This practice note explains the purpose and provisions of the Urban Growth Zone (UGZ) and the role of precinct structure plans in the UGZ.
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What is the Urban Growth Zone?
The UGZ applies to land that has been identified for future urban development.
The UGZ operates to:
manage the transition of non-urban land into urban land
encourage the development of well-planned and well-serviced new urban communities, generally in accordance with a precinct structure plan
reduce the number of development approvals needed in areas where a precinct structure plan is approved
safeguard non-urban land from use and development that could prejudice its future urban development.
Applying the UGZ
The UGZ has been applied to land within the Urban Growth Boundary in Melbourne’s designated growth areas. The zone can also be applied to land within regional cities and towns where a strategy identifies that the land is suitable for future urban development.
Precinct structure plans and the UGZ
A precinct structure plan is a long-term strategic plan that describes how a precinct will be developed. A precinct structure plan must be prepared before non-urban land can be developed for urban purposes using the UGZ. It is designed to:
ensure that the key strategic planning issues in a precinct are considered when planning for urban development
ensure communities in new urban areas have good access to services, transport, jobs, shops, schools, open space and recreation facilities
identify infrastructure required to service the new community
identify and address any opportunities and constraints that will affect future urban development
give developers, investors and local communities greater certainty and confidence about future development in growth areas.
An approved precinct structure plan works in conjunction with Part B of the UGZ to:
facilitate the transition of non-urban land to urban land
articulate the vision for how land should be developed and the desired use and development outcomes to be achieved
set a framework for future land use and development
identify infrastructure requirements for future communities
respond to interface issues within the site and with surrounding areas (such as conservation areas)
detail the form and conditions that must be met by future land use and development
determine the use and development controls that will apply in the schedule to the zone
determine what permits may be granted under the zone.
The application of the UGZ does not, by itself, allow urban use and development to proceed. A precinct structure plan must be prepared and applied to the land before this can occur.
Before a precinct structure plan is in place, the UGZ applies provisions under Part A of the schedule that are designed to safeguard the land from use or development, such as farming or rural-related activities, that could restrict its long-term urban development potential. Once a precinct structure plan is in place, the zone applies provisions to facilitate urban development in line with the plan. The zone provisions can be tailored to minimise the number of approvals required over the life of a project.
Preparing a precinct structure plan
Precinct Structure Planning Guidelines prepared by the Victorian Planning Authority provide guidance to councils, state agencies, developers, service providers and other affected parties on how to prepare a plan.
The guidelines require new precinct structure plans to implement the relevant objectives for residential subdivision in clause 56 of planning schemes. They also set out a process for precinct structure planning, a standard format for precinct structure plans, and advice about the key strategic issues to be addressed.
While the Precinct Structure Planning Guidelines contain advice relating specifically to the preparation of precinct structure plans for land in Melbourne’s growth areas, they are to be used wherever the UGZ is applied. Part 3 of the Precinct Structure Planning Guidelines includes regional adaptation advice.
Implementing a precinct structure plan in the planning scheme
The UGZ requires a precinct structure plan to be incorporated in the planning scheme before urban development generally in accordance with the plan can commence. The detailed use and development provisions required to implement the precinct structure plan must be set out in the schedule to the zone.
It may also be appropriate for parts of the precinct structure plan to be included in the planning scheme as objectives or strategies in the Municipal Planning Strategy, local planning policy or UGZ schedule decision guidelines.
As an incorporated document, a precinct structure plan must be listed in the schedule to clause 72.04.
These actions require a planning scheme amendment, and the exhibition, submission, adoption and approval requirements of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 will apply.
Implementation provisions will typically set out:
use and development provisions (including permit requirements, permit exemptions, conditions and requirements for granting permits, sign requirements and decision guidelines)
requirements for public open space contributions to be included in the schedule to Clause 53.01 of the planning scheme (if applicable)
requirements to implement a native vegetation precinct plan (if applicable)
requirements to manage places of Aboriginal cultural heritage significance.
Native vegetation conservation
If there is native vegetation within the precinct, a native vegetation precinct plan will also need to be prepared. A native vegetation precinct plan sets out requirements for the protection and removal of native vegetation for a precinct. A native vegetation precinct plan:
allows all the native vegetation issues in a precinct to be considered when planning for new development
helps guide the form of future development in a precinct by identifying the native vegetation to be retained and removed
gives greater certainty to the council, service agencies, developers and the community about the future form of development and native vegetation management
allows planning objectives for native vegetation to be integrated with recreation, urban design, and open space objectives, leading to more sustainable biodiversity and urban development outcomes
streamlines the approval of appropriate native vegetation removal.
A native vegetation precinct plan must meet the content requirements set out in clause 52.16 of the planning scheme. It must also be an incorporated document under the schedule to clause 72.04.
incorporate a precinct structure plan, or change an incorporated plan, applying to land in the UGZ
introduce or change a provision in a schedule to the UGZ.
