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How do I? Planning
Heritage Planning Guidelines
Organisation : How do I? Planning : Land subdivide/consolidation
(last modified 2/12/2004 4:08:16 PM)
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Subdivision and Consolidation of Land

Guideline basis

A permit is required for subdivision or consolidation of places listed in the Schedule to the Heritage Overlay of local planning schemes and for places on the Victorian Heritage Register.

Subdivision: Background

Subdivision, if approved, is not a readily reversible change, and should be approached with extreme care. While subdivision itself is merely lines on a map, the purpose of subdivision is generally to enable the sale or disposal of the separate lots. There is usually an expectation of the construction of either fencing and or buildings on the separate lots created by the subdivision. It is often the impact of this future development rather than the subdivision itself which may prejudice the significance of the place.

Image of Earlsbrae Hall, Essendon

Earlsbrae Hall, Essendon

It is important for decision makers when assessing a subdivision application to be mindful that while heritage controls may still apply to the subdivided property, it may be too late and too difficult to refuse a permit for new development once the subdivision has occurred. It is therefore desirable to understand as much as possible what development is proposed for the site at the time of the subdivision application. The outcome of the subdivision is crucial to the possible setting of the site and all possible development options should be explored.

The true significance of a place is often reliant upon it being seen in its original setting or context, with all its related elements including gardens, trees, grounds, surrounding pastures, outbuildings, fences, paths, gates or paving. If the place is isolated from its setting, its significance may be diminished or even lost. Cultural significance of a place may also relate to its visual prominence, in such a case setting is of special importance. Consequently the development that results on the subdivided or consolidated land has the potential to destroy or diminish the significance of a place.

This means that development on that land should be controlled to minimise any adverse impact. The physical relationship of separate structures to each other as well as the space between structures needs to be considered in assessing permit applications.

To assess an application to subdivide a heritage place information may be required as to:-

  • All significant elements of the place, including those elements that contribute to the setting (eg buildings, outbuildings, pathways, driveways, plantings etc)
  • Important views to and from the place (The placement of the features on a heritage place can be significant due to the views obtained from or to that place.); and
  • An appropriate curtilage to maintain the significance of the place

In the urban context the issue of subdivision will more typically arise in relation to larger residential, commercial or industrial properties and institutional sites such as church complexes, schools or hospitals.

Subdivision may result in development that affects the consistent rhythm and pattern of buildings in the street where the property is located in an important streetscape characterised by consistent property sizes and building forms. For example, a historic commercial or residential street may be characterised by properties of a consistent width and buildings of a consistent scale and form.

In the rural context the issue is more likely to arise in relation to large acreages where there are economic pressures to subdivide. This may include coastlines and areas under pressure from expanding towns or resorts. Depressed farm incomes may mean that subdivision will lead to an injection of capital necessary to maintain existence. For example, there may be an historical setting of open farm space between residential areas and coast lines.

Applicants often suggest that the need to subdivide is justified by the need to maintain financial viability of the place (ie the property is too large for the current owner to maintain). Consideration should be given to whether the subdivision is the only way of ensuring long term conservation of the most significant element(s) of the place or whether other options may exist. If no other options exist it may be beneficial to obtain a type of bond to ensure that the conservation works do occur. Subdivision may ultimately be seen as the only means of conserving a place, by providing funds for its long term conservation. In this case the gains from subdivision should outweigh any losses pertaining to significance in order to be justified.

The same principles apply to the realignment of property boundary lines.


Consolidation: Background

The process of consolidation (merging two or more titles together to become one) is likely to have a negative impact than subdivision on the conservation of individual places but may affect designated heritage areas. The critical issue is not so much the consolidation itself, but the impact that future development may have on the consolidated site and surrounding area.

Consideration should be given to whether the consolidation may result in development that affects the rhythm and pattern of buildings in the street where the property is located in an important group of buildings or streetscape characterised by consistent property sizes and building forms.

For example, a historic commercial or residential street may be characterised by properties of a consistent narrow width and buildings of a consistent scale and form. Consolidation of land and resulting development may upset the consistent rhythm and pattern of buildings in the street by creating a large bulky building out of scale with its neighbours.

