Garden Area Or Open Space? What Is The Difference?

 “An uncovered outdoor area of a dwelling or residential building normally associated with a garden. It includes open entertaining areas, decks, lawns, garden beds, swimming pools, tennis courts and the like. It does not include a driveway, any area set aside for car parking, any building or roofed area,  not under the eaves, or any area with a dimension of less than one metre.”

Quality Established Homes in Sub-Precinct A  in the General Residential Zone

Judith Dixon writes: “the 35% minimum garden area requirements are nothing more than a distraction on the part of the Victorian Government Planning Dept to divert attention away from their back flip

in agreeing, after a decade of refusing,  to amend their flawed height schedule which had cost the Councils and their communities millions of Dollars”.


Mandatory maximum building heights and number of storeys are now being introduced into the Neighbourhood Residential Zone and the General Residential Zone. They will provide greater certainty to the community about residential change in their neighbourhoods. The height schedule for the Residential Growth Zone, (Main Road Precinct) will remain discretionary.

Garden Area Example
Click to enlarge

“These minimum garden areas might mean that some developments, such as terraced townhouse projects, will have slightly less site coverage than the previous standard maximum 6o% requirement”. For example, full length common driveways and paths, previously part of open space,  could now be deemed as part of a building’s site coverage”. “These hastily and poorly conceived minimum garden area requirements have been designed to give the impression they will somehow put a brake on over development while being seen as Government’s response to climate change by reducing Melbourne’s carbon footprint and growing a green economy”. “Children can still play cricket in the backyard even though it will be defined as a garden area from now on in”.

Garden areas alongside driveways are not garden areas because they have a dimension of less than a metre!                         Click to enlarge

“The definition of garden area is also likely to be given a serious workout at both Council and VCAT over the coming months given the potential ambiguity over the definition provided”.  “We will expect to see some real pushing of the boundaries in the coming months over this definition”. Ratio Consultants

The necessary amendments to the building act and building regulations have not been contemplated, resulting in confusion about how the minimum garden area requirement is to be applied and enforced when assessing single dwellings that do not require Council approval.

Press Release on Minimum Garden Areas

Neighbourhood Residential Zone

Council could be able to retain the one dwelling already prescribed.

The key changes to the Neighbourhood Residential Zone are as follows:

  • Removal of the previous restriction on the maximum number of dwellings per lot.
  • Amendment to the purpose of the zone to remove the previous references to limiting opportunities for increased residential development and the implementation of character policy/adopted guidelines.
  • Requiring that the schedule to the zone must contain the neighbourhood, heritage, environment or landscape character objective for the area to be achieved.
  • The introduction of a mandatory minimum garden area requirement for lots greater than 400 square metres and above ranging from between 25 and 35 per cent of lot area (irrespective of whether a planning permit is required).
  • A mandatory maximum height of 9 metres and 2 storeys with potential to exceed this height only in particular circumstances including on sloping sites, land subject to flooding and existing/adjoining building heights.
  • Revised transitional provisions which amongst other things seeks to exempt planning permit applications for the construction or extension of a dwelling lodged before the VC110 approval date.

General Residential Zone

Currently sub-precincts  A & B

The key changes to the General Residential Zone are as follows:

  • Change to the purpose of the zone to remove reference to implementing neighbourhood character policy/adopted guidelines with the removal of the reference to ‘moderate’ housing growth and encourage housing with good access to infrastructure.
  • Requiring that the schedule to the zone may contain neighbourhood character objectives.
  • The introduction of a mandatory minimum garden area requirement for lots greater than 400 square metres and above ranging from between 25 and 35 per cent of lot area (irrespective of whether a planning permit is required).
  • A mandatory maximum height of 11 metres and 3 storeys (irrespective of whether a permit is required), with potential to exceed this height only in particular circumstances including sloping sites, land subject to flooding and existing/adjoining building heights.
  • Revised transitional provisions which amongst other things seeks to exempt planning permit applications for the construction or extension of a dwelling or residential building lodged before the VC110 approval date.

Residential Growth Zone

Main Road Precinct. No Change to discretionary options

The changes to the Residential Growth Zone are less extensive but include some minor changes to the purpose of the zone and a new provision outlining that the schedule to the zone must contain the design objectives to be achieved for the area.

Whilst no changes have been made to the existing preferred height of 13.5 metres and Council’s retain the ability to nominate a mandatory height in the schedule to the zone, there are revised exemptions allowing exceedance of the mandatory height in some particular circumstances including sloping sites, land subject to flooding and existing/adjoining building heights.



  1. Tich says:

    All of them, including Manningham Council, its well paid consultants and VCAT had supported the ridiculous height formula. “We can’t limit storeys because a builder might want mezzanines or build a split level” they said.
    But just when you thought we might be getting some sensible planning they have dropped another bomb by calling open space minimum garden areas which is ridiculous. An Apartment building’s site coverage will still remain at 60% because there is not much paving required except for a short driveway into a basement.

    • Handsoff says:

      Driveways are not included in the minimum garden area because they are deemed to be part of the building’s site coverage so it would reduce the size of townhouse development. It is very confusing which makes me think it was a hasty last minute alteration after the height dilemma had been addressed, a peg to put their hat on so to speak.

  2. Robbo says:

    Under the new “regulations” some developments might have some additional space if there is extra paving but developers are more likely to lay only what is necessary…but to what extent? There are so many variables…what is the minimum size of a driveway or the width of paths? The 60% maximum site coverage for developments should have been retained at least there was more certainty at 40% open space.

