VIA sets benchmark for new aged care planning standards

Via Architects has set a new benchmark for aged care design in Victoria, after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled that plans for two separate developments in Melbourne successfully met new State planning policy for the industry.

VIA’s Lysterfield and Preston schemes are the first seniors living facilities to be assessed against new State legislation known as Amendment VC152, clause 53.17 of the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP). The former is now a Red Dot Decision which will be referenced to help clarify planning decisions in future.

Amendment VC152 has been operational since October 2018. It sets a new standard for assessing residential aged care facilities and acknowledges that they have “inherently different built forms”. Residential aged care facilities were previously assessed as standard residential buildings.

The shift has been driven by Victoria’s ageing population, and a demand for facilities that allow people to ‘age in place’: that is, in the area of their current residence with established family and support networks.

Success at VCAT for aged care design

VIA’s original plan for a standalone residential aged care facility in Lysterfield did not receive planning permission from Knox City Council. Building height, massing and suitability of location were all in question.

In March 2019, VIA submitted a re-design based on the parameters of clause 53.17 to VCAT that was subsequently approved.

“We took a ‘measured risk’ by being the first to submit a design to VCAT in relation to the new legislation,” said Via Managing Director Frank Bambino.

“But we believed the scheme took into account State and local planning policies, and met the needs of the local community. The positive outcome at VCAT reflected that we struck the right balance.”

The building design proposed for Lysterfield is long and level, and comprised of two different heights – both two and three storeys – in response to the slope of the site. Residential neighbours are located on the northern, eastern and western boundaries.

VCAT agreed with council that “a residential aged care facility in this location should be more constrained and tempered than it might be in other locations in metropolitan Melbourne” but conceded that the building was not unduly high and its impact was softened by generous landscape zones.

Clarity for aged care planning approvals process

The Lysterfield Red Dot Decision has already played a role in assisting planning approvals for residential aged care developments.

VCAT granted a planning permit for the second development presented by VIA – a residential aged care facility and retirement village in Preston – just three weeks after a May 2019 hearing. By contrast, the Lysterfield decision was heard in March 2019 with a decision handed down after a wait of three and a half months.

Clause 53.17 in the State Planning Scheme applies in all residential zones except the Low Density Residential Zone. It includes specific requirements for building height, site coverage, setbacks, internal amenity and external amenity that override mandatory and discretionary requirements of the applicable local council zones and overlays.

Other relevant planning scheme provisions, or planning policy more generally, must still be considered and balanced in the context of an overall integrated planning decision.

Please direct media enquiries to: Michelle Newell, Marketing Manager.


Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, 25 February 2019, ‘Navigating the maze: an overview of Australia’s current aged care system,’ Background Paper 1,
Victoria State Government, Planning: Residential Aged Care Facilities,
Victoria State Government, Planning: Schemes and amendments, Planning and Environment Act 1987, ‘Victoria Planning Provisions Amendment VC152 Explanatory Report’,
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Japara Developments Pty Ltd v Knox CC (Red Dot) [2019] VCAT 828
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Stellar 206 Pty Ltd v Darebin CC [2019] VCAT 886

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