The direction does not apply to an amendment to make corrections.
The direction requires a planning authority to evaluate and include in the explanatory report a discussion about how an amendment implements any Growth Area Framework Plan that applies to the land. If the amendment proposes to incorporate or change a precinct structure plan, the planning authority must also demonstrate that the plan or any changes to it are in accordance with any applicable precinct structure plan guidelines approved by the Minister for Planning.
Any other Ministerial Directions that apply to the amendment must also be met.
Several publications provide guidance for preparing a precinct structure plan or a planning scheme amendment. These are listed below and should be considered where relevant.
How does the Urban Growth Zone operate?
The UGZ applies different use and development provisions to land depending on whether a precinct structure plan applies.
Part A of the zone applies when no precinct structure plan applies to the land.
Part B of the zone applies when a precinct structure plan applies to the land.
A precinct structure plan applies to land when it is incorporated in the planning scheme.
Diagram 1 below illustrates how the UGZ operates at different phases in the precinct structure planning process.
No precinct structure plan applies (1 and 2)
Precinct structure plan applies (3 and 4)
Plan preparation phase Urban Growth Zone
Part A applies (clause 37.07-1 to 37.07-8)
Standard controls apply
Controls designed to safeguard land for future urban development
Plan scheme amendment phase
Amendment preparation to implment the plan in the scheme
Ministerial direction 12 applies
Exhibition, submission, adoption and approval requirements apply
Plan implementation phase Urban Growth Zone
Bart B applies (clause 37.07-9 to 37.07-16)
Precinct struture plan incorporated into the planning scheme
Implementation provisions set out in zone schedule
Controls tailored to suit the precinct structure plan
Plan permit phase
Permits granted generally in accordance with plan
Exemptions from notice and review apply
Diagram 2 below shows the different zone provisions that apply to a planning permit application depending on whether a precinct structure plan applies.
Planning permit application – either:
Part A: No PSP applies
UGZ operates similar to Farming Zone. Some 'early' urban uses can be considered
VPA is referral authority for 'early' urban uses in metropolitan Melbourne
Third party notice and revew rights apply
Responsible authority determines application
Permit or refusal.
Part B: No PSP applies
Schedule applies zone provisions or specific provisions
Application exempt from third party notice and review if consistent with PSP
Responsible authority determines application
Permit or refusal
Part A – No precinct structure plan applies
Land is predominantly used for farming and other rural activities. Planning for its transition to urban development may have commenced, but a precinct structure plan does not yet apply. The controls that apply in this case are set out in clauses 37.07-1 to 37.07-8.
Use of land
The zone allows existing farming and other rural activities to continue, and new farming uses to establish, other than new saleyards and intensive animal industries.
The zone also provides for permit applications for certain ‘early’ urban uses to be considered before a precinct structure plan is incorporated into the planning scheme. This is to facilitate the early provision of essential facilities and services to new residents in the precinct (for example, schools and health services), and developments essential to the marketing and construction of new urban areas (such as display homes and land sales offices).
The appropriateness of any proposal should be carefully considered to ensure that it does not prejudice the logical, efficient and orderly future urban development of the land. Before granting a permit, a responsible authority should consider:
whether the preparation of a precinct structure plan for the land is sufficiently advanced
the extent to which the precinct structure plan could change, and how this might impact on the proposal
the amount of public scrutiny the precinct structure plan has been subject to
whether it is satisfied that any conditions and requirements that would apply to the proposal once the plan applies can be met
the infrastructure needs of the proposal, and how this infrastructure would be delivered and funded
whether the proposal will produce acceptable outcomes in terms of the Planning Policy Framework and Municipal Planning Strategy
the decision guidelines of the zone, and any other decision guidelines in clause 65 of the planning scheme.
A permit is required to subdivide land, and a minimum lot size of 40 hectares applies. Similar to the rural zones, a permit may also be granted to create smaller lots if specific requirements are met. One of these requirements is that a section 173 agreement be entered into to constrain the further subdivision of the land. Given that the long-term purpose of the UGZ is to facilitate urban development, the responsible authority should ensure that the agreement does not restrict development necessary to implement a precinct structure plan at a later date. One option is to include a provision in the agreement for its termination once a precinct structure plan applies to the land.
Buildings and works controls similar to those in the Farming Zone apply.
Notice and review
Standard notice and review provisions apply.
To safeguard against the granting of permits that could compromise the future urban development of Melbourne’s growth areas, the following permit applications must be referred to the Victorian Planning Authority under section 55 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987:
an application to use or develop land for any of the following:
place of worship
real estate agency
an application to subdivide land to create a lot smaller than 40 hectares in area.
