Better Apartments – Draft Design Standards – Opportunity for comment

Commercial Directions

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (‘DELWP’) has prepared Draft Design Standards (‘Draft Standards’), which seek to introduce new standards in the Victorian Planning Provisions (‘VPP’) that focus on apartment amenity and design.

The Draft Standards are currently open for public consultation until Monday, 19 September 2016. Copies of the Draft Standards may be obtained from the Department’s website.

Key issues and implications for developers

  • Increased setbacks (up to 12m on a single tower site and 24m on a multiple tower site), resulting in significant decreases to building footprints. Unclear how the setbacks will apply to CBD and inner city sites.
  • There will now be planning assessment standards on apartment developments over four storeys where previously, none existed
  • Introduction of daylight requirements, room depth ratios and storage requirements will restrict design, size and orientation of apartments and may decrease the number of apartments per level
  • Acoustic measures to decrease noise in apartments (may increase construction costs)
  • Design professional may be required to sign off at the building permit stage to verify development is still compliant with the Draft Standards
  • New standards are in addition to ResCode
  • Expected to have broad application and to include serviced apartments.

Yields on projects

The introduction of the Draft Standards is expected to cause yields on apartment developments to decrease (potentially significant). Some architects have predicted a decrease in yields of between 20-40%.

What are they? – New, additional assessment standards for apartments

The Draft Standards propose to create a new set of performance-based objectives, standards and decision guidelines which will apply to apartment development proposals, no matter the height. This is a significant departure from the current VPP, which contain no apartment-specific assessment standards.

Currently, ResCode applies to residential developments of two or more dwellings (up to four storeys). Residential developments higher than four storeys are not currently affected by or assessed against ResCode and councils currently have a wide discretion to approve the design of these developments.

A new particular provision will be drafted and introduced into the VPP. It has yet to be decided whether the ResCode provisions will remain stand-alone, or will be incorporated in the new provision to the extent they currently apply to apartments.

Application of the ResCode in conjunction with the new apartment-specific provision may be a challenge for the industry.

Current controls and assessment standards – will they remain?

In addition to the new standards, the current VPP controls and standards will apply. This means:

  • Overlays will continue to apply in response to local design objectives;
  • Developments five or more storeys will continue to be assessed under current broader context provisions; and
  • Developments below five storeys (up to four storeys) will continue to be assessed against neighbourhood context and the current ResCode standards.

The next steps

Submissions, feedback and any survey responses are required to be lodged with the DELWP by 5pm, Monday 19 September 2016.

The new provision will then be drafted and implemented, and expected to commence operation at the beginning of 2017.

It is currently proposed that applications lodged before the introduction of the new standards and scheme provisions will be assessed against the current provisions.

We aim to hold an information seminar within the next 10 days. Details will be provided shortly.

This article was authored by Bill Papastergiadis, Melbourne Managing Partner and Annabel Viner, Special Counsel, Melbourne.

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