27 October 2020

COVID-19 economic recovery in Melbourne - planning scheme amendment introduced to assist the Victorian hospitality industry

This article was written by Mark Beaufoy and Tom Crompton. 

COVID-19 economic recovery in Melbourne - planning scheme amendment introduced to assist the Victorian hospitality industry

On 21 October 2020, the Victorian Minister for Planning introduced further temporary changes to clause 52.18 of the planning scheme (via Amendment VC193), to provide greater flexibility to the hospitality industry to transition to outdoor dining, while COVID-19 restrictions remain on patron numbers for indoor dining.[1]

Currently, Melbourne’s customer-facing hospitality businesses are scheduled to re-open from 11:59 pm on Tuesday, 27 October 2020, for predominantly outdoor seated service (up to 50 patrons) and up to 20 patrons indoors, with density limits and requirements for COVID-safe plans.

VC193 responds to this planned re-opening, by amending the COVID-19 state of emergency exemption (clause 52.18), by allowing existing pubs, cafes, restaurants and other food and drink premises to use adjoining land for its food and drink business. In addition, public land (such as parks,  streets, footpaths, car parks and the like) can accommodate patrons and to prepare and serve food and drinks without the need for a planning permit.

Provided certain requirements (in clause 52.18-7) are met, many food and drink premises, function centres and wineries are also now exempt from certain requirements in planning schemes and their existing planning permits relating to –

  • the provision of car parking and vehicle access;
  • the layout or location of food or drink preparation, sale or consumption areas;
  • the layout or location of certain kinds of buildings or works.

VC193 will also remove the need for a planning permit for the construction of certain kinds of temporary or moveable buildings associated with land uses for the preparation of sale of food or drinks in certain circumstances. 

The delivery, loading and unloading exemptions that were the subject of our Client Update on 15 April 2020 also remain in force.

These planning exemptions apply while the state of emergency declaration relating to COVID-19 is in force and for 12 months after.

The exemptions are also subject to meeting certain requirements set out in clause 52.18-7.  These include controls to ensure that land use and development does not unreasonably affect the amenity of the neighbourhood, requirements that the uses and any buildings or works do not remain or continue after the exemption period (unless allowed by the planning scheme), controls on operating hours, and additional controls on some uses and developments in or adjacent to residential zones and areas subject to inundation or bushfire hazard risk. Any requirements of a Heritage Overlay do still apply.

Local laws will also still need to be complied with and advice should be sought from local councils, prior to commencing any new use or development under the new clause 52.18. 

These planning exemptions will go some way to assisting hospitality businesses to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 shut-down, particularly as we enter the warmer months. 

The full amendment in VC193 can be viewed here. If you have any questions about the amendment, please contact Mark Beaufoy or Tom Crompton.

[1] https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/planning-exemptions-smooth-way-outdoor-dining


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