These referral requirements only apply if the land is within the UGZ in metropolitan Melbourne. If the zone is to be applied to land outside metropolitan Melbourne, the planning authority should contact the relevant regional office of the department to discuss whether a section 55 referral requirement is needed.
Category 4 of the sign controls in clause 52.05 applies. However, a permit may be granted, for a period of not more than five years, to display a sign that promotes the sale of land or dwellings.
Part B – A precinct structure plan applies
Once a precinct structure plan applies to the land, the provisions of Part B of the UGZ apply. These are set out in clauses 37.07-9 to 37.07-16 and are designed to:
provide certainty about the nature of future development
reduce the number of development approvals needed once a precinct structure plan applies
remove notice requirements and third-party review rights from planning permit applications for proposals that are generally in accordance with the plan
ensure that permits granted for urban development are generally in accordance with the plan.
Part B allows detailed requirements to be specified in a schedule to the zone, allowing the zone to be tailored to suit the precinct structure plan.
A schedule is required for each precinct structure plan. If there is more than one schedule, each schedule must be given a number.
Drafting the zone schedule
The ‘parent provisions’ of the UGZ (the state-standard provisions of the Victoria Planning Provisions) establish the scope of the schedule provisions. The schedule can provide for the following:
requirements for land use – these can be the requirements of a zone, specific requirements, or both
requirements for subdivision
requirements for buildings and works – these can be the requirements of a zone, specific requirements, or both
conditions and requirements that must be applied to all permits or defined classes of permit
adjustments to the exemption from notice and review
When drafting a schedule, it is important that:
only the implementation provisions relevant to the UGZ are included in the schedule to the zone
the schedule is clear about where different provisions apply, and in what circumstances (a map should be included in the schedule that shows where particular zones or provisions apply)
the principles of plain English writing are used when drafting provisions
the land use terms and nesting concepts in clauses 73 of the planning scheme are used
the requirements of the Ministerial Direction: The Form and Content of Planning Schemes are met.
See the example schedule below. See also the UGZ template instructions in theMinisterial Direction: The Form and Content of Planning Schemes.
Applying use and development controls
A precinct structure plan can consist of a mix of land uses, for example, housing, industry and open space. Different controls may need to apply to different parts of the precinct structure plan. This can be dealt with in three ways:
Option 1: The schedule can apply zones to the land, such as the General Residential Zone or Industrial 1 Zone.
Option 2: The schedule can apply specific provisions to the land.
Option 3: The schedule can apply zones and specific provisions to the land.
Option 1 – Apply zones
This option involves assigning zones to specific parts of the precinct structure plan. Land must be used and developed in accordance with the provisions of the zone that applies to it. This approach has the following advantages:
Planning scheme users are familiar with the requirements of the zones.
It promotes consistency in the way that planning authorities deal with particular land use issues.
The zones include provisions that implement the Planning Policy Framework. For example, the General Residential Zone ensures that maximum use is made of clause 56 to plan residential subdivisions.
The zones include provisions necessary to manage potentially conflicting land uses. For example, the Industrial 1 Zone contains specific provisions to control industrial development close to housing, schools, hospitals and other sensitive uses.
Once development is underway, it is a straightforward task to translate the UGZ to standard zones.
Remember, all of the zones to be applied must be included in the planning scheme as part of the amendment.
Option 2 – Apply specific provisions
This option may be necessary where the desired outcomes will not be achieved by applying a zone.
If this approach is used, a table of uses will need to be constructed. Part 6.5.6 of the Practitioner’s Guide to Victoria's Planning Schemes provides advice on constructing a table of uses and deciding when a use should be made ‘as of right’, require a permit, or be prohibited.
The UGZ will eventually need to be translated to ‘standard’ zones. If the schedule contains complex or unusual specific provisions, this will make the translation task more difficult.
Specific provisions will usually not be needed once development anticipated by the precinct structure plan is substantially complete. However, if this is not the case, the planning authority needs to consider how it will translate these provisions at the time it is drafting the UGZ schedule.
Option 3 – Apply zones with specific provisions
This option is commonly used where additional provisions beyond those available through applied zones are needed to ensure that development conforms to the precinct structure plan.
Providing flexibility in the precinct structure plan and UGZ schedule
The precinct structure plan and UGZ schedule should be written in a way that gives the responsible authority flexibility to consider proposals that achieve the outcomes sought by the plan without being vague or ambiguous. The UGZ schedule should also be clear about how any doubts relating to the application of provisions will be resolved. One option is to include a specific provision in the schedule that allows the responsible authority to resolve these issues through a planning permit application. An example of this is provided in the example schedule below.
Translation to standard zones
Once development in a precinct structure plan is substantially completed, the UGZ will need to be translated into an appropriate standard zone.
The responsible authority should discuss the appropriate timing for zone translation with the department.
The following publications provide guidance on planning for new urban communities, statutory planning processes and drafting statutory documents (as relevant):