Thank you for contributing to the development of the Nillumbik Shire Council Neighbourhood Character Strategy 2023

The strategy covers all residential areas across Nillumbik Shire (including the rural townships) and aims to guide new development, ensuring it respects and responds to the existing or preferred valued features or character of an area.

The Neighbourhood Character Strategy was adopted at the 12 December 2023 Council Meeting. For minutes of the meeting refer here

Engagement for the project was conducted across three separate phases and was effective in securing 455 written submissions, with 175 people visiting associated place-based pop-up events for the project and over 7,150 people visiting the Participate Nillumbik project page. Significantly smaller numbers of submissions were received to Phase 3 ‘close the loop’ engagement in comparison to previous rounds, which it is considered reflects the amount of engagement already undertaken and effectiveness of changes embedded into the draft NCS as a result of previous engagement. This has resulted in a robust and effective strategy. Please see the document menu for analysis and response to submissions for all three phases of engagement.

Next Steps

Council have commenced the development of a new Housing Strategy. The Housing Strategy works alongside the Neighbourhood Character Strategy to allow Council to plan for and manage future housing growth in the Shire, while protecting neighbourhood character. To stay informed on the Housing Strategy register here

A future planning scheme amendment to implement the adopted Neighbourhood Character Strategy into the Nillumbik planning scheme will be run as a separate project. The amendment process will have its own extensive round of consultation and right of review, in accordance with the statutory process set down by the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Importantly the amendment to introduce the Neighbourhood Character Strategy into the Nillumbik Planning Scheme will not be progressed until the Housing Strategy (now in development) is completed and adopted (programmed for August 2024), as the strategies are iterative in providing a strategic evidenced base for the proposed residential framework for Nillumbik.

Want to see the neighbourhood character type and design guidelines applied to your property?

Property Search

Click on 'Search Now' to search for your neighbourhood character type and associated objectives and design guidelines.

About the Project

Neighbourhood Character is what visually differentiates one neighbourhood from another, and is the measure of a locality’s identity. It encompasses the way a neighbourhood looks and feels. It is created through a combination of the following attributes:

Watch this short video to learn more about neighbourhood character and what it means for you.

The Neighbourhood Character Strategy is being developed in response to an associated priority action within the current Nillumbik Council Plan 2021-2025 as well as to reflect changes to State Government policy and planning reforms over many years. It will replace the existing ‘Neighbourhood Character Study: Residential Design Guidelines’ prepared in 2001 (amended in 2003).

The new Strategy will strengthen Council’s ability to protect the character of the Shire’s residential areas, including within its townships, and provide greater clarity to landowners, developers, architects, designers, Council, State Government and the community about what constitutes neighbourhood character and what are appropriate siting and design responses for Nillumbik.

Once finalised, the new Neighbourhood Character Strategy and design guidelines are scheduled to be implemented and given statutory weight through a planning scheme amendment to the Nillumbik Planning Scheme. Consideration of that planning scheme amendment will be subject to further community consultation, which will include full public exhibition of the amendment in accordance with the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

To develop the Strategy, neighbourhood character profiles are used to document the key attributes of a character area, and subsequently form a major component of the Strategy itself. The profiles comprise precinct maps, character statements, character elements, and issues and threats applicable to that character area.

The Neighbourhood Character Strategy aims to guide new development in residential areas, ensuring that it respects and responds to the existing or preferred valued features or character of an area, whilst importantly still meeting Shire-wide targets required by State Planning Policy for growth in housing supply and housing diversity.

The following documents are provided in the project library as further reference and reading regarding the project:

  • A first draft of the Neighbourhood Character Strategy being exhibited for community and stakeholder feedback.
  • A Housing Policy Hierarchy that identifies the how the Neighbourhood Character Strategy sits within the broader planning policy and the role the Strategy plays in developing the Shire’s housing policy.
  • A Local Policies/Strategies Framework that identifies the existing Council policies and strategies that influence upon an area’s neighbourhood character.
  • A Summary Brochure for the project
  • A document containing responses to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that may assist with general queries people may have regarding development of the Nillumbik Neighbourhood Character Strategy.

