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Let's Talk Planning

A conversation about growth and change in Bayside

The Victorian Government has mandated that all areas in and around Melbourne (not just Bayside) must take their share of our state’s population growth. This we cannot change.

For Bayside this means an additional 7,500 homes by 2036.

However, many residents are already concerned that Bayside is being overdeveloped and want Council to stop growth, or better manage the impacts on traffic, trees and vegetation, and the character of an area. Planning and development was one of the top three local issues raised in the latest community satisfaction survey in early 2021.

It’s a challenge, and there is no easy solution. So we’re having an open and honest conversation about it.

Based on your questions we’re taking a closer look at key topics relating to growth and change in Bayside.

Protecting what we love and value


More than 1,500 Bayside properties are protected through a Heritage Overlay in the Planning Scheme. This applies extra rules about what type of development or activity can and can’t be done (for example, preventing key heritage features of a building from being removed).

Heritage includes ‘buildings, areas or other places which are of scientific, aesthetic, architectural or historical interest, or otherwise of special cultural value’ (Planning and Environment Act 1987, section 4). Heritage places can include land, building/s, vegetation, sites and more.

The Victorian Government sets eight criteria to assess the heritage value of a heritage place.

Council is legally required to protect and preserve local heritage. The State Government - Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council of Victoria - are responsible for State heritage and historical archaeology.

Local heritage is protected by applying a Heritage Overlay over heritage places through the Planning Scheme. This applies extra rules about what type of development or activity can and can’t be done (for example, preventing key heritage features of a building from being removed).

First a heritage study is undertaken (usually by an independent consultant) to assess the place against the Victorian Government’s eight criteria. Then the Heritage Overlay is applied through the Planning Scheme Amendment process. This process includes consultation with property owners and the community and requires final approval by the Minister for Planning. Once in the Planning Scheme, the requirements are enforced through the Planning Permit process

  • some residents think more properties deserve heritage protection because of their significance;
  • some property owners have invested in their property to renovate or redevelop so don’t want new heritage restrictions applied; and
  • some in the community would like to see less development and change in their neighbourhood and see heritage protection as a way to keep more traditional-style homes.

The process to introduce new heritage protection must be robust to demonstrate heritage significance and ensure the impacts on all parties are considered.

Heritage protection requires proven historical significance (as per the Victorian Government’s eight criteria), regardless of the age, look or condition of a building.

This process takes time, and requires final approval from the Minister for Planning. As the pace and intensity of development in Bayside has increased, there have been cases where properties have been demolished or stripped of their heritage features before this process was completed.

Heritage significance can change over time, for example as new information is found about the place which changes its assessment, or with increased scarcity and age.

Heritage studies need to be regularly undertaken, reviewed and updated.

Council is supporting heritage protection by:

  • Implementing its Revised Heritage Action Plan (2020), including the:
  • Waiving planning permit fees for property owners when an application is required because of the Heritage Overlay only
  • Advocating to the Minister for Planning for urgent heritage protections where historically significant properties, yet to be protected, are under immediate threat.
  • Promoting the appreciation and celebration of local heritage through a range of activities including: the Bayside Built Environment Awards, providing access to Council-owned heritage buildings, promoting heritage walks and trails and supporting activities of local heritage groups.


Trees and vegetation

Our leafy green open spaces and streets are some of the best loved features of our municipality. In 2018 Bayside had an estimated 16.07% tree canopy coverage - this includes trees on public and private land. 

Council manages nearly 60,000 trees in Bayside's streets and parks.106 trees are on Council’s Significant Tree Register (for protection).

We all understand the need to protect trees and vegetation for environmental, biodiversity and liveability reasons and to mitigate and manage the impacts of climate change (particularly the urban heat island effect).

However, our trees and vegetation are under threat from extreme heat, drought and ageing tree stock. The changes in housing design in our low density areas and the increasing scale and density of development we need to provide additional homes for our growing population is also reducing the number of trees on private land.

In addition, our population is ageing, amplifying the importance of providing safe and accessible places and reducing people’s capacity to maintain trees and gardens in their homes.

