New rural housing areas could soon open up around Grassmere, Hawkesdale, Wooslthorpe and Koroit after a state government planning panel gave a conditional tick of approval to a major Moyne Shire Council planning scheme amendment.
The C70 planning amendment is designed to implement the council's Rural Housing and Settlement Strategy, which will guide the way land is developed for housing in Moyne Shire over the coming decades.
In particular, the strategy will set the rules for zoning and subdividing agricultural land, so-called "rural living" zones, and areas on the fringe of smaller townships in the shire.
Under the proposed changes, areas around Grassmere, Hawkesdale, Woolsthorpe, Koroit, Kirkstall, Crossley, Southern Cross, and Illowa would be moved from the farming zone into rural living zone.
The changes would make it much easier to subdivide land into smaller lots and build houses without having to apply for a permit.
The areas around Grassmere, Hawkesdale and Woolsthorpe would be rezoned to allow blocks as small as one hectare, while the areas around Koroit, Kirkstall, Crossley, Southern Cross, and Illowa would have a two-hectare minimum.
Under the farming zone the minimum lot size is 40 hectares, so the current form of the Moyne Shire planning scheme arguably raises obstacles to rural development.
Planning permit applications for smaller "lifestyle blocks" on the agricultural fringe have been a fraught issue for the council as the regional housing crisis has grown more acute, with councillors often approving subdivisions against the advice of planning officers.
After more than 60 submissions from Moyne ratepayers the amendment was debated at the monthly council meeting in May 2022, where councillors suggested changing the two-hectare minimum on the fringes of Koroit and its neighbouring townships to one hectare, but the planning panel rejected the change.
The panel said the extra reduction lacked "strategic justification", may not have had the support of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and would force the council to re-advertise the amendment for further public feedback.
In its report the panel said "the majority of council's post-exhibition changes should be pursued through a fresh Amendment process, if they are to be pursued at all".
Moyne Shire mayor Karen Foster welcomed the panel report, saying it had been a "really thorough, independent process".
"We thank the community for providing their feedback and the panel for their report and recommendations," she said.
Councillors will vote on whether to endorse the panel's recommendations in early 2023 before the amendment goes to the planning minister for final approval.
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