Subdivision in Melbourne – The 5 critical factors

If you own or are considering purchasing a large block of land, you have probably asked the question: “Can I subdivide?”. This article will provide a big picture overview of the 5 tests your property must pass when subdividing land in Victoria.

Subdividing Land in Victoria: The 5 tests your property must pass

The ability to subdivide land in Victoria is determined by the following 5 factors:

  1. Zone,  Schedule & Overlay/s
  2. Size of land
  3. Building Envelope
  4. Neighbourhood character & Precedent
  5. Clause 55 & 56

1. Zone, Schedule & Overlay/s

What State and Local Planning Scheme Zone, Schedule and Overlay/s apply to your property?

This information alone may be enough to eliminate some properties from the ability to be subdivided as some Zones, Schedules and Overlays place subdivision constraints (eg. any subdivided lot must be of a minimum size) and even subdivision restrictions.

This information can be obtained either by calling the Town Planning department of your local council and enquiring about your specific property or (in Victoria) visiting the Department of Sustainability and Environment website.

2. Size of land

Assuming that your property’s Zone, Schedule and Overlay/s allows for subdivision the next question to ask is: What is the area of your property?

This information can either be found (or calculated from) your Copy of Plan attached to your Title.

For proposed multi-unit residential townhouses and units in a General Residential Zone (with no other schedule or overlay constraints), town planners generally like the ‘300 m2 per dwelling’ rule-of-thumb. Planners may be more or less strict depending on the other factors mentioned in this article.

It is for this reason that generally speaking, the minimum area of a block to be considered for subdivision would be 600 m2. However depending upon the site a subdivision can be done on blocks as small as 200m2.

In Victoria, you can do a Land Title search and Title download at the Landata website.

3. Building Envelope

The Building Envelope is the actual area within your title boundaries that is legally and physically possible to build on.

The building envelope can be affected (reduced) by:

  • The size and positioning of easements
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Signficant trees
  • Existing buildings/structures that can’t/wont be removed
  • Neighbourhood amenities
  • Driveway requirements & crossover issues
  • Nature strip assets

As you can imagine, in tying all of these factors together, building envelope constraints can quickly turn a potential 4 unit development on 1200 m2 into a 3 unit development, thus severely affecting your strategy.

4. Neighbourhood Character, Strategic Planning & Precedent

Over and above all the factors considered, your council may have set specific local Neighbourhood Character & Strategic Planning policies in place.

If your property is in a good location – close to transport, schools & shops – these policies can sometimes favour you. For example, we recently were advised by a Town Planner that council would support a higher density development than we had proposed, due to the location of the property and its alignment with council’s residential strategy.

Neighbourhood precedent (other recent, similar developments in the immediate vicinity) is also a big factor that can make your subdivision application more favourable.

You can view any Strategic Planning Policies for your local council at the Planning Schemes Online website.

You should also check your local council’s website for any additional Neighbourhood Character guidelines or local planning preferences.

5. Clause 55 & 56

The previous four factors can all be determined well before any serious drawing work is done. Ultimately, however the permit to subdivide will rest on the Victorian Planning Scheme’s:

  • Clause 55 (Two or more dwellings on a lot and residential building) – governing any proposed dwellings you wish to put on the site, and
  • Clause 56 (Residential Subdivision).

That said, the better your research (and the greater your experience) with the previous four factors, the more confident you should be of obtaining both your planning permit and subdivision permit.

You can view Clause 55 and Clause 56 in full at the Planning Schemes Online website.

Subdividing Land in Victoria: Conclusion

The ability to subdivide land in Victoria is determined by the following factors:

  1. Zone,  Schedule & Overlays
  2. Size of land
  3. Building Envelope
  4. Neighbourhood character & Precedent
  5. Clause 55 & 56

Contact us to ensure your property passes all 5 tests and is suitable for development.