In some cases, consolidation may benefit a significant heritage place. For example, consolidation may result in a historic place that has previously been subdivided regaining its original or historic curtilage. The consolidation may contribute to the recovery of a lost setting of a place or may reinstate a former physical connection or previously built-in view. In the latter case it may enhance the value of the surrounding area and re-establish lost visual links.

In Caulfield, subdivision of the historic property "Labassa" in the early 20th century had resulted in surrounding development and a block of flats directly adjacent to the building�s facade. The National Trust was able to purchase the block of flats and these were subsequently demolished to reinstate the view of the front of the building.

(Note: Guidelines for Internal Subdivision are located in the section "Internal Alterations")

Objectives of guidelines

  • To ensure that the potential negative effects of subdivision on cultural heritage significance of a place are minimised
  • To ensure that an appropriate setting and context for heritage places is maintained.
  • To ensure that an appropriate setting and context for heritage places is maintained
  • To ensure that heritage places continue to be used and conserved

Guidelines: Subdivison

  • Subdivision should not impact negatively on the significance of the place.
  • Subdivision should be avoided or limited if it is detrimental to the associational or historical links which are essential to maintaining significance and understanding of the place (ie if it leads to the physical separation and isolation of important elements of the historic place - for example, the separation of a historic house from its stables or outbuildings, garden etc).
  • Subdivision should be avoided or limited if resulting development, including boundary fences and buildings, will be detrimental to the visual appearance of the heritage place or be detrimental to the significant view lines to and from the heritage place. Maintenance of an appropriate visual setting is essential.
  • Subdivision should be avoided or limited if it, or any resulting development, will impact on the significance of an adjacent or surrounding heritage place.
  • All applications for subdivision involving protected land should be accompanied by design guidelines that include proposals for building envelopes, materials, colours and fences for the subdivided lots
  • Subdivision in the midst of an important group of buildings or streetscape should be avoided if it may result in development that affects the consistent rhythm and pattern of buildings. Subdivision should also be avoided in this situation where it adversely affects the historically important views and interrelationship of a group of buildings
  • For larger properties such as homesteads and the "home paddock", all the main structures associated with the property which may include the homestead, stables, woolshed, barn, original fences, paths and dry stone walls should be retained in single ownership. This may also include parts of the site of archaeological significance such as the sites of earlier houses, underground water storage vessels etc. Plantings such as driveway avenues, an important garden associated with the place, walled gardens, hedges and the like should also be retained in the same ownership as the main building with which they are associated
  • If subdivision is put forward as the only means of ensuring the long term preservation of a property, evidence of having examined the feasibility of other alternatives should be submitted with a permit application or conservation management plan

Image of Heritage Registered House, Acland St, St Kilda

Heritage Registered House
Acland St, St Kilda

  • The history of the property�s boundaries should be taken into consideration. If, for example, the original property had increased in size over time, it may be appropriate to subdivide along original lines and return the property to its original size

Where subdivision is permitted:

  • Site new boundaries away from existing vegetation. Create new boundaries that are located in a way to develop the lot for the intended purpose without losing the existing significant vegetation
  • The heritage place should be given visual prominence over potential development on the subdivided land. This should be shown on a planning application showing vistas to the settings that are to be retained to the place and the location of all significant features.
  • An undeveloped space should exist between the heritage place and any potential development on the subdivided land. Landscaping may be appropriate where it does not alter the significance of the surrounding landscape
  • Development envelopes (that is, areas in which development may occur on a site) should ensure a transition between potential new development and the significant building or structures in terms of scale, height and massing so that the heritage place is not overwhelmed or dominated by the new
  • Provide adequate land and access for existing buildings and vegetation to protect their setting and possible options for future use

Guidelines: Consolidation

  • Consolidation should be avoided where it detrimentally affects the significance of a heritage place or area
  • Consolidation of land in the midst of an important group of buildings or streetscape should be avoided if it may result in development that affects the consistent rhythm and pattern of buildings
  • Consolidation should be encouraged where it will benefit the significance or understanding of a heritage place

(Note: Guidelines for Internal Subdivision are located in the section "Internal Alterations")

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