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Planning practice notes give technical advice about the planning system, each dealing with separate aspects of the system.

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What is ‘rural residential’ development?

Rural residential development refers to land in a rural setting, used and developed for dwellings that are not primarily associated with agriculture. Some agriculture may take place on the land, however it will be ancillary to the use for a dwelling. It is likely to be carried out for ‘lifestyle’ reasons and is unlikely to provide a significant source of household income.

Rural residential land is typically also used for non-agricultural home occupations or for large gardens. These lots are larger than typical residential lots but are usually too small for agricultural use.

Due to the primary residential function, rural residential development requires access to most of the normal services and infrastructure provided in urban settlements. Typically, it also generates urban residential amenity expectations.

The zones usually applied to rural residential land are:

  • Low Density Residential Zone (LDRZ). The LDRZ is a ‘residential’ zone. It specifies a lot size of at least 0.4 hectares in areas where reticulated sewerage is not connected or 0.2 hectares for each lot connected to reticulated sewerage. A different lot size can be specified in a schedule to the zone.
  • Rural Living Zone (RLZ). The RLZ is a ‘rural’ zone. It specifies a lot size of at least 2 hectares and provides opportunities for some rural uses to occur. A different lot size can be specified in a schedule to the zone.
  • Green Wedge A Zone (GWAZ). The GWAZ is a ‘rural’ zone. It provides for lot sizes of 8 hectares and above. It applies to non-urban land outside the Urban Growth Boundary to protect and recognise the area’s agricultural, environmental, historic, landscape, infrastructure, natural resource and rural living attributes.

Limited residential development can occur in other rural zones, but generally, land proposed for rural residential development should be included in the LDRZ or the RLZ.

Farm dwellings

Farm workers and their families may need to live in farm dwellings, close to stock, crops or plants that require regular supervision. Farm dwellings that are genuinely required to support an agricultural use are not a form of rural residential development.

Small lot agriculture

High value crops, such as grapes, olives, flowers, fruit or tobacco, can be cultivated on small lots. Some intensive agricultural uses can also take place on small lots. Dwellings on these lots will normally be farm dwellings, however, new small-lot agriculture proposals need to be considered carefully, to ensure they do not become unplanned rural residential development.

Why does rural residential development require special consideration?

Planning policy aims to facilitate diversity and choice in housing, including opportunities for rural residential development. However, rural residential development can have environmental, social and economic costs that are significantly higher than those of standard residential development.

Rural residential development should be planned to:

  • minimise land use conflicts between agricultural activities and the amenity expectations of rural residential dwellers
  • avoid significant impacts to primary production or to the environmental or cultural values of a rural area
  • preserve finite and valuable natural resources present on the land
  • avoid generating demand for costly or inefficient social or physical infrastructure
  • ensure growth and development is directed to locations with a low risk of natural hazards and will not increase the risk of natural hazards.

When planning for rural residential development the following broad questions should be answered in sequence:

  • Strategy: Does rural residential development align with the overall strategic planning of the municipality?
  • Housing need: How much rural residential development is required to provide appropriate housing diversity and choice?
  • Location: Where should rural residential development take place?
  • Natural hazards: How do we protect life and property from natural hazards?
  • Subdivision: Has the subdivision layout been designed to provide an attractive setting, high amenity efficient infrastructure and natural hazard mitigation measures?

These questions are explored further below.


Does rural residential development fit into the overall strategic directions and planning of the municipality?

It is important to consider a proposal for rural residential development as part of the broader strategic context.

A proposal for rural residential development must be considered against relevant state,regional and local strategic planning policies for the area.

These include:

  • The Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS)
  • The Planning Policy Framework (PPF), including clauses:
    • 11.03 (Planning for Places)
    • 12.02 (Marine and Coastal Environment)
    • 13.01 (Climate Change Impacts)
    • 13.02 (Bushfire)
    • 13.03 (Floodplains
    • 13.04 (Soil Degradation)
    • 16.01-3 (Rural Residential Development)
  • Regional plans such as Plan Melbourne and the regional growth plans.
  • Other regional planning and land management strategies such as the Marine and Coastal Policy (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning 2020), regional catchment management strategies and regional waterway strategies.
  • Any adopted land use strategy such as a housing strategy or rural land use strategy.

