scheme, including any affect on neighbouring properties & any neighbouring horticultural/agricultural activities, with retention and protection of Productive Agricultural Land a key element of any decision on an application.

Planning Application costs and associated third party consultancy reports (BMO, EMO, Arborist etc) could easily result in planning applications costs of typically between $25000 - $40000 for planning applications for dwellings in Green Wedge Areas of the Shire. Should decision at VCAT be required, the costs could be substantially higher, and timeframe substantially longer.

Please note, that applications for a "new replacement dwelling" of rural lots already containing a dwelling would likely need similar reports to be undertaken as described above, however the existing dwelling (if lawfully constructed & occupied) means the "right to a dwelling" on the rural allotment has already been established for the site. This type of application differs from vacant land application, as the planning assessment will only be considering the proposed built form, design & siting of the dwelling, not whether the rural lot "should be entitled to a dwelling".

Early enagagement of a Planning Consultant familiar with the vagaries and intricacies of the Yarra Ranges Planning Scheme is recommended. Please don't hesitate to contact my office should you require assistance with your proposed project.

Posted: Thu 23 Feb 2023


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