The Neighbourhood Character Strategy only pertains to land within residential zones in the Shire. The map in the drop down below broadly identifies the residential areas that will be covered by the Neighbourhood Character Strategy (orange areas), which includes all residential land within the:

  • General Residential Zone (GRZ)
  • Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ)
  • Mixed Use Zone (MUZ)
  • Low Density Residential Zone (LDRZ) and
  • Township Zone (TZ).

Localities that are covered by the study area include:

  • Diamond Creek
  • Eltham
  • Eltham North
  • Greensborough
  • Hurstbridge
  • North Warrandyte
  • Panton Hill
  • Plenty
  • Research
  • St Andrews
  • Wattle Glen
  • Yarrambat

Some localities are split across the Urban Growth Boundary and Green Wedge, including Diamond Creek, Hurstbridge, North Warrandyte, Panton Hill, Plenty, Research, St Andrews, Wattle Glen and Yarrambat. As noted above, only the residential zoned land within these localities are included within the Strategy's study area.

These areas within the Urban Growth Boundary are more likely to experience housing change and growth into the future and therefore need guidelines in place to ensure any new development is respectful of the relevant neighbourhood character features and values of that area.

You can use the below map to identify whether a property is included within the neighbourhood character study area by searching the address in the interactive map below using the search bar tool

If you would like to view the study area by locality, please click on the relevant map below.

Diamond Creek


Eltham North



North Warrandyte

Panton Hill



St Andrews

Wattle Glen


In order to inform appropriate future planning provisions for the Neighbourhood Character Strategy (as part of future strategic work), the key character issues applicable to the Nillumbik study area have been considered in the draft Strategy.

These threats are listed below and are based on the survey findings of the project team, initial consultation with the community and working groups with Council's planning officers.

The following themes have been identified as the key issues and threats:

  • Contemporary infill
  • Loss of vegetation & landscaping
  • Subdivision
  • Large scale development - Retirement Villages, Aged Care, Medical & other services
  • Dominant fencing styles
  • Inconsistent siting & scale
  • Dominant car access & storage
  • Inconsistent colours & materials
  • Interrupted Viewlines
  • Bushfire Management

(Please refer to Section 4 within the draft Strategy for a full description and analysis of these threats. Refer to Section 5.2 for issues and threats pertaining to Bushfire Management).

Neighbourhood character profiles are used to document the key attributes of a character area, and form a major component of the Neighbourhood Character Strategy.

Neighbourhood character precinct profiles have been prepared for each neighbourhood character area identified within Nillumbik Shire. The draft Neighbourhood Charter Strategy has proposed a total of 8 character areas across the Shire's residential areas. These are:

  • Bush Residential 1
  • Bush Residential 2
  • Garden Court 1
  • Garden Court 2
  • Garden Court 3
  • Garden Residential
  • Rural Residential 1
  • Rural Residential 2

Each profile provides a summary of character area with associated character objectives and design guidelines to provide guidance to future development, ensuring that it reflects the preferred character as best as possible.

The profiles are intended to replace the character areas identified as part of Nillumbik Shire’s previous Neighbourhood Character Study and Design Guidelines (amended in 2003).

The profiles include the follwoing:

  • Character Description;
  • Character Area map;
  • Summary of key character attributes
  • Preferred Character Statement;
  • Preferred Character Objectives;
  • Design Guidelines; and
  • Photos

Please click on the Property Search tool link to view and find out which character precinct you are located in.

Input from the community and stakeholders who live in and experience these unique residential areas is an essential part of developing the Nillumbik Neighbourhood Character Strategy. A total of three rounds of community engagement are proposed for the project. The table schedule below outlines these periods:

First round of engagement – Championing the strategy

Second round of engagement - Consultation on the draft Neighbourhood Character Strategy

Third round of engagement – Close the loop

28 March – 8 May 2022 (6 weeks)

29 August - 9 October 2022 (6 weeks)

Mid 2023

Purpose: To inform the community about the project, the concept of neighbourhood character, the Strategy and the process to develop the Strategy. Further, to engage on what the community value about their neighbourhoods.