A rural residential development should be capable of broad strategic support across all relevant policy areas.

Housing need

How much rural residential development is required to provide appropriate housing diversity and choice?

A planning authority must be able to demonstrate that a rural residential rezoning is part of its strategy to provide appropriate housing for forecast increases in population and changes in household structure and composition. Planning should maintain housing choice and diversity, including a realistic mix of lot sizes.

A rural residential rezoning must be supported with evidence that the proposed use and development responds to the housing needs of the municipality as identified in the MPS and PPF.

The municipal area will generally form the best and simplest area on which to base the analysis of local housing need. However, if there are several service catchments in one municipality, smaller strategy areas might be appropriate.

A local housing analysis should identify:

  • demographic trends, including changes in household structure and composition
  • housing market trends, including dwelling type
  • projected population and household increases and housing needs over a 15 year period for the area
  • the number and types of additional houses required, including the proportion of new housing that would be in the form of rural residential development.

Read more about regional demographic trends and population projections on the Regional Insights webpage at planning.vic.gov.au.


Where should rural residential development take place?

Having established that there is a basic need for additional rural residential development to serve strategic objectives, an appropriate site or sites must be identified. Alternatively, an assessment of the appropriateness of any sites brought forward by private proponents can be considered. A broad range of location-specific criteria provides a framework for identifying land suitable for rural residential development and eliminating unsuitable land from further consideration.

The locational matters to consider include:

  • integration with existing urban areas
  • protection of natural resources
  • protection of environmental areas and biodiversity
  • landscape and heritage values
  • provision of social and physical infrastructure
  • land use compatibility
  • land servicing capability.

Integration with existing urban areas

Rural residential development must be planned to show how it relates to, or is supported by, existing urban development.

It must not impede the proper long-term growth of an urban area based on fully serviced residential development at normal urban densities. Where there is an adopted settlement strategy, rural residential development should not compromise its implementation.

Where there is no adopted settlement strategy, or it is proposed that an existing strategy be changed, the likely future growth and structure of the urban area must be considered, based on analysis of physical and social infrastructure and service provision.

Rural residential development is inappropriate on land that is suitable and required for present or future residential use at usual urban densities. For example, if a town has a limited supply of land at urban densities, but has unused town water and wastewater treatment capacity, land that can easily be served by this infrastructure should normally be considered first as a candidate for development at urban densities.

Protection of natural resources

The PPF includes policies for the protection of natural resources recognising they are of fundamental importance to local and state economies. It is important to ensure that the location of rural residential use and development does not prejudice the long-term availability and management of Victoria’s natural resources, of land, water, energy, wind, stone and minerals.

Rural residential development is not appropriate on land that:

  • is productive agricultural land
  • is in a special water supply catchment area under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994
  • has identified potential to be used for commercial forestry
  • has identified potential for mineral and stone production
  • is close to a major industrial facility such as a gas plant or wind energy facility.

What is productive agricultural land?
Productive agricultural land has one or more of the following characteristics:
-a present pattern of subdivision favourable for sustainable agricultural production
-can be used for a variety of agricultural pursuits
-suitable soil type
-suitable climatic conditions
-suitable water supply
-suitable agricultural infrastructure, in particular irrigation and drainage systems.

If existing agricultural land is proposed for rural residential development, clause 14.01-1S of the PPF requires consideration of various issues including the desirability and impacts of removing the land from primary production.

Land resource information and various land capability studies are available for parts of Victoria.

Check with relevant state government departments, catchment management authorities and the local council about what information is available.

Protection of environmental areas and biodiversity

Rural residential development should be located to avoid or minimise any adverse impact on the environment, native vegetation and biodiversity.

Where a proposal affects native vegetation, consideration must be given to Guidelines for the Removal, Destruction or Lopping of Native Vegetation (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, 2017). The document sets out how impacts on Victoria’s biodiversity are assessed when a planning permit application is made to remove native vegetation.

Consideration should also be given to the likelihood of whether a planning permit would be granted under Clause 52.17 of the planning scheme for the removal of native vegetation.