  3. Anonomye says:

    Apparently you can have a garden area on both sides of the driveway, which is the standard practice and a good thing for the environment, but it is not regarded as a garden area, not because it might be 30 metres long with shrubs and flowers, but because it is less than a metre wide. This is bureaucracy gone mad!

    • Mardene says:

      The planning minister has no planning credentials whatsoever he is a stooge for the faceless and nameless bureaucrats who are running our country. Their aim is to house the increased population in concrete dog boxes without infrastructure using stealth and deception against the will of our people.

  4. S.S.P. says:

    A new Garden Area must be set aside reserving as garden area up to 35% of a lot upon subdivision. But this is a subterfuge. It applies only to new lots above 400 Most new multi-unit lots will be less than this so the garden area will not apply.

  5. Backlash. says:

    Melbourne has never faced such a planning crisis. The city’s annual population increase is almost the size of New York’s, a city about three times as large as Melbourne. Little will be left of the wonderful Melbourne so loved over the generations in this relentless rush towards unrestricted development.

    Residents can change the future the government and developers believe they have fixed. Cities should not exist to make fortunes for the few, but to enhance the lives of the many. Residents vote. We all can take the opportunity to change the script allocated to us and write our own stories for our city.

  6. Terrence A says:

    There were very few consultants, including those engaged whose senior staff had previously worked with the Manningham Council, who would not have given the infrastructure in the Doncaster strategy a tick. Yet today, with only about half of it developed, we see the main arterial roads reaching gridlock with the surrounding street layout offering no alternative routes for traffic dispersion.
    Developments on the main cross roads outside of the over development of Doncaster Hill should have a reduced height because they lack the carrying capacity and ALL developments adjacent and away from main roads should continue with dual occupancy.

    • Magpie says:

      It is not necessarily cronyism. None of Council’s amendments, strategies etc have ever been rejected or substantially modified by any of the consultants they have engaged. The reason for this is that they are unlikely to get any more work if the desired conclusion is not reached. A good deal of their work is to help overcome resident objections. Why bother with consultants at all if they are not working in the interests of the community.

  7. Talford says:

    The driveway shown in your picture could be about 100 sqm, which is equal to two/2 storey town houses, would have to be added to the building’s site coverage. If the land is 1000 sqm and the driveway is 100 sqm plus the garden area of 350 sqm (450sqm) would mean the maximum site coverage of the development would be 550 sqm (55%) instead of the usual 60% which is significant.

    • Refulgent says:

      It won’t reduce high density because the reduced area of site coverage will cause builders to compensate and make the apartments smaller to retain the same dwelling yield. It might also reduce the price of land where town houses are prescribed which is bad news for people owning land who want to leave the precinct. It is noteworthy that the so called garden areas were not even mentioned at the advisory panel hearing which makes me think they are nothing but a last minute PR exercise.

      • Sando says:

        If you are going to have these areas set aside for gardens then you need paths to get to them. The area on the opposite side to the driveway is between four to six feet wide multiplied by the length of the building and is counted as a garden area but there would have to be a path to it so the area of the path would need to be deducted along with the driveway??

    • Gerald says:

      “It’s all about giving more Victorians access to the outdoor space that is the cornerstone of great homes, and giving kids more opportunities to form their childhood memories in backyards every day all over the state”….What a lot of Baloney! The opposite is true, it will only be 25% if the land is less than 650 sqm and none at all if if the land is less than 400 sqm.

  8. Le Storm says:

    I don’t recall the public or any of our politicians ever asking for record increases in population or one room apartments, where you can’t swing a cat, but that is what we are going to get in the future whether we like it or not. I heard on the news tonight that apartments without a bedroom will be acceptable in the future, a sort of bedsitter like in old London town. I can’t believe it! This was not discussed in a recent review where minimum standards were put in place. I wonder whether the lending authorities would regard them as a security.
    My guess would be that they, (the faceless bureaucrats), want the building boom to continue, (it is our only industry), at the expense of our living standards.

  9. H Shillinglaw says:

    It is inevitable that these tiny apartments will be overcrowded and occupants will be storing their belongings in the wrong places which contributed to the Lacrosse building fire in Melbourne.
    But the real problem is that Australian buildings are cloaked in “millions of square metres” of flammable cladding, and authorities have been aware of the safety threat since at least 2010.
    In the aftermath of London’s deadly tower fire, Fairfax Media revealed that the Australian Building Codes Board was told seven years ago that combustible cladding was widely installed across the nation. If that is the situation then the credibility of the authority would have to questioned.

  10. Makem says:

    Hi Sando,
    I think concrete paving, other than the driveway, would be included in the garden area and not the building’s site coverage. If not they could be laid after the final inspection.

  11. Neville Paradine says:

    It would be better there be no community consultation sessions at all as far as I am concerned because they pick and choose the questions they want to answer.
    If a resident raises a question about a delicate issue, that might be of concern to everybody present, the enquirer is informed that he/she will receive a written response in due course thereby restricting their answer to just one person.

  12. Not So Squeezy says:

    There are a number of issues with these garden areas that are not being understood. On blocks of land, upwards of 650sqm in area, in either Sub-precinct A or B the site coverage of a townhouse development could be reduced to as low as 46% so it is very likely a development, where under previous provisions it might be possible to build five units, could be reduced to only three after the garden area requirements and the common driveway are deducted.

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