Development in rural areas

This advice is intended to assist permit applicants in the planning of any development or subdivision on land within rural areas (land zoned Rural Conservation or Green Wedge) under the Nillumbik Planning Scheme.

A significant element of the unique character of the Shire is its highly attractive landscapes and picturesque views from and of the many valleys and elevated ridgelines and hilltops. These landscape vistas are highly valued by the Nillumbik community and visitors to the Shire, and inappropriate design and siting of buildings (including dwellings, sheds, poles, signage and other structures) compromises the integrity of these features.  The need to protect habitat links and minimise fire and flood risk and erosion are also important considerations in the determination of siting buildings and works in rural areas.

Much of the Shire’s rural land is also covered by the Environmental Significance Overlay (ESO) and/or Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO/WMO). These overlays identify land for their environmental significance or wildfire risk respectively (where applicable see planning advice 13; Environmental Significance Overlay and/or planning advice 15; Bushfire Management Management Overlay).

In rural areas, a planning permit is required to subdivide land, construct a building or carry out works (including earthworks which change the rate of flow or the discharge point of water across a property boundary), and to remove, lop or destroy any vegetation.  Some exemptions apply in certain circumstances.

Due to the complexity of these planning controls, it is imperative that you confirm permit and information requirements with officers of Council’s Planning Unit before commencing any construction works and/or vegetation removal. Please note that substantial penalties apply for any illegal vegetation removal or destruction, or illegal buildings and works.

Siting and design policy for buildings and works in non-urban areas

Clause 22.04 of the Planning Scheme sets out the Siting and Design Policy for Buildings and Works in Non-Urban Areas. Under this policy, where a permit is required, it is policy that (amongst other things)

Landscape and amenity

  • The siting of buildings (including dwellings, sheds, utility services and other structures) on hilltops and/or ridgelines should be avoided and will be discouraged
  • Buildings should be located wholly below the alignment of ridgelines to ensure silhouetting against the skyline does not occur and to allow buildings to blend into the natural landscape with the elevated ridgeline providing the appropriate backdrop
  • Building numbers should be limited and the consolidation of buildings (including outbuildings) will be encouraged to reduce the visual impact on the landscape
  • The use of reflective building materials and the use of bright or contrasting colours on external building surfaces will not be supported in areas clearly visible from other properties or roads
  • Landscaping using indigenous vegetation species will be encouraged as appropriate to screen buildings. However, landscaping as a means of providing screening should not be viewed as a simple solution to proposals for buildings in prominent locations, especially in areas not already supported by areas of existing vegetation screening
  • Undergrounding of services, such as power, will be encouraged to minimise visual impact in rural areas.

Vegetation and habitat

  • Buildings, earthworks (including internal roads and dams) and utility services should be located to ensure minimal impact on native vegetation
  • The impacts which the construction of dams and effluent disposal systems and fields may have down-slope to flora, fauna and watercourses (natural flow) will be considered

Earthworks and erosion

  • Earthworks should not increase the potential for erosion
  • Building profiles and form should respond to the topography on which the building is sited and the need for cut and fill should be minimised
  • Internal roads should follow contours to minimise the potential for erosion and impact caused by run-off, and to support the landscape vista of rural areas
  • Dams should not be sited in significant gullies and tributaries

Consolidation of buildings

As outlined in Clause 22.04 of the Planning Scheme, there is a strong policy encouragement to minimise building numbers on rural properties, and for buildings (including outbuildings) to be consolidated on the land, to reduce the visual impact and achieve the landscape objectives of the Planning Scheme.

Building colours

In order to curtail the development of visually disruptive or intrusive buildings in the Shire’s rural landscapes, careful attention must be given to the external colour and reflectivity of building materials (be it for dwellings, outbuildings or other features). As such, reflective surfaces will not be considered favourably by Council. Earthy and/or muted colours and tones which blend with the surrounding rural landscape will be considered favourably.

Subdivision in rural areas

The minimum subdivision size permitted in rural areas varies within the Shire, and is largely dependent on the zone and the provisions within it. Most rural areas within the Shire either have an 8 hectare or 40 hectare minimum. Notwithstanding the minimum permissible lot sizes, planning applications must have regard to Clause 22.02 of the Planning Scheme, which sets out the Subdivision in Green Wedge Areas Policy. The objectives and directions contained within this policy guide discretionary decision-making (when considering a permit application).

In essence, this policy seeks to

  • Strongly discourage subdivision that effectively creates lots primarily for rural residential or hobby farm use
  • Encourage the retention of large lots in single ownership for the purpose of improving conservation or agricultural management which may require a larger subdivision size
  • Ensure that proposals for re-subdivision (such as boundary alignments) demonstrate that the subdivision will result in net environmental and/or agricultural benefits for the site and area
  • Ensure that proposals for re-subdivision of lots should not include land subject to flooding or lots otherwise unable to be developed due to location/physical characteristics (rather such lots should be consolidated with adjoining lots)
  • Ensure that realignments of boundaries which create the potential for additional lots through further subdivision or for the purpose of creating defacto residential lots will not be supported

For new lots proposed for rural residential use, building exclusion zones or building envelopes should be specified on new lots, to ensure that building occurs on favourable sites, in line with the siting and design policy objectives outlined in Clause 22.04 of the planning scheme.

