Developments need to respect neighbourhood character. The impact of every property, public place or piece of infrastructure when combined together determines the neighbourhood character.

If your application will be assessed under Clause 54 or 55 of the planning scheme you must submit a neighbourhood and site description with the application.

It must describe specified aspects of the site and its neighbourhood. Detailed information is set out in the following practice notes:

You need to prepare the description to the council's satisfaction because it provides the basis for:

  • you to develop a design that meets the objectives of the planning scheme
  • council's assessment of the design.

Next steps:

  • Description meets council’s requirements and is satisfactory
  • council will inform you in writing and
  • continue to process your application.
  • Description doesn’t meet council requirements:
  • council can request more information from you under section 54 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987
  • the request should set out clearly why the description isn’t satisfactory and what additional information is required.

The design response must accompany your application. Many of the objectives in Clauses 54 and 55 include decision guidelines that require council to consider the design response when assessing whether an objective or associated standard has been met.

Use the design response to explain how the design:

  • derives from and responds to the neighbourhood and site description
  • meets the objectives of the relevant sub clause within Clause 54 or 55
  • responds to the neighbourhood character features of the area identified in a local planning policy or a Neighbourhood Character Overlay.

A mandatory neighbourhood character objective and standard is the starting point for making and assessing all planning permit applications for residential development. The aim is to respect existing or preferred neighbourhood character.

Other objectives and standards in Clauses 54 and 55 require developments to respond to key elements of surrounding development that contribute to the character of the neighbourhood. These include:

  • street setback
  • building height
  • side and rear setbacks
  • site coverage
  • private open space
  • front fence height.

Schedules apply to the Residential Growth, General Residential, Neighbourhood Residential, Mixed Use and Township zones. The schedules can:

  • specify that a planning permit is required to construct or extend one dwelling on a lot of less than 500 sqm (this does not apply to the Residential Growth Zone). If no requirement is specified in the schedule, then a lot size of 300 sqm applies (a schedule to the Neighbourhood Residential Zone can specify a customised lot size trigger)
  • change the requirements of specified siting and design standards in Clauses 54 and 55 of planning schemes. These changes also affect the corresponding standards in the Victorian Building Regulations.
  • specify a mandatory maximum building height applying to a dwelling or residential building (or in the Mixed Use Zone applying to any building)
  • in the Mixed Use Zone specify objectives to be achieved for the area
  • include additional application requirements
  • include additional local decision guidelines
  • in the Neighbourhood Residential Zone specify a minimum subdivision area and a maximum number of dwellings on a lot.

The standards that a council can change using the schedule are:

  • minimum street setback
  • site coverage
  • permeability
  • landscaping
  • side and rear setbacks
  • walls on boundaries
  • private open space
  • front fence height.

Changes to a schedule to apply the 500 sqm lot size trigger or change the requirements of a standard are implemented through an amendment to the local planning scheme.

The Neighbourhood Character Overlay (NCO) is a tool used in areas where the residential development standards consistently fail to meet the objectives for neighbourhood character. An NCO should not be used as a 'blanket' control across the municipality.

Criteria showing when an NCO can be used can be found in practice note PN28: Using the neighbourhood character provisions in planning schemes (PDF, 1.4 MB) or (DOC, 118.5 KB).

Under the NCO a planning permit is required if you want to:

  • construct a building or carry out works. This includes all single dwellings, including alterations and additions
  • demolish or remove a building if specified in a schedule to an NCO
  • remove, destroy or lop trees if specified in a schedule to an NCO.

A schedule to the Neighbourhood Character Overlay may modify most standards in Clause 54 and Clause 55, including any requirements specified in a schedule to a Residential Growth, General Residential, Neighbourhood Residential, Mixed Use or Township Zone.

A planning scheme amendment is required to introduce an NCO.

More information about the assessment of a planning application for a dwelling in a residential zone is provided in practice note PN15: Assessing an application for a dwelling in a residential zone (PDF, 92.8 KB) or (DOC, 84.5 KB).