Richard Wynne, Victoria’s Planning Minister, recently released a discussion paper titled ‘Plan Melbourne Refresh’, following a report by the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC), whom were engaged to provide a review of the current Plan Melbourne document.
The Minister says the review was conducted with the understanding that Melbourne’s population is projected to reach almost 8 million by 2051, and to ‘make sure our strategy for the city’s growth and development gives our present and future citizens an even better quality of life, a higher standard of living, and access to greater opportunities’.
There is a fair bit to read, so we thought we would summarise some of the key ideas and proposed changes that the government is considering to help manage Melbourne’s future growth, particularly those relevant to the housing and property development.
The government suggests we need to build a city which is an example to the world, and to do this we need to address ‘4 big questions that can no longer be ignored’ – affordability, manage investment in transport infrastructure, avoid geographical inequalities, and prepare for climate change.
Some of the high level conclusions reached suggest that we need a better means of creating a sustainable, compact and productive metropolis, including a better definition of the ‘20 minute neighbourhood’ concept, and a better balance between established and growth area development. To do this, below are some of the recommendations that have been put forward for discussion:
- Establish a 70/30 target where established areas provide 70 percent of Melbourne’s new housing supply and greenfield growth areas provide 30 percent
- Lock down the existing urban growth boundary
- Introduce greater sequencing control in urban growth area development
- Introduce minimum dwelling density in the urban growth areas of 25 dwellings per net hectare for residential areas
- Review the rollout of reformed residential zones in established areas
- Develop a code assess approach for new multi-dwelling development
From what we have read so far, the paper suggests we are already tracking at 70/30 based on the building approval statistics, but trending towards 60/40 based on the ‘governments best information of market dynamics, known opportunities, housing capacity, planning frameworks and anticipated housing supply’.
The key question in our mind is although there could be a combination of current planning ‘rules’ that are steering us in this direction, which ones are the biggest culprits? If the primary need is to tip the trend back towards increasing density in established areas, should this not be the main focus? Wouldn’t, for example, the recent reform to the residential zones – particularly the application of Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) targets of 50% of total established area – be a bigger problem that needs fixing rather than looking at mandating higher densities in the growth areas?
We are not sure that the latter will achieve the right ‘diversity’ objectives we are looking for. Will it in fact diminish ‘the market choice of households’? Will larger lots become so rare that many of those traditionally preferring a larger house with their own backyard will no longer have that choice because it’s either not available or no longer affordable?
It would be a real shame to see the Australian Dream disappear completely. The flow on effect could have a significant negative impact on Melbourne’s future, so let’s hope we get it right.
If we could get rid of NRZ in areas where it doesn’t justifiably belong, and implement the initiative to fast track planning applications in established areas by replacing the current provisions with the proposed ‘new code assess approach’, surely this will go a long way in restoring the balance that Melbourne needs….
Click here for further details of the documentation.
Submissions can be made until 18 December 2015.