Purpose: To seek feedback on a first draft of the Strategy.

Purpose: To “check in” with the community on changes Council is proposing to make to the draft Strategy, having considered the community feedback provided in Engagement 2 to the first draft of the document.

Engagement 2 (29 August to 10 October 2022) – Draft Neighbourhood Character Strategy

Council undertook a second round of public engagement between the 29 August to 10 October 2022.

The purpose of this stage of engagement was to seek feedback on the draft Neighbourhood Character Strategy and test findings of previous engagement with the community and stakeholders.

In particular, we sought feedback regarding whether:

  • We had accurately described the character areas?
  • We had captured the things that are most important to the preferred character of your local area?

The feedback form for the second round of engagement contained within the Property Search tool had three focus areas:

  1. Draft Neighbourhood Character Areas.
  2. Preferred Character Statements, Objectives and Guidelines.
  3. Feedback on the overall draft strategy.

This stage included:

  • Updated project page;
  • An interactive mapping tool;
  • Online and hard copy feedback form;
  • Written submission portal;
  • Place-based pop-ups x 2;
  • Online Q&A sessions x 2;
  • Face-to-face community drop-in sessions x 3;
  • Online one-on-one interviews x 2;
  • Email notifications to key stakeholder groups;
  • Posters and postcards distributed to various locations within the Shire's urban and rural township localities;
  • Information in Nillumbik Shire News/e-News and other relevant Council newsletters;
  • Regular social media posts on Council’s social media platforms as well as paid social media advertisements.

Completed Engagement 1 (28 March to 8 May 2022) – Championing the Strategy

Council undertook a first round of public engagement for the Strategy in late March - early May 2022 (6 week period).

This first engagement was intended to inform the community about the project and sought input from the community and stakeholders regarding:

  • what people value most about their neighbourhoods and think are the important features that contribute to the character of the area.
  • how people would like to see new development managed in the Shire’s residential areas.

It included the following engagement activities and resources:

  • A Virtual walking tour video;
  • Project webpage with FAQ function;
  • Council Community Advisory Committee meetings x 4 (Environment and Sustainability, Inclusion an Access, Positive Ageing, Youth Council).
  • Email notifications to key stakeholder groups;
  • Online and hard copy survey;
  • Written submission portal;
  • Information in Nillumbik Shire News/e-News and other relevant Council newsletters;
  • Regular social media posts on Council’s social media platforms as well as paid social media advertisements;
  • Posters and postcards distributed to various locations within the Shire's urban and rural township localities.
  • Place-based pop-ups x 3 (Hurstbridge, Diamond Creek, Eltham).

The input to this first engagement period has assisted Council in preparing the draft Neighbourhood Character Strategy for the Shire’s residential areas (including designated rural townships).

Engagement 1 - Championing the Strategy Findings

What We Heard

On the 14 June 2022, Council under its delegated Planning and Consultation Committee (PCC) were presented with the various survey responses and submissions that were received to the first round of engagement for the Neighbourhood Character Strategy project. A total of 322 submissions were received to the first engagement period; comprising of 312 survey responses and 20 general written submissions. The Committee unanimously resolved to carry Council officers’ recommendations to:

  1. Notes:
    • The community response to the first round of engagement for the Nillumbik Neighbourhood Character Strategy.
    • That a first draft of the Nillumbik Neighbourhood Character Strategy is scheduled to be presented to the August 2022 Council meeting to be endorsed for public engagement.
  2. Resolves that the confidential un-redacted copies of survey responses and general written submissions to the recent public engagement for the Neighbourhood Character Strategy, as provided in Attachments 5 and 6, remain confidential on the grounds specified in the definition of confidential information in section 3(1)(g)(ii) of the Local Government Act 2020
  3. Requests Officers write to all respondents to the community engagement to express Council’s gratitude for their contribution and to advise them of Council’s resolution and the next scheduled steps in the project.
The meeting minutes and Council’s resolution on the item are available on Council’s website; which can be found via the following link.