Three key tools are used to protect established trees and significant vegetation across Bayside:

  • Planning scheme – Uses ‘overlays’ to place restrictions over the removal of trees and some vegetation in key areas, protect trees on Council’s Significant Tree Register and requires landscaping plans for larger developments that meet set guidelines.
  • Local Law – requires a permit for removal of established trees and replacement on private land
  • Street and Park Tree Management Policy – requires approval for any tree removal on public land.

These protections aren’t perfect, with frustrations experienced from all perspectives, such as:

  • The personal expense to a property owner to maintain a large, maturing tree on their property that is to be protected (and manage the risk posed by that tree on themselves and neighbours)
  • Seeing trees and vegetation removed by developers to make way for housing, and replacement plantings dying due to insufficient care

Council adopted its first Urban Forest Strategy   in February this year. One of the key outcomes of the Strategy is to increase tree canopy cover to 25% by 2030 through planting more than 2,000 trees each year.

The Strategy has five branches (goals): Increase, Diversity, Monitor, Maintain, and Educate.

Some of the key Actions from the Strategy to be progressed in its first year include:

  • Completion of precinct based urban forest plans to respond to site specific challenges and identify opportunities for increased planting
  • Identify potential habitat and biodiversity corridors across both public and private land and prioritise and increase planting in these locations.
  • Investigate opportunities to create new public open space, pocket parks, micro forests, and habitat corridors, ensuring that the design of these spaces are contributing to Bayside’s urban forest outcomes and the existing Ecological Vegetation Community.
  • Increase species diversity across public tree plantings to ensure a range of species are incorporated to minimise the potential of large impacts of losses on Bayside’s canopy.
  • Review the Bayside Landscape guidelines to require greater emphasis on native and indigenous plantings.

The Urban Forest Strategy Four Year Action Plan can be accessed in Appendix 1 of the Strategy.


Quality homes, neighbourhoods and centres

Over the past 10 years, the pace and intensity of development in Bayside has increased, especially in suburb centres and key sites. This fast, visible change has raised concerns about impacts on the look and feel of neighbourhoods and about the living standards provided by some developments.

We need to ensure new development fits well into the area and provides quality homes.

Neighbourhood Character

Every residential area has its own ‘look and feel’, planners call it ‘Neighbourhood Character’.

This describes how distinctive and common features of an area form a visual identity and sense of place. For example, building height, building materials, roof form and facades, landscaping, setbacks from boundaries, fencing and more.

Character is influenced by development and evolves over time – more quickly in areas where growth is focused.

Bayside has 27 precincts each with Neighbourhood Character Guidelines in the planning scheme (or rulebook). Any proposed development is assessed against the guidelines as part of the planning permit process.

This allows us to influence development to reflect and enhance an existing or emerging preferred character for the area, strengthening the look and feel of our neighbourhoods.

It isn’t a preservation tool or a means of strictly controlling the look of new developments. For example it can’t:

  • prevent demolition of a nice, well-maintained home
  • set a specific building style
  • override planning scheme height limits (eg. the two-storey limit on 83% of Bayside).

Bayside’s current Neighbourhood Character guidelines were developed in 2011.

As character evolves and areas have grown, we are reviewing the guidelines to confirm the ‘preferred character’ for each precinct.

In early 2022 we asked for feedback on the preferred character of our housing growth areas (General Residential Zones) accounting for 15% of Bayside.

Later in 2022 we will consult on the preferred character of residential neighbourhoods (Neighbourhood Residential Zones) accounting for 83% of Bayside. These areas will see incremental change.


Quality development and liveable homes

While it’s impossible to ensure developments meet everyone’s taste and expectations, we can ensure new homes are:

  • good for people to live in and sustainable
  • protective of the amenity of neighbouring homes (acknowledging not all impacts are avoidable).

The Victorian Government sets the Residential Design Standards (or ResCode) in the planning scheme that all housing development must comply with. These are minimum requirements to protect the amenity of homes and neighbouring properties such as:

  • placement of buildings on a site
  • daylight to windows
  • overshadowing and overlooking
  • provision of private open space.

