Heritage FAQs

Heritage House 1What is a Heritage Overlay?

The Heritage Overlay identifies places which are of heritage importance. The overlay seeks to conserve and enhance places of natural and cultural significance, and ensure that new development does not adversely affect the significance of the heritage place.

The Heritage Overlay provisions are set out at clause 43.01 within all Victorian Planning Schemes. A local Schedule to the Heritage Overlay lists the properties affected by the Heritage Overlay and any additional controls which may apply to that particular site.

What does being in the Heritage Overlay mean?

The Heritage Overlay aims to:

  • conserve and enhance places of natural or cultural significance
  • conserve and enhance those elements which contribute to the significance of heritage places
  • ensure that development does not adversely affect the significance of heritage places
  • conserve specifically identified places by allowing a use that would otherwise be prohibited if this will demonstrably assist with the conservation of the significance of the place.

Under the Heritage Overlay a planning permit is required from Council to:

  • subdivide or consolidate land
  • demolish or remove a building (including part of a building)
  • construct a building (including part of a building)
  • externally alter a building
  • construct or carry out works
  • construct or display a sign
  • externally paint an unpainted surface
  • externally paint a building if the painting constitutes an advertisement.

In some instances, other external paint controls, internal alteration controls and tree controls may also apply. The Schedule to the Heritage Overlay will identify whether these additional controls apply. There may also be other overlays that apply.

Property owners and developers are strongly encouraged to discuss proposals with Council's Statutory Planning unit on 9205 5373 prior to committing to a project.


Is a planning permit required for repairs and maintenance?

A planning permit is not required under the Heritage Overlay to carry out routine maintenance and repairs which do not change the appearance of the heritage place. If the repairs or maintenance involve replacing 'like with like', then a planning permit may not be required. For example, a rusty iron roof may be replaced with a new iron roof but a planning permit would be required for a change in materials (eg. to use tiles instead of iron). If in any doubt, clarify your intentions with the local Council before committing to the repairs or maintenance.


Am I expected to restore my building to its original appearance?

No. The Heritage Overlay cannot force an owner to restore or maintain their property.


Can I demolish a building in a heritage overlay?

Being able to demolish a house or building depends on a number of factors. The primary purpose of the Heritage Overlay is to protect the heritage significance of a building, place or area. If the heritage place is individually significant, or if it contributes to the significance of an area, a permit for demolition may be refused if the proposal would adversely affect the significance of the place. If a planning permit is refused, it is possible to have this decision reviewed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

If you wish to demolish part or the whole of a building, structure or fence and which Council has assessed as being significant or contributory value, your planning application will need to include a statement on why the demolition is necessary. This must include evidence on the structural soundness of the building or structure, and that all viable options for conservation have been explored. It is recommended that this be undertaken by a qualified professional experienced in conservation architecture or structural engineering. You will also be expected to provide information that you have explored options for retaining the building or structure.

An application for the demolition of a significant or contributory heritage place will need to be accompanied by an application for new development.


Can I make additions and extensions to an existing building?

Changes to buildings in a street can make a difference to the heritage value of a place or a precinct. Careful planning and design can limit the impact an extension or addition to a building may have on the heritage qualities of the place or precinct.

In some cases, it is the rear of a building that may contain the original structures of that building. The heritage value of a place relates to the whole site, not just what is visible at the street frontage.


I want to replace my fence, what style fence can I replace it with?

The style, materials and height of any new fence will be dictated by the style of the building. Fences are often an important part of the streetscape. Original and significant fences should be retained.


Can I externally alter an existing building?

A planning permit will be required to externally alter an existing building in a heritage overlay. This includes alterations to structural work, rendering, removing paint from bricks or stone, and works done to roofs, chimneys, walls, windows and doors.


Can I remove a tree in my garden?

In some instances the heritage overlay may include tree protection controls.  If your site has tree controls, you will need to show where the trees are on the site and provide written information on the tree species and information. Trees that are significant should be retained and conserved. This may mean including measures that protect tree roots from development ie. root guards, avoiding building up the soil within the tree canopy and avoiding excavation works near tree roots, as well as designing and siting the building in such a way to avoid the need to lop the tree. In instances where contributory or significant trees are being removed your planning application will need to include a statement on why the removal is necessary. This must include evidence on the health of the tree, and that all viable options for retention have been explored. It is recommended that this be undertaken by a qualified arborist.


Can I subdivide my property?

Any subdivision of a heritage place will require planning approval. You will need to provide a plan showing the proposed new boundaries in relation to existing heritage buildings or features. The plan must be prepared by a surveyor.

 pdf format Subdividing Checklist (172.29kB)


How was my property identified as being of heritage significance?

Most heritage places are identified by Council during the process of carrying out a municipal heritage study. During the initial stages of the heritage study, the community is normally encouraged to nominate sites and places of potential historic significance. Nominated places then undergo a heritage assessment in order to determine whether or not the place is significant and warrants heritage protection at either a state or local level.


Does Council have floor plans of my house?

Council’s Building Services Unit has some floor plans of buildings.  Council can generally supply copies of plans if:

  • Your property is in Fairfield and a building permit was issued later than 1990; OR
  • Your property is in all other areas of the City of Yarra and the building permit was issued later than 1960.

If the building was constructed prior to 1960 the Council will not have plans of your building. Your local historical society, the State Library of Victoria, or the Public Record Office Victoria may have copies of plans.

To obtain copies of plans from Council, you will be required to provide identification and proof of ownership, such as a rates notice.  If you are not the owner of the property, you must produce written authorisation from the owner to obtain copies of the plans.

Viewing a residential or commercial property file costs:

$69.30 for residents.
$115.50 for commercial.

Please note that there is an additional fee for photocopies of plans.

You can request the plans through Yarra Building Services at the Richmond Town Hall.

Please bring identification. 


Further information
Strategic Planning Branch
9205 5322



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