Incorporating bushfire risk into the design and layout of your property is one of the most effective ways to protect lives and property. It’s also useful for CFA members to have a basic understanding of the planning rules, as leaders in the community and experts in the local bushfire risk.
If people consider their bushfire risk early in the building process and do some good up-front planning and research they can save themselves time, money and hassle down the track.
Anyone wishing to build in Victoria should first check with the local council to find out the restrictions in place, especially in a high bushfire risk area. As well as bushfire safety there might be other planning issues to consider such as floods, erosion, native vegetation and heritage controls.
Local councils are equipped to answer most questions about planning permits and people can even set up a free pre-application meeting to get further advice. People can also use the free interactive map service at www.land.vic.gov.au to check if there are restrictions on their property.
Areas with the highest bushfire risk are covered by a planning control known as the ‘Bushfire Management Overlay’. Any new development in these high risk areas will need to comply with a specific set of requirements which aim to avoid an unacceptable risk to lives and property.
The Bushfire Management Overlay was introduced as part of the Government’s response to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, to strengthen community resilience to bushfire in Victoria.
Anyone looking to build on land covered by the Bushfire Management Overlay people will need a planning permit from their local council. It can be a complex process and it’s common to engage a consultant to help prepare the application.
Applicants will need to prove that there is adequate defendable space on the property, the building is constructed to the appropriate ‘Bushfire Attack Level’, there is appropriate water supply as well as access for fire trucks.
While designing appropriately for local conditions can take time, it will give your house the best possible chance of surviving a bushfire. It is important to remember that there are some areas where the risk to life from bushfire is so high that new development should not occur.
To better explain the process and planning provisions CFA is developing a booklet titled Planning for Bushfire Victoria. This guide will help applicants to navigate their way through the planning process and will be available on the CFA website over the coming months.