Government Tightens Control on Warehouse Uses

Earlier this year the State Government revised the definition of a Warehouse use within all planning schemes.  This revision has sought to clarify what is and isn’t included within the definition of Warehouse, but it may leave some businesses in the lurch.

The amendment was part of a larger project to introduce a range of reforms to the Planning Scheme.  This work has flowed from the streamlining planning initiative.  Other changes as part of this amendment included consolidation and revision of a number of definitions, updating some outdated policy guidelines and removing some planning permit triggers.

So What Has Changed?

The previous Warehouse definition was:

Land used to store or display goods. It may include the distribution and the wholesale selling of the goods.

The definition is now:

Land used to store or display goods. It may include the storage and distribution of goods for wholesale and the storage and distribution of goods for online retail.  It does not include premises allowing in-person retail or display of goods for retail, or allowing persons to collect goods that have been purchased online.

The new definition makes it explicit that retailing cannot be part of the use or even the picking up of goods sold online.  This has removed the potential for an ancillary retail use (such as a small factory sales outlet) as part of a warehouse use to be contemplated without seeking approval.  A retailing aspect to a warehouse can still be considered, but a planning permit would be required.  Furthermore, as a shop itself is prohibited in some zones (for example Industrial 1 Zone) only certain types of retailing such as restricted retailing (colloquially known as “bulky goods retailing) and manufacturing sales (this applies to goods that have been made materially different on site) could be considered.

It is also interesting that picking up of goods sold online has deliberately been excluded.  On one level I can understand this.  When the definition of Warehouse was first included as part of the New Format Planning schemes around 1999, online sales were not a major consideration.  Since then, the online retailing space has grown significantly.  The change to the definition allows for these uses to be considered with a planning permit, so that careful consideration of things such as parking, loading access and traffic can be considered.  However, this change has left these businesses without a clear understanding of what needs to be done.  There is no new use that encompasses picking up of good sold online.  What would such a business need to apply for?  Would it be considered a “retail premises” or would the council consider it an innominate use?  (An innominate use is one that is not otherwise described in the planning scheme.)

What may be easier for business owners and for councils is if a particular provision was written for Warehouse use, much the way there is for Home Based Businesses and for Motor Car Sales.  The provision could provide details of what is allowed without requiring a permit and areas that could be expanded on with a permit.  This would give flexibility for some of the new types of businesses that are establishing and also provide assurances to the councils that activities with the potential to change or impact an area will be considered under the planning process.  Something that I will put forward in the next survey about planning that I do!

Speaking of Home Based Businesses, this was also an area that was changed with this amendment.  You can read about the the changes to Home Based Businesses here.

If you need to incorporate more than just storage/distribution of goods within your warehouse premises we would be happy to help, just give us a call or send an email to get the ball rolling!