The following Questions and Answers have been developed to support councils, planning practitioners, and proponents in understanding the permanent Yarra River planning controls implemented by Amendment VC197.

1. What are the permanent Yarra River planning controls?

The controls comprise schedules to the:

  • Design and Development Overlay (DDO)
  • Significant Landscape Overlay (SLO)

The controls are implemented in the following planning schemes:

  • Banyule
  • Boroondara
  • Manningham
  • Nillumbik
  • Stonnington
  • Yarra

The DDO applies to areas of private land near the Yarra River. The DDO manages the siting and design of development. It also includes mandatory, site specific height and setback requirements. Melbourne Water is also established as a referral authority for applications within 100 metres of the banks of the river.

The SLO applies to public and private land within the river’s broader landscape setting. The SLO manages the location of buildings, removal of vegetation and earthworks.

Minor changes to other parts of planning schemes support the application of controls, including:

  • regional policy at Clause 12.0-3-1R, and
  • referral requirements at Clause 66.04

The Amendment VC197 controls continue the strong level of protection first introduced in 2017 through Amendment GC48. The provisions have been refined to be more clear, concise and consistent with Ministerial Direction - The Form and Content of Planning Schemes.

2. Why protect the Yarra River?

The Yarra River’s natural landscape character and environment change along its course. A variety of development, access, land use and management pressures impact different parts of the river.

Previously in planning schemes, there were a patchwork of planning controls for the Yarra River. This over time led to:

  • Inconsistent outcomes from one side of the river to the other.
  • Limited or no development setbacks.
  • Building heights above the existing tree canopy.
  • Disrupted views from public viewing points.
  • Bold, striking colours on new buildings.
  • Vegetation removal degrading the environment.
  • Overpowering bulk and visual mass of buildings.

Inappropriate development threatens the environmental health of the river. It also compromises the natural landscape character and community enjoyment.

Since 2017, stronger planning controls have been in place to prevent inappropriate development. Amendment VC197 makes these permanent. Permanent controls will ensure ongoing consistent planning decision making for the Yarra River corridor between Richmond and Warrandyte.

3. Where do the permanent controls apply?

The controls apply to the Yarra River corridor between Richmond and Warrandyte, affecting land in:

  • City of Banyule
  • City of Boroondara
  • City of Manningham
  • Shire of Nillumbik
  • City of Stonnington
  • City of Yarra

The SLO applies to both public and private land within approximately 100 to 400 meters of the Yarra River (on both sides).

The DDO applies only to specific areas of private land next to, or within proximity of, the Yarra River.

The SLO and DDO are informed by a landscape assessment approach, accounting for local topographic conditions and landscape features.

The requirement to refer applications to Melbourne Water (Clause 66.04) applies to applications subject to the DDO within 100 metres of Yarra River.

4. Does the DDO still require referral to Melbourne Water?

Previously, a requirement to refer applications within 100 metres of the Yarra River to Melbourne Water was included directly in the schedule to the DDO. This requirement has moved to Clause 66.04. It is still linked to land subject to the DDO. A new decision guideline in the schedule to the DDO also now alerts practitioners and proponents to the referral requirement.

Applications subject to the DDO within 100 metres of the banks of the Yarra River must be referred to Melbourne Water. As a Recommending Referral Authority, Melbourne Water makes recommendations on potential impacts of development on the environmental and waterway values.

This could include assessment of the:

  • removal of riparian, or other vegetation
  • impacts on bank stability or erosion
  • impacts of direct or indirect run off on the riverine environment
  • impacts of excavation or other earthworks.

Additional referral requirements may also apply. These are found at Clause 66.04 of planning schemes.

5. Why have the controls been updated?

In 2017 new controls for the Yarra River were introduced on an interim basis. This allowing monitoring of their effectiveness to occur prior to their permanent application.

Updates were required to:

  • integrate council and stakeholder feedback on the interim controls
  • making the controls clearer and more concise
  • implement protections for the Yarra River on a permanent basis
  • achieve alignment with Ministerial Direction - The Form and Content of Planning Schemes and new best practice drafting rules

6. What consultation has informed updates to the controls?

Monitoring and review of the interim controls by councils has informed updates to the controls.