It also introduced Better Apartments Design Standards in 2017 (updated in 2020). These standards cover aspects such as:

  • layout, room depth, windows, storage, energy efficiency and noise
  • communal open and green space, landscaping and street integration, external materials, wind impacts, waste and recycling and accessibility.

Councils are legally required to apply the standards through the planning permit process and don’t have authority to change them.

The way to influence change is advocacy to the Victorian Government and participation in consultation processes. Council advocates for reforms and improvements on an ongoing basis.


Population growth and liveability

How can we grow and still maintain our cherished Bayside lifestyle? Car parking and the increasing demands on open space are hot topics for many in our community.

Councils can manage parking by:

  • Influencing the supply of off-street parking for new development through the planning system
  • Applying parking restrictions and parking permit systems
  • Managing parking compliance through inspectors or sensor technology

However, it requires balancing multiple, often competing, community needs.

Consider these perspectives:

  • Mary struggles to get out of her driveway with cars parked on either side and wants greater enforcement, fewer permits, and tighter parking restrictions.
  • Alistair and Shae have two cars and one car space but are not eligible for a parking permit due to the requirements of the planning permit for their building.
  • Suzanne’s business is very popular, but her customers can struggle to find a park – she wants reduced time limits to encourage parking turnover.
  • Petro often has to park a distance from his home – he thinks cars could easily park on both sides of the street and doesn’t know why council doesn’t allow it. 


Bayside regularly conducts local traffic studies to identify the parking needs of a selected area, but it’s not a sustainable solution.

In the long term, we can all play a part in reducing the pressures on parking (and reducing our environmental impact) by making greater use of sustainable transport like public transport, car share, walking and cycling.

We are developing a 10-year Parking Strategy to help manage parking availability. Find out more at Have your say parking

Bayside has 416.21 hectares of public open space, across 138 sites. Of this space, 30% is parks and recreation reserves, 28% is public golf course, 24% is foreshore and 18% is conservation reserve.

Overall, Bayside has a good allocation of open space per capita of population compared to other middle and inner suburbs.

Recent experience shows that the physical and mental health and wellbeing benefits of open space cannot be overstated.

While we are lucky to enjoy such a large stretch of foreshore, our open space isn’t evenly spread across our suburbs. As our population grows and changes and the way we use open space changes with that, access to open space becomes increasingly important for residents.

Council has a twenty year Open Space Strategy which identifies open space across Bayside’s suburbs.

Guided by the Strategy, Council manages the provision of open space to support our growing population and local biodiversity through a range of means including:

  • maintaining spaces that can support multiple uses, are well planned and maintained, easily accessed and well connected
  • strategically changing open space to meet the community’s needs, such as the former golf course which is now Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve
  • establishing spaces for outdoor dining in our shopping strips (another challenge for parking)
  • identifying land to repurpose for open space such as pocket parks where possible (cost to purchase is often prohibitive).

The Open Space Strategy will be reviewed in 2023.

Adopted in 2022, Council’s first Urban Forest Strategy set ambitious plans to increase tree canopy from 16% to 30% by 2040 to green our streets, neighbourhoods and open spaces.


Development in Bayside - who decides?

The Victorian Government, through the Planning and Environmental Act 1989, has set three different processes for deciding whether developments can go ahead. Generally, the process depends on the scale or potential impact of the proposal. The three processes and an explanation of Council's Planning and Amenity meetings are outlined below.

VicSmart is a simple and fast planning permit process for straightforward applications.

In Bayside common VicSmart applications include: constructing a front fence; subdividing land into two lots; remove, destroy or lop one tree; extensions to one dwelling; and minor subdivision, minor buildings and works, painting or tree lopping in a Heritage Overlay.

  • Decision-maker: Council’s CEO (delegated to Council officers)
  • Timeframe: 10 business days
  • Community input: applications are not advertised
  • Assessment: against pre-set decision guidelines
  • Appeals: Applicants can appeal decisions at VCAT, but third parties cannot.

This process is more comprehensive and applies to most planning permit applications.