Public authorities may have mapping of natural hazards such as fire and flooding, and biodiversity values, see the Department Energy, Environment and Climate Action’s Native Vegetation Information Management System.

Planning schemes may indicate areas of environmental significance such as salinity, wetlands, or areas of conservation significance.

In some cases, the preparation of a land management plan may be appropriate to show how the impact can be remediated or minimised and protected. A land management plan should address the environmental and natural resource issues relevant to the site and may include:

  • fire protection measures
  • responses to flood hazards
  • protection and enhancement of native vegetation
  • protection and enhancement of waterways
  • protection and stabilisation of soil
  • pest plants and domestic feral animal control
  • protection of areas of environmental significance.

A land management plan can be implemented through a requirement in an appropriate overlay or through a combined permit and amendment process under section 96A of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (the PE Act).

Landscape and heritage values

A proposal for rural residential development must preserve the locality’s landscape and heritage values and limit potential impacts on those values, including:

  • areas of valued landscape character, natural scenic beauty or importance, or significant views
  • areas or features of heritage value including aesthetic, archaeological, architectural, historical, scientific, social or other special cultural value.

Areas and places of landscape and heritage significance are identified in planning schemes. Where a rural residential development is proposed in a classified landscape or place, the relevant agency must be consulted, including:

Provision of social and physical infrastructure

Rural residential development communities should have access to infrastructure and services normally expected for a residential area. If that infrastructure is not provided by the developer from the outset, the expectations and future requirements of residents can lead to costs and disruption for communities as infrastructure is provided at a later time.

A proposal for rural residential development must be efficiently serviced by social and physical infrastructure at an acceptable and sustainable community cost.

Land use compatibility

Rural residential land use and development must be compatible with the existing and likely land uses of the locality.

When assessing a particular site, consideration should be given to the availability and comparative suitability of alternative sites that could meet the same housing demand, including those in the neighbouring local municipalities.

Rural residential development should be avoided on land that is:

  • within the separation distance of an industry that could result in adverse human health or amenity impacts as described in Publication 1518: Recommended Separation Distances for Industrial Residual Air Emissions (EPA, 2013)
  • within the threshold distance referred to in clause 53.10 (uses and activities with potential adverse impacts) of the planning scheme
  • within the buffer of a landfill as outlined in Publication 788.3 - Best Practice Environmental Management Publication - Siting, Design, Operation and Rehabilitation of Landfills (EPA, 2015)
  • within the separation requirements of other offensive uses such as intensive animal husbandry and certain agricultural activities, such as poultry farming, piggeries and feedlots. Codes of practice for certain activities have separation distances from sensitive land uses that must be complied with. See clause 72.04 of the planning scheme to identify relevant codes
  • adversely affected by noise emissions generated by adjoining land uses including wind energy facilities
  • within the 25 Australian Noise Exposure Forecast (ANEF) contour or higher of an airport with careful consideration given to building requirements within the 20-25 ANEF
  • located where it will pose risks to the safety and efficiency of an airport or airfield or where it will prejudice future airport or airfield operations or expansions in accordance with an approved strategy or master plan. See clause 18.02-7s (Airports and airfields) of the planning scheme for relevant considerations
  • affected by agricultural spraying and aerial spraying of neighbouring agricultural land
  • adversely affected by land or groundwater contamination
  • within 500 metres of a national park, reference area, wilderness, marine park or state park unless the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action agrees to a lesser distance
  • located in close proximity to public land that is of environmental significance, including land that is fire prone, unless a suitable buffer zone or land management plan is provided in consultation with the public land manager. The width and nature of the buffer zone will vary depending on local circumstances. The buffer zone or land management plan should address issues such as fire, amenity, pest plants and animals, drainage and access
  • located in close proximity to land that uses treated wastewater from sewerage for agricultural and horticultural irrigation
  • within the separation distance prescribed by a schedule to a Buffer Area Overlay and does not meet the requirements of the schedule
  • within the separation distance prescribed in the Industrial 1 Zone, Industrial 2 Zone and Industrial 3 Zone between industrial activity and a sensitive use.

