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Vegetation Removal

The recent significant storm event in Yarra Ranges has heightened concerns regarding vegetation on private property.

Vegetation removal may have an exemption from planning permit provisions of the planning scheme, or some vegetation removal may require Council's planning permit consideration and approval prior to it's removal.

Exemption from Planning Permit:

Vegetation removal may be exempt from planning permit under any of the following criteria:

  • Vegetation within the Industrial Zone Schedule 1 (INZ1)
  • Enviromental Listed Weed Species (Clause 22.05-6)
  • Bushfire Protection (Clause 52.12) vegetation removal exemption criteria typically apply to buildings used for accomodation constructed or approved prior to 10th September 2009.
  • Vegetation within 2m of a Building

It is recommended prior to removing vegetation considered exempt from planning permit, clarification and confirmation be sought from Council's Planning Department.

Dangerous Trees:

If a tree can't be removed under exempt provisions of the planning scheme, it may be exempt from planning permit if considered a "Dangerous Tree". For a tree removal to be exempt as a "Dangerous Tree" if must first  be assessed and approved for removal by a Council Authorised officer. Application can be made online to Council by including photos of the tree and basic location diagram - A small fee is payable to Council, with an additional fee payable per additional tree, if more than one tree is to be assessed. If approved as "Dangerous" by Council, the tree can be removed without conditions being placed in relation to it's removal.

VicSmart Planning Permit:

Removal of a single tree may be able to be assessed under VicSmart Planning Permit application (subject to criteria).

VicSmart is a 14 day planning permit decision making process. Conditions may be applied by Council to any VicSmart planning permit that may issue. Multiple VicSmart applications could be made for individual trees located on the same property and applied for simultaeneously. 

Planning Permit:

When vegetation removal does not meet the "exempt from Planning Permit" criteria, and VicSmart application is not suitable or practical, then a traditional planning permit application can be considered by Council. This may be part of an application for any proposed development of the property or for planning permit for the proposed vegetation removal on its own. The planning application fee varies with respect to the cost of the works proposed, and this application would typically require advertising to the adjoining neighbouring properties. Any planning permit that issues, may contain conditions on which the approval has been based which would also need to be satisfied.

Native Vegetation Framework:

The Native Vegetation Framework (Clause 52.17) typically applies once a parcel or contiguous parcels of land in the same ownership exceed 0.4 hectare in size. The Native Vegetation Framework once triggered, requires the "three step approach" to be satisfied, which is:

  1. Avoid the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation.
  2. Minimise impacts from the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation that cannot be avoided
  3. Provide an offset to compensate for the biodiversity impact if a permit is granted to remove, destroy or lop native vegetation

The Native Vegetation Framework applies to all "remnant" native vegetation, which is not just limited to trees but all includes native grasses/understorey vegetation etc. Native Vegetation offsets would be a condition of the planning permit should it issue, and these can be expensive to purchase as offsite credits if the Offset can't be satisfied on site. An Ecologist would be required to determine the NAtive Vegetation loss and offset required.

Vegetation Removal - Risk v Amenity:

In areas like the Dandenong Ranges, the recent storm has highlighted the risk of living in or near large canopy trees.

Vegetation removal may reduce the risk from falling trees and/or limbs, but it may also increase risk of potential damage/loss from landslip/drainage conditions of the site. The surrounding trees & their associated root zones on the property are likely reducing the potential issues that may result from landslip/drainage conditions of the site, due to the soil stability that these existing trees provide. Once removed, these other potential risks may be increased, so any vegetation removal on steep sites and/or poorly draining sites should be considered carefully, irrespective of whether planning permit is or isn't required.

Vegetation removal may also have a significant impact on the amenity of your land, so I recommend this also be considered as part of any decision making process prior to their removal.

Posted: Mon 09 Aug 2021

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