In 2020, relevant councils submitted comprehensive feedback on the interim controls to the Minister for Planning, with all councils expressing general support for the controls. Council feedback recommended minor and policy-neutral modifications to improve clarity and effectiveness. This has informed the drafting of Amendment VC197.

Melbourne Water, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and the Birrarung Council all expressed strong support for the controls and their permanent application.

Earlier consultation with councils and stakeholders occurred in 2016, including a Ministerial roundtable with Mayors. This informed the development of Amendment GC48. This consultation elicited strong support for the introduction of permanent planning controls in the manner introduced by Amendment GC48.

7. Was there a public panel process for this amendment?

The Minister decided not to appoint a panel for this amendment, determining that the interim controls provide a strategically justified and appropriate regulatory basis for permanent controls. The Minister’s decision is also reflective of the state significance of the Yarra River (Birrarung) and the overall level of support for the controls.

8. Why was the Amendment not publicly exhibited?

Amendment VC197 makes policy-neutral and consequential changes to the interim controls gazetted by Amendment GC48. The interim controls have been in effect and known to the community and landowners since 2017.

Provisions in Part 3 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 enable the Minister to exempt themselves from public exhibition and notice requirements. The Minister for Planning has exercised these powers in this instance.

9. Changes made to the DDO and SLO

Changes made to the controls by VC197 include:

  • removal of expiration dates
  • removal of transitional requirements
  • policy-neutral updates to improve the clarity of the provisions and achieve consistency with Ministerial Direction – The Form and Content of Planning Schemes

Note that Amendment VC197 does not make any changes to the mandatory height and setback controls in the DDO schedules.

10. What changes have been made to Clause 12.03-1R?

An additional strategy to protect, conserve and enhance areas of Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural and archaeological significance is now included in the regional policy. This has moved from the schedule to the overlay to regional policy as it is relevant for the entire river corridor.

11. When do the new controls come into effect?

Amendment VC197 is effective in planning schemes as of 20 April 2021.

12. Will outcomes be any different under these permanent controls?

The refinement of the DDO and SLO controls introduced by Amendment VC197 are policy-neutral. Assessment of applications against these controls is not anticipated to lead to materially different outcomes compared to assessment against the interim controls introduced in 2017.

13. Why have transitional requirements been removed?

Amendment GC48 included transitional arrangements. Anyone with a planning permit or building permit obtained prior to 24 February 2017 did not need to comply with the new controls. The planning controls implemented by Amendment GC48 have been in effect for 4 years. Building permits and planning permits generally expire within 2 years.

The extension of a planning permit requires the Responsible Authority to consider the current planning policy framework in deciding on whether to extend a permit. In this context, there is no ongoing need for transitional requirements to be included in permanent controls.

14. Why were the interim controls extended in January? Why was the expiration date of the interim controls changed?

Amendment GC48 implemented planning controls for the Yarra River on an interim basis. The purpose of introducing interim controls was to enable monitoring and review to occur before the controls becoming permanent. The schedules to the SLO and DDO were due to expire on 31 January 2021.

In January 2021, Amendment GC177 changed the expiry to 30 April 2021. This was required to allow sufficient time to develop the permanent controls, following consultation with councils and Melbourne Water. This ensured the protection provided by the controls did not lapse prior to the permanent controls being implemented.

15. Why have expiration dates in the schedules to the DDO and SLO been removed?

Amendment VC197 implements permanent planning controls for the Yarra River. This fulfills the commitment made by the Planning Minister in June 2020 to ensure ongoing protection for the Yarra corridor from Richmond to Warrandyte without expiration.

16. What are the Middle Yarra River and Lower Yarra River Corridor Studies?

In 2015-16, DELWP undertook studies of the Yarra River corridor. These assessed the need for new or amended planning controls and design guidelines for land in proximity to the Yarra River between Burke Road and Warrandyte.

The Middle Yarra River Corridor Study was prepared in partnership with:

  • Banyule City Council
  • Manningham City Council
  • Shire of Nillumbik
  • Melbourne Water

The study area was the Yarra River corridor between Burke Road (Ivanhoe) and Warrandyte

The Lower Yarra River Corridor Study was prepared in partnership with:

  • Yarra City Council
  • Stonnington City Council
  • Boroondara City Council
  • Melbourne Water

The study area is the Yarra River corridor between Punt Road and Burke Road.