In Bayside common applications include: subdividing land into three or more lots, multi-dwelling developments; remove, destroy or lop two or more trees, mixed use development, liquor licences and signage.

  • Decision-maker: Council (often delegated to Senior Planning Officers)
  • Timeframe: 60 business days
  • Community input: application is usually advertised (unless exempt), community can submit objections and may attend a meeting to try and resolve issues
  • Assessment: considers feedback from referral authorities and objectors, and assesses against State and Local planning policies
  • Appeals: Applicants and third parties can appeal decisions at VCAT.

In some circumstances the Victorian Government is responsible for assessing and deciding planning proposals. These include:

  • VicSmart or Standard Planning Applications that have been referred or appealed to VCAT
  • Applications ‘called-in’ by the Minister for Planning – this can occur when the application raises a major policy issue or has been unreasonably prolonged.
  • Applications relating to specific State Government priorities – for example, proposals to build social and affordable housing under the ‘Big Housing Build’ program.

In these instances, the following applies:

  • Decision-maker: Varies (usually a Minister or delegated to a State Government Body)
  • Timeframe: Varies
  • Community input: in most cases community input is invited and considered. Council will also provide input on behalf of the community
  • Assessment: Varies depending on the type, but usually against State Government policy, strategic objectives and priorities, referral authorities and community/council feedback.
  • Appeals: Decisions cannot be appealed

Council’s Planning and Amenity Delegated Committee makes decisions on some planning permit applications. It is made up of all Councillors and meets monthly (separate from a Council Meeting) to focus on statutory planning, tree removal, traffic and parking matters.

Council receives many planning permit applications, so it would be extremely difficult for this Committee to review and decide on every one, particularly within the 60-day timeframe set by the State Government.

To address this, Council has delegated its decision-making power to officers and set specific circumstances (or ‘delegations’) when applications must be decided by the Planning and Amenity Delegated Committee itself. This is common practice across all councils.

Delegations where decisions must be made by the Planning and Amenity Delegated Committee include:

• any application that is ‘called in’ by a Councillor

• any application that officers recommend be approved but where:

  • o three or more objections have been received
  • o the development exceeds the discretionary height controls within a Major Activity Centre
  • o an extension of time is being requested for a permit that has already been granted, and it has already been extended two or more times.
Snapshot of planning applications in Bayside
Planning permit applications 2021-22 2020-21 2019-20
Assessed (VicSmart) 319 335 289
Assessed (Standard) 866 801 934
Approved/Supported/Amendment Approved/NOD 1003 937 1008
Refused/Not Supported/Amendment Refused 71 82 85
Other outcome (Withdrawn/Lapsed/No Permit required etc) 111 117 131


Planning matters at VCAT
Matters 2021-22 2020-21 2019-20
Considered at VCAT 69 77 72
Settled before hearing - Consent Orders 12 29 18
Heard and Council's decision upheld 23 20 32
Heard and Council's decision overturned 20 21 16
Other outcome (Withdrawn/Struck out etc) 14 7 5



Making and applying the planning rules

Throughout the Let’s Talk Planning we refer to the Planning Scheme – or the rulebook that outlines what can and can’t be done on land in Bayside.

While the State Government is responsible (or owns) the Planning Scheme, Councils have two important functions:

  • Developing proposed rules to be included in the Planning Scheme, tailored to the local area (for approval by the Minister for Planning); and
  • Applying the rules in the Planning Scheme through the administration of the Planning Permit Process.

How does it work? The process for both these functions is also set by the State Government and involve many steps. See our simple infographics:

Find out more on the amendment process and current amendments Council is working on

Tell us what you want to know

Want to know more? Take a look at our Quick facts about growth and Council’s response and the answers we have provided to the many questions submitted so far.

Look out for articles in Let’s Talk Bayside magazine, This Week in Bayside enewsletter and updates on social media. You can also sign-up for the Let’s Talk Planning enewsletter to receive updates direct to your inbox.

Want to know more?

Do you have further questions? Send them in with this form.

We will update the questions and answers regularly.

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