Land servicing capability

Land for rural residential development must have the physical capability to sustain the use by providing for:

  • sustainable on-site wastewater management or a connection to a reticulated sewerage system
  • adequate water supply of an acceptable quality
  • access by properly formed and constructed roads
  • effective drainage and stormwater management
  • other normal residential services, such as electricity and telephone.

Where the land can easily be connected to existing infrastructure and services, it may be more suitable for development at standard urban densities. The cost of providing the services to the land must be at the developer’s expense.

Natural hazards

How do we protect life and property from natural hazards?

Rural residential development must be planned in locations that avoid or are at low risk of natural hazards such as bushfire, flood, coastal inundation, erosion and landslide. Areas subject to natural hazard should be identified and assessed to determine the risks to occupants. Strategic planning proposals should ensure that hazard mitigation, including prevention, is addressed proactively at the earliest opportunity rather than deferring to statutory planning processes.

Hazard assessments, where required, should be completed by qualified professionals taking in a spatial area that adequately identifies risks and potential mitigation measures. For some locations the risks may be too high or the necessary mitigation measures may be incompatible with other objectives and development should not occur.

Rural residential development should be planned to avoid:

  • bushfire radiant heat exposure that exceeds 12.5 kilowatt/square metre in bushfire prone areas (including the bushfire management overlay), where subject to a planning scheme amendment
  • intensifying the impact of flood
  • coastal inundation and sea level rise by planning for no less than 0.8 metres by the year 2100.

The planning scheme directs that life safety prevails over other policy objectives in bushfire affected areas.

The following Ministerial Directions, practice notes and guidelines provide instructions and guidance for planning in areas subject to natural hazards:

  • Direction No. 11 - Strategic Assessment of Amendments
  • Direction No. 13 - Managing Coastal Hazards and the Coastal Impacts of Climate Change
  • PPN11 - Applying for a Planning Permit Under the Flood Provisions
  • PPN12 - Apply the Flood Provisions in Planning Schemes
  • PPN46 - Strategic Assessment Guidelines
  • PPN53 - Managing Coastal Hazards and the Coastal Impacts of Climate Change
  • PPN64 - Local Planning for Bushfire Protection
  • Settlement Planning at the Bushfire Interface Design Guidelines (DELWP, July 2020)
  • Guideline for Effective Stakeholder Engagement - Planning for Settlements Exposed to Natural Hazards and Climate Change Risk (DELWP, March 2022).


Has the subdivision layout been designed to provide an attractive setting, high amenity, efficient infrastructure and natural hazard mitigation measures?

Subdivision layouts should respond to the environmental, landscape and infrastructure features and constraints of the land.

In designing subdivisions and the location of buildings and works, consideration should include:

  • identifying remnant native vegetation and any fauna habitat for protection
  • retaining and providing riparian corridors along waterways and providing riparian corridor links to other areas of local and regional significance
  • locating future buildings that will be occupied for any purpose away from areas prone to natural hazards where the risk to life and property are unacceptable
  • measures to reduce natural hazard risks
  • ensuring access and roads are suitable for emergency vehicles and reliable for the movement of occupants during an emergency
  • ensuring lot size, dimensions and configuration supports implementation and maintenance of onsite natural hazard risk reduction measures. For bushfire, a proposal for lot sizes between 02ha – 4ha needs particular consideration as they may create new areas of unmanaged vegetation
  • locating buildings off ridgelines to protect sensitive landscapes and preserve views from roads and other land
  • including building and effluent disposal envelopes or building exclusion zones to guide the location of buildings and works within subdivisions
  • avoiding buildings and works on slopes greater than 15 per cent or when buildings and works would protrude above significant ridgelines
  • establishing landscaping to protect and restore rural landscapes and significant ridgelines
  • using building materials that complement the rural landscape
  • providing public road access in preference to the creation of carriageway easements or common property
  • providing adequate supply of domestic and stock water to individual properties and ensuring that existing water entitlements are not impacted upon by dams
  • implementing policies of the relevant water or drainage authority
  • any other matter relevant to the site and its environment.

Further information on subdivision design in bushfire prone areas can be found in the Design Guidelines - Settlement Planning at the Bushfire Interface (DELWP, July 2020)

Who should be consulted?

