The Mirror News

Reforms relax rules in rural zones

THE State Government’s Reformed Zones for Victoria project resulted in many changes to the Rural suite of planning zones – Farming Zone, Rural Activity Zone, Rural Living Zone and Rural Conservation Zone – and these have recently been gazetted.

South Gippsland Shire Council Manager Strategic Planning and Development Paul Stampton took the opportunity last Wednesday to give Council a summary of the changes.

He said that extensive changes have been made to the Farming Zone, in particular. Most land uses that were either severely restricted by conditions or prohibited are now allowed with a planning permit. Of particular note is the level of tourist development allowed in most of the Farming Zone and the fact that industry is allowed.

No planning permit is now required for small rural industries or for primary produce sales more than 100 metres from a dwelling in the Farming Zone. Other industries and limited retail are allowed with a planning permit. In addition, much larger extensions are allowed before a permit is required, and bed and breakfast operations can now accommodate as many as ten people.

Mr Stampton said the expanded opportunities for tourism uses and accommodation in the Farming Zone could be seen as a positive. Of possible concern is the permission given to industry, which could affect the clean, green image of traditional farming land.

A major change for the Rural Activity Zone is the go-ahead for small rural industries, for which no permit is now required.

The following are allowed in the RAZ with a planning permit – backpackers’ lodge, camping and caravan park, group accommodation, hotel, host farm, residential hotel and market. This is a dramatic expansion of the uses. Also allowed with a planning permit – landscape gardening supplies, manufacturing sales, primary produce sales, trade supplies, equestrian supplies, convenience shop, restaurant and tavern.

Primary produce sales are allowed without a permit if they are more than 100 metres from a dwelling, extension sizes have been doubled before a permit is required, and bed and breakfast operations can now accommodate 10 people.

Mr Stampton suggested the positives are that tourism uses and some accommodation are now allowed in a Rural Activity Zone and there may be some appropriate retail opportunities. At the same time, some might consider the rules regarding retail and tourism/accommodation uses have been relaxed too much.

In both Rural Activity Zones and Rural Living Zones changes to subdivision Section 173 Agreements are now via Rural Land Use Strategy policy. Other changes to the Rural Living Zone are: extension sizes doubled before a permit is required, bed and breakfast operations can accommodation ten people, and lots may be subdivided down to two hectares (previously 8ha) though a schedule still exists to modify this size.

The key benefits of the reforms according to the State Government are that they:

  • Support agriculture by making most agricultural uses ‘as of right’ in most zones, instead of needing a planning permit;
  • Assist farmers by removing permit requirements for farming related development such as netting and crop support structures;
  • Provide flexibility for farmers by allowing for the sale of farm produce without the need for a planning permit and removing restrictions on the sale of processed produce e.g. an olive farmer can sell bottled olive oil to complement the sale of fresh olives;
  • Support business by removing the prohibitions on complementary business uses in some zones, such as landscape gardening supplies;
  • Encourage tourism by reducing or removing permit limitations in the Farming Zone and Rural Conservation Zone relating to tourism uses, enabling applications to be considered on their merits;
  • Provide greater flexibility for councils to consider previously prohibited land uses;
  • Cut red tape for dwelling additions and farm buildings by increasing the permit exemption threshold for altering or extending a building;
  • Include a purpose statement to the Farming Zone to encourage retention of employment as well as population to support rural communities;
  • Remove the limitation to subdivide a lot after an initial subdivision has been approved in all rural zones;
  • Attract and retain population in rural Victoria by reducing the current default minimum lot size in the Rural Living Zone from 8ha to 2ha.

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