In brief

The case of UXD Group Pty Ltd v Greater Geelong CC [2023] VCAT 642 (7 June 2023) concerned a proceeding in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) in relation to the refusal by the City of Greater Geelong Council (Council) to grant a permit application for a $10 million three-storey apartment building comprising 16 dwellings across a consolidated two-lot area (Permit Application).

Geelong's increasing population

According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the population in Geelong is predicted to increase by 46.38% over the next twenty years, making it a place of interest for developers who aim to maximise on the city's development potential. In the wake of the pandemic, there has been an increase in remote work allowing more potential for people to live further from the city. In response, the Australian Government has identified Geelong as an area ripe for investment and has funded projects such as Geelong Fast Rail which encourages the relocation of city workers to Geelong. Moreover, according to The Urban Developer, the Central Geelong Framework Plan introduced in March 2023 is expected to deliver 60,000 jobs and 16,000 residents to the city by 2050. In turn, a significant attitudinal shift has occurred in the planning regulations controlling development in Geelong. 


Despite the growing demand for expansion in response to Geelong's rapid population growth, local residents protested against the Permit Application. The proposal attracted 170 objections from local residents with concerns in relation to amenity, traffic, and car parking. The Council refused to grant the permit on the basis that the proposal failed to contribute positively to its context and will have an impact on local views.

Tribunal grants the Permit Application

Notwithstanding the inordinate number of objections, the Tribunal set aside the Council's decision and granted the permit subject to conditions.

The objectors opposed the Permit Application on the basis that the proposal did not reflect the surrounding neighbourhood character and would have significant overlook and shadowing impacts (at [66]). Whilst the parties accepted that there was change occurring in the development of the region, their concerns were that permitting the proposed development would set a precedent that would degrade the character of Ocean Grove.

However, for context, the subject land falls within the Increased Housing Diversity Area allocated under Schedule 3 of the Residential Growth Zone of the Greater Geelong Planning Scheme (Planning Scheme). This provision encourages increased densities in buildings up to and including four storeys so long as pedestrian safety is promoted. The Planning Scheme also seeks to encourage the consolidation of lots to increase development potential (at [15]).

Therefore, the Tribunal found that whilst the development of a multi-storey building across two separate lots was an unprecedented application in Ocean Grove, a change in rhythm of a street can be expected where the surrounding policy context of the Planning Scheme encourages a transition from the existing neighbourhood character (at [28]). The Tribunal was satisfied that, on balance, the proposed built form was acceptable as it did not exceed 10.5 metres above natural ground level and presented appropriate setbacks to break down the horizontal mass of the proposed building (at [28]). The Tribunal also found the proposed development would not have a significant visual impact on the public realm and does not fail to contribute positively to its context (at [28]).


The Tribunal set aside the Council's decision to refuse the Permit Application and approved it subject to conditions.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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