Notice and referral of a planning permit application must be given in accordance with the requirements of Clause 66 of the planning scheme.

Notice of an amendment to a planning scheme must be given to prescribed Ministers and any other owner, occupier, Minister, public authority or municipal council that it believes may be materially affected by the amendment (see section 19 of the PE Act).

To facilitate the best possible outcomes, consultation should also occur with relevant agencies, including the following where appropriate:

Adjoining municipal councilsWhere land is close to an adjoining municipality.
Roads Corporation (VicRoads)Where the site gains access from a Transport Zone 2, Transport Zone 3 or a declared road under the Road Management Act 2004.
Relevant Catchment Management Authority or water authority
Where the land is:
  • in a special water supply catchment area
  • liable to inundation or flooding.
Department of Jobs, Precincts and RegionsWhere the land is currently used for agriculture.
Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions
Where the land is within:
  • 500m of an existing extractive industry work authority
  • an Extractive Industry Interest Area
  • an area that has been identified with potential for mineral production.
Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action
Where the removal of native vegetation may be required.

Where there may be an impact on fauna habitat.

Where the land is prone to erosion or the land adjoins Crown land.

Servicing agencies (for example, water authorities)Servicing of land for water supply, sewerage, drainage, electricity and telephone.
Water authorities
Where the use can impact on ground or surface water resources and infrastructure (including irrigation channels or drains, waterways or storages).

Where the land is located within an irrigation district.

Environment Protection AuthorityWhere the land is within the recommended buffer distance for an industrial residual air emission.
Relevant fire authority (Country Fire Authority or Fire Rescue Victoria)Where the land is fire prone.
Airport operator, Airservices Australia, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development Communications and the Arts (DITRDCA)Where the land is affected by an Airport Environs Overlay, Melbourne Airport Environs Overlay or the land is within proximity of an airport or airfield.

Consultation with peak interest groups, for example key farming groups, should also be considered as well as neighbouring property owners and occupiers.

Documenting a proposal

A planning permit or planning scheme amendment proposal for a rural residential development must be supported by a site analysis and various assessments.

Site analysis

The site analysis must include a site context map. It should document the opportunities and constraints of the site and surrounds in terms of landform, landscape character and land uses,including where relevant:

  • topography of the land (including ridgelines, landscape, geography, slope gradients and erosion areas)
  • road access
  • drainage lines and dams
  • any significant environmental features including habitat corridors, threatened species, flood plains, wetlands and watercourses
  • vegetation coverage and information on the vegetation:
    • category – scattered or patch, extent, risk status and ecological vegetation class
    • quality – habitat hectare assessment
  • proximity to groundwater bores
  • waterway values
  • soil capability
  • soil contamination in regard to past use of the land
  • views
  • weather conditions, including wind patterns
  • available infrastructure including power, water and telecommunications
  • existing buildings and works on the land
  • adjoining land uses
  • neighbouring buildings and works
  • any other matter relevant to the site and its environment.

Natural resources assessment

A proposal must include an assessment of the locality’s natural resources, the impact of the proposal on these resources and the measures to be taken to protect the resources, including a description of:

  • agricultural quality
  • geology
  • earth and energy resources, governed by the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990
  • soil types
  • water resources (including groundwater).

Environmental features assessment

A proposal must include an assessment of the locality’s environmental features and how these features could affect or be affected by rural residential development.

The assessment must include native vegetation, significant wildlife and associated habitat or corridors, and any other biodiversity assets. Natural physical features, including topography, slope, waterways, drainage lines and wetlands, must also be identified.

Landscape and heritage assessment

A proposal for rural residential development must include an assessment of the locality’s landscape and heritage values. The assessment must demonstrate that the proposal will not detrimentally impact on those values.

Social and physical infrastructure assessment

A proposal for rural residential development must include an assessment of the public costs of providing social and physical infrastructure to serve the development.

The assessment must address:

  • the availability of existing social and physical infrastructure including:
    • recreational and cultural facilities
    • schools
    • public transport
    • roads
    • waste disposal
  • the level and range of social and physical infrastructure that will need to be supplied or upgraded to meet the needs of the proposed population
  • the costs of additional social and physical infrastructure and the options for meeting those costs.