New dwellings on existing vacant lots under the minimum lot size

Proposals for new dwellings on existing vacant lots which are under the mimimum lot size prescribed in the zone within land covered by the Green Wedge Zone or schedules 3, 4 or 5 of the Rural Conservation Zone, must have regard to Clause 22.03 of the Planning Scheme, which sets out Residential Use and Development on Small Lots in Green Wedge Areas. The objectives and directions contained within this policy guide discretionary decision-making (when considering a permit application) for dwelling proposals in these circumstances.

The policy seeks to prevent further fragmentation of remnant vegetation or agricultural land as a result of inappropriate residential development in rural areas, to protect land of environmental significance from urban uses (particularly the establishment of dwellings and hobby farms) and to limit the social and infrastructure costs of rural-residential land use and development.  More specifically, it is policy to

  • Strongly discourage dwellings that increase the extent of residential living more typical of a residential zone
  • Strongly discourage any dwelling resulting in the introduction of additional people or infrastructure into an area of environmental hazard such as fire, landslip or erosion
  • Strongly discourage use of land for a dwelling where the development of the proposed dwelling is not included as part of the application, because this makes proper assessment of the ultimate impacts uncertain
  • Strongly discourage dwellings that cannot be efficiently serviced by social and physical infrastructure, at an acceptable and sustainable level. Particular consideration will be given to well constructed roads, availability of regular waste collection, and proximity to shops, schools, sports, recreation and community facilities

Prohibition of multiple dwellings on a lot

The rural zones contained within the planning scheme prohibit more than one dwelling on a property. While there are a small number of properties within the Shire where more than one dwelling exists on a property (by virtue of less stringent planning controls at the time of their construction), Council is unable to consider any planning application for a second dwelling within the Rural Conservation Zone, Green Wedge Zone and Special Use Zone – Schedule 2 (Bend of Islands Environmental Living Zone).

Dependent persons units

A dependent persons unit is a moveable building used to provide accommodation for a person who is dependent on the resident of the existing dwelling on the property.  A dependent persons unit requires a permit within the Rural Conservation Zone, Green Wedge Zone and Special Use Zone – Schedule 2 (Bend of Islands Environmental Living Zone).

The dependent person would generally be in need of daily care. A unit should therefore be in close proximity (ie. not more than 20 metres) from the main dwelling on the site. The temporary nature of the building means that when circumstances change and the dependent person is no longer using the building, the unit will be removed from the property. Failure to remove the unit once the dependent resident no longer resides on the property is a contravention of the Planning Scheme, which may result in punitive and/or Court action.

In order to be moveable, the building should be

  • Specifically designed to be easily moved or dismantled for relocation elsewhere
  • Not be clad with materials such as bricks or stone that have to be removed before the structure can be transported
  • Not require significant earthworks or removal of any trees or native vegetation
  • Not require the installation of permanent footings such as continuous poured concrete footings or concrete slabs

Careful consideration should therefore be given to selecting the most appropriate location on the property for the proposed building for ease of access in location and removal as well as convenience and general appearance of the building.

In lodging a planning application for such a dependent persons unit, the dependency of the intended resident must be clear.  This is usually demonstrated through a doctor’s certificate or letter. An application must also demonstrate how the building can fit in with the requirement to be moveable.

Land capability assessments

Characteristics that can reduce the ability of some properties to retain all wastewater on-site include the size, topography, flood prone areas, poor draining soils, nearby surface water, shallow depth bedrock and high water table. Where there are significant site restrictions, you will be required during the planning application process to provide Council with a comprehensive land assessment to establish the capability of the site to manage wastewater within the allotment boundaries in a sustainable manner. As such, a Land Capability Assessment may be required for both new dwellings and alterations to existing dwellings.  This must accord with EPA publication 746.1 – Land Capability Assessment for On-site Domestic Wastewater Management.

In designing your on-site wastewater treatment area, consideration should be given to its relationship to vegetation and other built and natural features. In all circumstances, such areas should be clear of vegetation, and located on the downward slope from watercourses, dams and swimming pools. Please note that once your planning permit has been issued, a ‘permit to install’ the wastewater disposal system must be obtained from Council’s Public Health Unit prior to the building permit being issued, and a ‘permit to use’ the wastewater disposal system must be obtained by the Public Health Unit before a Certificate of Occupancy is granted. Further information is provided in Council’s Public Health Unit Information Sheet ‘Development on properties not connected to sewer’ (Septic Tank Information Series).


This advice is to be used as a general guide only. Council has made all reasonable effort to ensure the information is true and accurate. However, it is recommended that readers seek professional advice before acting or making decisions on the basis of this information. For any questions or clarification, please contact Council’s Planning and Building Services on 9433 3343.

