What makes a design solution acceptable to your local Victorian council?

A multi-unit property development – from dual occupancy to a number of townhouses on a lot – must meet the requirements of Clause 55.

While there are general standards and objectives in Clause 55 which all the councils have now adopted, a few councils, or more importantly, some planning officers, have displayed a degree of flexibility to the norm. Their thinking is more progressive, commercial and practical.

These are just some of the factors councils will assess to form a decision on developments on a subdivided property:

Neighbourhood Character Objective

Council’s planning officer will assess how the proposal reflects or incorporates the building elements, building setbacks, roof form, materials, character of the streetscape, landscaping and the public realm into the design. This step is important. It lays the foundation of the design. In heritage areas the criteria is even more stringent.

Integration with Street Objective (Standard B5)

The front of the dwelling and entries should ideally face the street for easy identification to a visitor.

Street Setback Objective (Standard B6)

This is a design criteria which often confuses the first time developer. Council’s planning scheme will specify the front setback of the residential dwellings. There are a few ways of calculating this distance from the front boundary. If the distance is not particularly specified, it could generally mean the proposed front dwelling is set back the same amount as the average setbacks of the dwellings on either side unless it is a corner block.

Building Height Objective (Standard B7)

Unless the height is specified, the general building height is generally nine metres above the natural ground level. However, in a typical residential suburb, a nine-metre height (of a three-storey building) would be far in excess of the buildings on the street. Some councils consider building height to be the height of the tallest wall, while others calculate the height to the ridge line.

Site Coverage Objective (Standard B8)

Site coverage is specified in the zoning schedule which burdens the land. If nothing is specified, it is generally 60 per cent site coverage. However, many councils in the mid to outer ring suburbs would consider 60 per cent an overdevelopment.

Permeability Objectives (Standard B9)

Councils are encouraging developers to “contain” the rainwater onsite and trickle it into the existing stormwater or allow it to permeate into the ground. Onsite detention/retention is a phrase one should start getting used to. It is achieved via retention tanks, rain water tanks , underfloor bladders and the like.

Energy Efficiency Objectives (Standard B10)

This is an area councils are focusing on which states habitable rooms should enjoy natural light. Private open spaces should ideally face north and drying areas are provided to reduce electricity consumption.