10 Apr Knox Business Planning Scheme Amendment
Recently someone came to us concerned that a new planning scheme amendment at Knox Council would have implications for some types of businesses such as gyms and leisure uses from being approved in the future, so I thought I would do some investigating.
The Facts About The Amendment
The Minister approved the Planning Scheme Amendment for Knox Council on the 21 March 2019. The amendment provides strategic direction for business and employment within Knox Council and implements the recommendations within the Knox’s Land for Business Directions Plan, 2017. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that there is a sufficient amount, type and mix of business land for the next 20 years to accommodate the needs of the local community. The strategic work carried out by the Council has identified that without significant direction and support there will not be sufficient business land available to support the needs of the community.
The amendment has not changed the zoning or planning controls for land. The amendment has updated relevant planning policies and has introduced a new Local Policy called Clause 22.02 Employment Land. This policy recognises the importance of the industrial and commercial land for providing a range of employment opportunities. The objectives of the Policy are to support employment generating uses and facilitate the appropriate development of the significant business land. As part of this the Policy seeks to protect the ‘Core Employment Land Areas’ from the encroachment of non employment generating uses. The ‘Core Employment Land Areas’ are shown below.
The local policy encourages the Council to support high employment generating and high economic output uses within this core land. The local policy does allow for the consideration of a range of uses for areas outside of the core area and for buildings fronting main roads. Consideration of other uses should be directed by the strategic direction of each of the Significant Business Locations. No definition of “non-employment uses” are provided for within the local policy. Further details can be found in the business report to provide guidance on this and the strategic direction for the Significant Business Locations.
Strategic Planning For Future Business In Knox
Prior to introducing the amendment Knox Council undertook lengthy strategic work. This led to the publishing of a report called “Knox Land For Business Directions Plan” that details the strategic research for future business and employment land in Knox. The details of this report have driven the planning scheme amendment. This plan contains more detail on what is meant by “non employment uses”. The report discusses the increased frequency of non-employment land uses, in particular indoor recreation and places of worship, within the Industrial zones being approved. They make the comment that these uses can be appropriate in areas close the activity centres or residential areas, but that in the core employment areas these types of uses can have the effect of reducing land available for uses that would generate significant employment and economic activity. Below is a diagram that summarises the key directions for business land in Knox.
The municipality is divided into 5 Significant Business Locations:
- Bayswater Business Precinct/Bayswater Activity Centre
- Wantirna Health Precinct
- Knox Central
- Burwood Highway East Corridor
Two of these areas: Bayswater Business Precinct/Bayswater Activity Centre and Scoresby-Rowville-Knoxfield also make up the ‘Core Employment Land Areas’ that are discussed within the new Clause 22.02 detailed above. The strategic direction for all of these significant locations are discussed below.
Bayswater Business Precinct/Bayswater Activity Centre
This location spans three local council areas: Knox, Maroondah and Yarra Ranges and a partnership project has been set up to support this area. The area is recognised as having a significant role in supporting ongoing economic activity in the municipality. The transition of uses and lot sizes will continue to be supported and there are larger strategic sites within this area that have the opportunity to provide significant employment growth. To support the role of this area non-employment uses are not supported.
The focus for this location is with the continued development of Caribbean Park as a high-quality employment destination. This is the other part of the core land and non-employment uses are also not encouraged in this area.
Wantirna Health Precinct
This area is recognised as a state significant health precinct. The focus for this location is to continue to support health uses and to assist with the Neighbourhood Centre to ultimately become integrated with and support the hospitals and the urban renewal proposed for west of the Mountain Highway. Complimentary uses such as allied health, retail, accommodation and offices will be encouraged within this area.
This location represents a major opportunity for employment and economic growth. There is Employment Land that is close to this activity centre that will attract a range of employment, recreation and other uses seeking this proximity. The ongoing transition from typical industrial towards a mix of uses is encouraged in this area, particularly uses within professional services and health care that align with identified propulsive sectors. Non-employment uses such as recreation and place of assembly should not be discouraged in the area so as to contribute to creating a diverse centre of employment, activity and community uses.
Burwood Highway East Corridor
This location is recognised as a strategic opportunity for redevelopment. There is no existing strategic plan for this area and it is recommended that strategic investigations be undertaken to consider the future opportunities for the location. It is noted that there are a number of sites that are underutilised and future strategic planning can support greater land use intensity and redevelopment of this area.
There are definitely implications for new uses such as gyms, dance schools, places of worship and other similar uses from being approved with the introduction of this new amendment. With a focus on the strategic directions detailed in the “Knox Land For Business Directions Plan” there will likely be less of these types of uses approved in the municipality, particularly within the core employment area. As discussed above these types of uses are not supported, or at least not encouraged within the majority of the ‘Significant Business Locations’ and this means that there are significantly less locations where these uses will be supported.
So where does this leave these types of businesses? To maximise the chance of success with a planning application it is recommended to work within the strategic guidance provided by the planning policy and the Directions Plan. This leaves the employment area near Knox Central as a potential area for these types of non-employment or low employment uses. There may also be opportunities for some businesses to align themselves with the health services and be a complimentary use for the Wantirna Health Precinct. Lastly, there are a number of smaller commercial and industrial areas that are not part of any of the Significant Business Locations. These areas may also be suitable for these types of uses. Of course, existing approved uses can continue without any disruption in these core employment areas. However, it would be likely that any future request to expand or alter permit conditions for these uses would be refused by the Council as well.
If you are looking to set up a leisure or congregation use in Knox we would recommend that you first discuss your project with the Council or a town planner in order to maximise your chance of success.