These studies include detailed landscape assessments of the river corridor setting. They identify threats, opportunities and constraints towards ensuring that further development does not detrimentally impact the Yarra River’s landscape, environmental, aesthetic, cultural and recreational values.

The Lower and Middle Yarra River Corridor Studies provide the strategic basis for the stronger planning controls implemented by Amendments GC48 and VC197.

17. What are the Municipal Toolkits?

The Municipal Toolkits were published in 2017. There is one for each council subject to Amendment GC48.

The Municipal Toolkits implement the findings and outcomes of the 2015-16 Lower and Middle Yarra River Corridor Studies. The detail in these reports informed the application of the strengthened planning controls implemented through Amendment GC48.

Each municipal toolkit contains the specific recommended changes to each planning scheme. The toolkits also include the local and site-specific analysis which has informed the application of height and setback controls.

Recommendations are based on:

  • Detailed assessment of landscape values and character of the river corridor.
  • Identification of potential development pressures for the Yarra River.
  • Analysis of how the current suite of statutory provisions works to manage these threats.

The Municipal Toolkits remain relevant in explaining the strategic work underpinning the Yarra River planning controls in the Boroondara, Stonnington, Yarra, Banyule, Manningham, and Yarra Ranges planning schemes.

18. Does Planning Advisory Note 65 (Yarra River Protection Planning Controls) remain current?

Planning Advisory Notes provide point-in-time information. Planning Advisory Note 65, introduced in 2017, has not been updated to reference Amendment VC197. It does, however, appropriately describe the scope and basis of the permanent controls.

Planning Advisory Note 65 was required because the gazettal of Amendment GC48 marked a significant policy shift in planning for the Yarra River. As Amendment VC197 progresses policy-neutral updates to the controls implemented by Amendment GC48, a new advisory note is not required.

19. How do the controls relate to the Yarra Strategic Plan?

Melbourne Water is leading the development of the Yarra Strategic Plan (YSP). This is a requirement of the Yarra River Protection (Willip-gin Birrarung Murron) Act 2017. The Act establishes the river as a single living, integrated natural entity for protection. The YSP aims to give effect to a long-term community vision for the Yarra River. As an integrated river corridor plan the YSP will enable the collaborative management of the river and its parklands across public agencies.

As a strategic framework, the YSP addresses a broad range of issues including:

  • river governance
  • stormwater management
  • water quality
  • riparian landscape health
  • biodiversity
  • community access and amenity
  • cultural values
  • land use and development.

The YSP includes:

  • a 50-year community vision
  • 10-year performance objectives
  • collaborative actions
  • priority projects
  • a land-use framework with whole-of-river and reach-by-reach specific actions and directions for future use and development.

Permanent planning controls from Richmond to Warrandyte will make a significant contribution to the delivery of the YSP, especially in terms of:

  • harmonising protections across municipal boundaries
  • delivering on the plan’s performance object to protecting the natural beauty of the Yarra River corridor
  • delivering on a whole-of-river action in the YSP’s land use framework

Due for finalisation and endorsement in 2021, the YSP further identifies opportunities for new and revised planning controls to be developed, including for areas upstream of Warrandyte.

20. How do the controls relate to Plan Melbourne?

Plan Melbourne 2017 – 2050 is Melbourne’s metropolitan planning strategy to guide the growth of our city for the next 35 years. The planning controls deliver Plan Melbourne Action 62 to “Protect the natural landscape settings of Melbourne’s major waterways by finalising stronger planning controls along the Yarra River corridor.”

21. How do the controls relate to the Yarra River Action Plan?

The Victorian Government’s Yarra River Action Plan (2017) contains 30 integrated actions which work to ensure that the Yarra River is managed as a living integrated entity, centred by Traditional Owner values and perspectives and underpinned by a coordinated planning framework.

The action plan includes measures for the long-term protection of the river and its parklands, developed in response to recommendations of the Yarra River Protection Ministerial Advisory Committee (Yarra MAC) in its final report.

Actions include the establishment of the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017, the development of a 50-year Community Vision and a Yarra Strategic Plan and stronger planning controls for other reaches of the Yarra River, based on the same landscape assessment approach informing the controls implemented by Amendments GC48 and VC197.

Page last updated: 20/04/21