Checklist for planning assessment

The following information (as a minimum) must accompany any planning permit application for development, use and/or vegetation removal on land within a rural zone

  • Appropriate application fee (schedule of fees available at Shire offices or on Council’s website)
  • Completed application form (form available at Shire offices or on Council’s website)
  • Full copy of property title, searched from Land Victoria within the last 6 months, along with copies of any restrictions, covenants or agreements (available from Land Victoria or at
  • A detailed description of all components of the proposal (ie. buildings and works, change of land use or activities on your land, vegetation removal, etc). For all proposals involving non-residential uses, an outline of the existing and proposed hours of operation, number of staff and customers, provision of car parking spaces (number and location) and the operation of the proposal should be included. Additionally, for proposed vegetation removal, this written submission must include the number and size of any trees to be removed and, if possible, the Ecological Vegetation Class of the native vegetation. The submission must also outline why the tree/s is/are proposed to be removed, and (in accordance with the State Government’s Native Vegetation Management Framework), explain the steps that have been taken to
    • avoid the removal of native vegetation, where possible
    • minimize the removal of native vegetation
    • appropriately offset the loss of native vegetation, if required
  • Photographs of any native vegetation proposed to be removed, destroyed, pruned or lopped
  • Three copies of a scaled and fully dimensioned Existing Conditions Plan, showing (as a minimum)
    • the location of all existing buildings, structures, dams and vegetation
    • internal building layout for existing buildings and structures
    • the location and layout of driveways and car parking areas
    • contours/site levels
    • the location of effluent disposal system (for non-sewered properties)
  • Three copies of a scaled and fully dimensioned Site Plan, showing (as a minimum)
    • the location of existing buildings on adjacent properties (including nominated setbacks from the common boundaries to the subject site)
    • the location of existing and proposed buildings
    • any existing or proposed earthworks
    • location of existing individual trees within 10 metres of all proposed buildings, structures and excavations
    • location and details of vegetation type (ground, middle and upper storey vegetation) within 30 metres of the proposed development, which may require modification for fire management purposes
    • all trees to be removed and those to be retained
    • the setback of the buildings and works from title boundaries
    • details and location of any car parking structures, areas and accessways
    • details for the retention of stormwater on site
    • the proposed location of all reticulated services and method of installation (note if to be excavated, it must be demonstrated that it avoids or minimises vegetation removal)
    • details of any lighting proposed
  • Three copies of scaled and fully dimensioned Floor and Elevation Plans, showing (as a minimum)
    • floor plans of the proposed buildings and structures (including nominated setbacks from boundaries and other key site features)
    • natural ground levels and finished floor levels
    • wall heights and overall building heights for each elevation
    • external colours, finishes and materials
  • Offset (Replacement) Planting Plan for any native vegetation proposed for removal.Refer to the information requirements below to calculate the appropriate offset planting on a plan. Indigenous species of plants should be selected from the Council publication Live Local Plant Local
  • For an application proposing a new dwelling, three copies of a Land Management Plan for the future use of the site. Refer to planning advice 14 for guidance and an information checklist for Land Management Plans
  • One set of photo reduced A3 plans of all plans outlined above
  • For applications concerning new dwellings or increasing the number of bedrooms (and therefore potential occupants) in existing dwellings on non-sewered lots, a Land Capability Assessment prepared by an appropriately qualified professional should be provided which demonstrates that the land is capable of treating and retaining all wastewater in accordance with the State Environment Protection Policy (Waters of Victoria) under the Environment Protection Act 1970
  • Where there are existing trees on the subject site or trees on adjoining properties proximite to the proposed buildings, a report from a qualified arborist (an Arborist Report) must be obtained and submitted. This report should provide the following details
    • the species, height, girth, canopy width and approximate age of the tree/s to be removed
    • a statement regarding the health, structure and vigour of the tree(s)
    • comments in relation to the future health of the tree
    • a recommendation based on all of the above
  • For applications requiring the removal of 0-10 trees on lots greater than 1 acre (4000 square metres), an Arborist Report must be submitted as outlined in the previous dot point.  This report will then be used by Council to ascertain appropriate offset requirements for the native vegetation removal proposed
  • For applications requiring the removal of 10+ trees (and/or the removal of patches of understorey vegetation which is construed as significant remnant vegetation) on lots greater than 1 acre (4000 square metres), a Flora and Fauna and Net Gain Assessment prepared by a suitably qualified professional (in accordance with the State Government’s Native Vegetation Management Framework) will be required to calculate appropriate offset planting requirements
  • A written submission detailing how the proposal responds to the provisions of the relevant zone, overlays, particular provisions and State and local planning policies (as appropriate)

The above checklist ensures that all documents are submitted to Council to initiate the assessment of the planning application. Additional information may be required depending on the precise nature of the proposal and any site-specific considerations. If applications are lodged without sufficient information for Council assessment, Council will formally request further information in accordance with the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Please check Council's other planning advice pages (and their attached checklists) for relevance to your proposal. If applicable, the information requirements outlined in that checklist should also be provided when lodging your application.Planing advice pages which may also be relevant in this particular circumstance are planning advice 13 – Environmental Significance Overlay, and planning advice 15 – Bushfire Management Overlay.