The links to the consolidated redacted survey responses and general written submissions received to the first round of engagement as well as the Consultation Findings Report can be found below.

Engagement 1 (Stage 3) - Consolidated Redacted Survey Responses - Part 1 (Pages 1-30)

Engagement 1 (Stage 3) - Consolidated Redacted Survey Responses - Part 2 (Pages 31-60)

Engagement 1 (Stage 3) - Consolidated Redacted Survey Responses - Part 3 (Pages 61-90)

Engagement 1 (Stage 3) - Consolidated Redacted Survey Responses - Part 4 (Pages 91-120)

Engagement 1 (Stage 3) - Consolidated Redacted Survey Responses - Part 5 (Pages 121-130)

Engagement 1 (Stage 3) - Consolidated Redacted General Written Submissions

Engagement 1 (Stage 3) - Consultation Findings Report

Engagement 2 - Detailed findings

Please see the documents below for detailed analysis of both survey and written submissions to Phase 2 engagement (the draft Strategy), however key changes to the strategy following the Phase two engagement include:

a. Wider use of definitions within the document:

i. Where a term is not defined, it takes its ordinary and general meaning; consistent with the Ministerial Direction for Form and Content of Planning Schemes.

ii. Definitions have been added across a number of matters in supporting the intents within the draft NCS and providing clarity e.g. muted tones, canopy trees, ‘modern architecture’.

b. Introduction of section within the draft NCS to clarify the interrelationship and tensions with climate action and Environmentally Sensitive Development and how other policies/strategies work in this space:

i. Discussion added in Section 4.10, discussing the interrelationship between NCS, climate change and ESD. Opportunities for further work also discussed in Section 8.5 in regard to ESD, vegetation and landscaping etc.

ii. ESO/vegetation and landscaping discussion also enhanced at Section 2.4.

c. Review of approximately 20 mapped Neighbourhood Character Precincts.

d. Further consideration of colour (particularly ‘muted tones’) and materiality both in built form and fences:

i. Appendix B added (page 139) showing examples of dwellings which apply a muted colour palette of earth and bush tones across Nillumbik;

ii. Discussion in key issues and threats (Section 4.9) has been enhanced identifying inconsistent colours & materials;

iii. Further work (Section 8.6) has been added identifying need for guidelines for dwelling materiality, roofing and fencing;

iv. Design guidelines added across all precinct profiles relating to clarification of ‘muted tones’ and the use of non-reflective materials & finishes for walls, roofs and windows:

  • New development should use a muted colour palette of earthen and bush tones, particularly greens, browns and greys.
  • Use non-reflective materials and finishes for walls, roofs and windows.
  • v. Definition of Light Reflective Value (LRV) and Muted Colour Palette added to definitions at page 4:

  • The light reflectance value of an individual colour indicates the amount of light and heat that individual colour will reflect.
  • Refers to earthen and bush tones, particularly greens, browns and greys - See appendix B for examples across Nillumbik Shire.
  • e. Further consideration in the design guidelines as to the role of canopy trees in side setbacks vs front setbacks (defining what a canopy tree is for Nillumbik);

    i. Design guidelines pertaining to gardens and landscaping and siting and setbacks have been amended within all precinct profiles, tightening recommendations in regard to species and canopy trees;

    ii. Canopy and Amenity tree defined in definitions at page 3 and 4:

  • A canopy tree is defined as an indigenous tree that is a character species of an ecological vegetation class (EVC) that occurs in Nillumbik Shire Council and has the capacity to reach 20m in height or greater at maturity; and
  • An amenity tree is a species indigenous to Nillumbik municipal area that has the capacity to reach a minimum height at maturity of 8m.
  • iii. Discussion relating to canopy vs amenity trees & role of planting in setbacks has been amended in key issues & threats (Section 4.3);

    iv. Design guidelines across all character precincts updated to provide further clarity as to species selection:

  • Prepare a landscape plan to accompany all applications for new dwellings that utilises appropriate indigenous and native species as identified in the Nillumbik Live Local Plant Local Guide.
  • v. Definitions updated to include a definition of Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVC) consistent with species identified in the Nillumbik Live Local Plant Local Guide accordingly:

  • Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVC) are the standard unit for classifying vegetation types in Victoria. EVCs are described through a combination of floristics, lifeforms and ecological characteristics, and through an inferred fidelity to particular environmental attributes.
  • f. Review of provision of rear setback canopy trees particularly in proposals for more than one dwelling on a lot;

    i. Discussion has been enhanced in key issues & threats (Section 4.3) & further work (Section 8.6) relating to the loss of vegetation in rear setbacks, the scope of Neighbourhood Character Strategy generally & recommendations for further work regarding provisions for rear setback canopy trees.

    Use of language in the draft NCS

    g. Review of language for opportunity to strengthen intent where appropriate, noting it has been conveyed in officer responses and to Councillors that the planning scheme amendment to implement the NCS objectives is where specific ordinance will be drafted meeting the required rules of drafting that would effectively identify specific requirements that would meet identified design responses in the NCS, and that provisions within the planning scheme to implement neighbourhood character objectives will need to be a mixture of both discretionary and mandatory requirements to optimise character outcomes:

    i. A section has been added the draft NCS (Section 8.1) addressing the role/limitations of language in the NCS noting that language used throughout the draft NCS is consistent with the requirements for preparing planning scheme ordinance. This is in accordance with Practitioners Guide - Appendix 1 (DTP, April 2022) as well as Planning Practice Note 43 - Understanding Neighbourhood Character. Key to this is that it is not the role of the NCS to use mandatory language such as ‘must’ rather it is the role of the strategy to provide the intents for neighbourhood character through objectives and design guidelines, and for those objectives and design guidelines to be used in various implementation methods in the planning scheme to achieve the desired outcomes – some being more mandatory e.g. performance standards as discussed below, and some more discretionary which is particularly important for areas with complex environment settings.

    ii. New Section 8.0 Implementation added the Draft NCS (as was programmed for to be implemented into the draft as part of original scope) detailing recommended implementation. This includes discussion with regard to technically how the objectives and design guidelines in an adopted NCS could be effectively implemented into the planning scheme via preparation of planning scheme ordinance to support a future planning scheme amendment. Notably this can only occur once the programmed Housing Strategy has been substantially completed, consistent with the requirements of the relevant Planning Practice Notes where these strategies NCS and Housing Strategy are iterative. Recommendations in this new section include among other matters:

  • Updating the Nillumbik Shire Planning Policy Framework (PPF) with the non measurable elements of the Character Areas Profiles including, Character Area Maps and character elements which cannot sit within a Zone or Overlay Schedule, which also assist in protecting and enhancing the character of these residential areas;
  • Updates to applicable residential zone schedules in alignment with Planning Practice Note 91, the five neighbourhood character objectives for each neighbourhood character area, will be specified in a schedule to a residential zone to implement the preferred neighbourhood character in the Nillumbik Planning Scheme. The schedules that can be added to the Residential Zones provide the mechanism to implement many of the Design guidelines developed to achieve the Preferred Character for each neighbourhood character precinct. The schedules can contain different design standards than those that would otherwise apply through the ResCode standards at Clauses 54 and 55 of the planning scheme. The draft NCS identifies variations to ResCode standards across street setback, side setbacks, minimum site coverage, permeability and landscaping requirements. This represents a performance standard based approach whereby an application would need to demonstrate how it meets the performance standard.
  • Section 8.4 (page 43) identifies a proposed expansion of the Significant Landscape Overlay (SLO) which is the current tool used within the Nillumbik Planning Scheme to implement Neighbourhood Character objectives. The latest draft of the NCS recommends the SLO is proposed for heavily vegetated Character Areas that are not currently covered by an existing SLO. This includes Bush Residential 1, Bush Residential 2, Urban Canopy Residential 2 and Rural Residential 1. The relevant areas within the Shire that are not currently covered by the SLO but are recommended to have the SLO applied to hem based on the recommendations of the draft NCS include areas of Greensborough, Yarrambat, Diamond Creek, Eltham, Eltham North and Wattle Glen. Vegetation and landscaping in these Character Areas has been identified in the draft NCS as having significant and a defining neighbourhood character element. The SLO will require a permit for the removal of indigenous and native vegetation and trees identified in the design guidelines, supported by the Nillumbik Live Local Plant Local Guide. The SLO will also reflect the minimum site coverage and permeability requirements of the Zone schedule. To ensure consistency, the existing SLO which currently applies to certain areas may also need to be amended in aligning to the additional zone schedule performance standards.
  • It is important to note that recommendations in Section 8 would need to be fully worked through as part of development of a planning scheme amendment which would include workshopping with the Department of Transport and Planning in drafting planning scheme controls (schedules/overlays) that would be effective in implementing NCS intents and objectives. A future planning scheme amendment process would also require formal notification and consultation pursuant to the statutory requirements of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (the Act) that would allow for submissions to proposed changes to the planning scheme. Formal adoption of the NCS does not of itself approve changes as recommended in the Strategy to the planning scheme to implement the NCS – that is a matter for separate planning scheme amendment process and attributable Council decision making as required by the Act.
  • h. Consider alternative name for Garden Court typology as there appears to be some perceptions that this typology is not as desirable as others (particularly Bush Residential typology):

    i. Garden Court typology renamed to Urban Canopy Residential in the draft NCS.

    i. Two submissions identified the cover photo on the draft as an issue noting it did not effectively demonstrate Nillumbik’s green indigenous tree canopy. The current cover photo Ethos has advise depicts the Garden Residential neighbourhood character typology (NCT) in Diamond Creek. The submissions, and Councillors confirmed a preference for an image of the Bush Residential NCT be used on the front cover.

    i. Cover photo updated with an image of Bush Residential typology located in Eltham.

    Further work to support implementation of the Neighbourhood Character Strategy

    j. The draft NCS identifies additional further work that is highly recommended to support the effectiveness of the Neighbourhood Character Strategy and its implementation into the Nillumbik Planning Scheme. These include:

  • Dwelling materiality, roofing and colour palette: further work to be undertaken to identify materials and surface colours that are appropriate within the identified neighbourhood character settings while also responding to relevant ESD principles, such as Light Reflectance Value (LRV). As mentioned earlier, sustainability objectives are often at odds with the application of earthen and bushy tones, building materials and roofing.
  • Specific guidelines for fencing: further work recommended regarding front fencing to support this Neighbourhood Character Strategy. These guidelines would specify suitable fencing materials, and the transparency and colours which best respond to the neighbourhood character of each precinct. These guidelines would be updated accordingly over time to allow for product and material innovation and to support acceptable front fence design for future residential development.
  • Specific guidelines for vegetation and landscaping: further work should be undertaken to determine appropriate provisions for rear setback canopy tree planting, including identifying specific areas where greater consideration is needed in regard to rear setback planting. Also, further work should investigate and identify the minimum deep soil areas required for the range of preferred tree species for Nillumbik Shire, including canopy trees and amenity trees. A supporting vegetation and landscaping guidelines document would correspond with the directions and recommendations of the Nillumbik Live Local Plant Local Guide, and support the delivery of the various landscape outcomes intended. This particular recommendation is of high merit in ensuring that the planting intents and requirements within the draft NCS once adopted and implemented will result. Without guidelines around planting (which can be implemented into the planning scheme), which consider matters such as suitable permeability of surfaces surrounding for example a canopy tree to enable it to grow and thrive at maturity and a commensurate depth and breadth of soil to also accommodate such, efforts to compel planting of vegetation as intended by the NCS would not be as effective. It is one matter to intend and compel planting, however it is another to ensure the vegetation planted is ensured the best opportunity to thrive and mature.

  • Final Phase Engagement

    Frequently Asked Questions