Land servicing capability assessment

A proposal must include an assessment of the land’s physical capability to sustain rural residential development, addressing:

  • whether the land:
    • has the physical characteristics for sustainable on-site wastewater management and can meet the requirements of the Environment Protection Regulations for an on-site wastewater management system, or
    • can be connected to a reticulated sewerage system.
  • whether the land can be provided with an adequate water supply of an acceptable quality to service the development
  • whether the land is accessible by properly formed and constructed roads
  • whether the land can be connected to or provided with drainage that effectively removes stormwater from each house and lot, prevents inundation of effluent disposal fields and is designed to handle a one in 100 year storm event where required
  • the availability and provision of other normal residential services (electricity, telephone).

Natural hazard assessment

A proposal in a location where natural hazards are identified or are likely, should provide an assessment of the relevant hazards addressing:

  • location of the hazard on the site, subsurface, within the immediate surrounds and wider area including hazards that may be temporary, as relevant to the hazard
  • risk to life and property, including the potential for neighbourhood scale destruction
  • new hazards and the risk created by the proposal
  • planning scheme hazard metrics or benchmarks relevant to the type of decision and form of hazard
  • whether risk can be reduced to an acceptable level
  • hazard mitigation measures including temporary and ongoing measures
  • environmental impact of implementing hazard mitigation measures.

Amendment proposal

In addition to the above assessments, an amendment proposal for a rural residential development must be supported by a report explaining:

  • the proposal
  • how the proposal responds to the site analysis
  • how the proposal supports the strategic framework
  • how the proposal meets housing needs and the housing objectives of the area
  • how the proposal responds to the relevant planning scheme hazard policies including metrics or benchmarks
  • why the proposed location is suitable for rural residential development. This should include an assessment, where appropriate, of:
    • how the proposal is supported by existing urban development
    • the land’s capability for agricultural use and how the proposal will impact the long-term continuation of agriculture in the area
    • the locality’s natural resources and the measures that may be taken to protect those resources
    • the locality’s environmental features and biodiversity; and how these could be protected and enhanced
    • the locality’s landscape and heritage values and how these could be protected
    • the proposal’s social and physical infrastructure requirements and the community cost of providing these services
    • the proposal’s compatibility with or impact on the existing or likely surrounding land uses
    • the land’s servicing capability
    • details of the natural hazard within the surrounds, risks to the proposal and the likelihood of neighbourhood scale destruction
    • hazard mitigation measures to reduce the risk to an acceptable level and how these will be delivered with certainty rather than through a discretion in subsequent planning decisions
    • whether existing local planning policy and provisions should be amended to remove objectives or requirements that conflict with hazard mitigation.
  • relevant agency comments and any other comments from peak groups or known affected persons.

Permit proposal

In addition to the above assessments, a planning application for subdivision for rural residential development must be supported by:

  • plans that show the layout of the proposed subdivision including the following information for each lot:
    • lot boundaries and lot sizes
    • a dimensioned building envelope and driveway to the envelope
    • bushfire mitigation measures
    • existing vegetation to be retained including dimensioned Tree Protection Zones and vegetation to be removed
    • areas of active vegetation management or re-vegetation
    • other areas of environmental improvement works, such as soil stabilisation and erosion management
    • a dimensioned area suitable for the location of any future dam and boundary setbacks
    • a dimensioned effluent disposal area and associated trenching
    • location of any proposed roads
    • details of any proposed works to construct roads, site benching, earthworks (excavation, fill and trenches) and retaining walls
    • site contours shown and labelled
    • details of fences.
  • information that explains:
    • how the development responds to the site analysis
    • how the subdivision relates to the landform and vegetation
    • how the proposed subdivision relates to the existing or likely use and development of adjoining and nearby land
    • how each lot is capable of treating and retaining all wastewater as outlined in clause 19.03-3 and 56.07-3 of the planning scheme and in accordance with the requirements of the Environment Protection Regulations under the Environment Protection Act 2017 for an on-site wastewater management system.


This publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.

Page last updated: 01/05/24