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Planning and Building in Surrey Hills

Rapid population growth in Melbourne in recent years has seen increased demand for higher density housing in the inner and middle ring suburbs of Melbourne.


This has mostly been in the form of apartment housing, often in 3-4 level buildings, along main roads and in some local residential streets, with higher building heights in and around shopping centres and railway stations.


Planning for the recent growth of Melbourne has been guided by major strategic planning policies such as Melbourne 2030. These strategies aim to provide a framework for governments at all levels to respond to the diverse needs of those who live and work in and near to Melbourne, and those who visit.


Plan Melbourne is a more recent policy which outlines the vision for Melbourne’s growth to the year 2050. It seeks to define what kind of city Melbourne will be and identifies the infrastructure, services and major projects which need to be put in place to underpin the city’s growth. It is promoted as a blueprint for Melbourne’s future prosperity, liveability and sustainability.


Surrey Hills & Mont Albert, with their wide tree lined streets, large blocks, access to schools and retail/community services and good train and bus links within 11km of the city has become attractive to developers in recent years – seeking sites to redevelop for apartment living.

The difference between planning and building

Planning considers the way land is used and developed, and how this impacts the character and amenity (liveability) of an area.


The Boroondara Planning Scheme outlines objectives, policies and controls for the use, development and protection of land.


A Planning Permit is a legal document that gives permission to use or develop land in a certain way. It usually includes conditions and approved plans which must be complied with. Boroondara City Council is responsible for deciding on planning permit applications in Boroondara unless the Minister for Planning appoints himself or herself as responsible authority.


Council’s role is to prepare and implement local planning strategies that guide how land in Boroondara is used and developed, within the framework of the state planning policies.


The strategies cover four main areas:

  1. Housing and residential: The  Neighbourhood Character Study guides development according to strict policy guidelines aimed at protecting valued neighbourhood character while  the  Housing Strategy manages the provision of housing with emphasis on the need for various housing types within the context of demographic information – in Boroondara for example there is an ageing population and a high need and demand for different forms of aged housing.

  2. Shopping and commercial:  Shopping and commercial areas strategies often focus on specific parts of the municipality.

  3. Open space and environment:  Open Space Strategy provides opportunities in the natural environment for relaxation and fitness, while protecting biodiversity.

  4. : identify and protect the heritage of places across Boroondara for current and future generations.


Planning permits are required for all major construction projects (such as multi dwellings) and for all projects in residential areas covered by overlays such as a Heritage overlay.


Council uses the planning policies and guidelines set out in the Boroondara Planning Scheme to make decisions about Planning Permit applications.


For example, the planning controls set out in the scheme determine whether a Planning Permit is needed to:

  • make changes to use the land for a particular purpose, for example, a medical centre

  • extend or renovate a house

  • build a new front fence

  • subdivide a property.


Building is concerned with safe construction practices, and considers whether the construction work conforms to building regulations, the Building Code of Australia and relevant Australian standards.

A Building Permit is a legal document, issued before construction commences, to ensure the building meets the minimum requirements for the health, safety and amenity of occupants and the public.


Building Permits can be issued by Council or a Private Building Surveyor.


What part does the Surrey Hills & Mont Albert Progress Association play in the planning process?


The Surrey Hills & Mont Albert Progress Association Inc. (SHMAPA) values the prevailing neighbourhood character, amenity and heritage of Surrey Hills & Mont Albert. 

The SHMAPA has a constructive attitude towards the evolution of Surrey Hills & Mont Albert, and welcomes appropriate developments which respond to, respect and are consistent with the prevailing neighbourhood character and heritage of Surrey Hills & Mont Albert.

The Association is keen to support and challenge the State Government, Boroondara and Whitehorse Councils, developers, residents, traders and other stakeholders to achieve these aims by representing the local Surrey Hills & Mont Albert communities.

Over the last seven years the Association has reviewed applications for many planning permits to construct mixed use multistorey apartment buildings in the Union Road Shopping Precinct and the Canterbury Road Commercial Corridor. As a result of these reviews objections have often been lodged with Boroondara Council.

In the main those objections related to contravention of various aspects of the Boroondara Planning Scheme, degraded neighbourhood amenity and poor apartment amenity, together with increased traffic and parking congestion.


It is important to note that the SHMAPA, in lodging objections to particular applications, has often been concerned about building design, aesthetics and the manner in which a building may fit the streetscape concerned. The Association has therefore been proactive to achieve design changes and other planning permit conditions that result in improvements to a proposed development.

Accordingly while VCAT may ultimately grant approval for a particular development the role of SHMAPA, often with the support of Council, can achieve a better design outcome for the community.  

Examples of recent planning permit applications which SHMAPA has raised issues with are:


426-430 Canterbury Road, Surrey Hills (on the corner of Warrigal Road, opposite St Stephens Church). Boroondara Council subsequently refused the application for a 6 storey building with 61 serviced apartments. The applicant had partial success at VCAT with the Tribunal directing the grant of a permit subject to 2 levels of the building being removed and the loss of 12 apartments.


383-387 Mont Albert Road, Mont Albert (on the corner of Stanhope Street). Whitehorse Council subsequently refused the application for 15 two storey dwellings. The decision of VCAT is now awaited.

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