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Client Update: Melbourne CBD set for tighter planning controls

29 April 2016

In brief: Following the introduction of interim built form controls for Melbourne's central business district (CBD) and parts of Southbank in September last year, Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne has announced a proposed amendment to the Melbourne Planning Scheme, which will introduce permanent and stricter built form controls. Partner Chris Schulz (view CV), Senior Associate Emily Gerrard and Associate Kate Kirby report.

How does this affect you?

  • New built form controls are set to be introduced in Melbourne's CBD and Southbank areas. The controls will not be implemented in the Melbourne Planning Scheme until exhibition, public consultation, independent planning panel hearing and reporting processes are complete and considered by the Minister for Planning. The controls are likely to apply from September 2016 onwards.
  • A public consultation process in relation to the proposed controls has commenced. Interested stakeholders may make submissions on the proposed planning controls until 5pm on Monday, 30 May 2016.

The Minister's announcement

The Victorian Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, has announced new draft built form controls for Melbourne's CBD and Southbank. The controls are set to replace the interim built form controls that came into force on 4 September 2015 for a period of 12 months (as discussed in our Focus: Mixed reactions to changes to new CBD height limits).

The proposed provisions aim to ensure that there is sufficient separation between buildings and the street, to protect public spaces from wind and overshadowing, and to ensure that development opportunities provide public benefits.1

The proposed provisions also introduce a new base 'floor area ratio' (FAR) of 18:1 in the 'General Development Areas' (comprising a large portion of Melbourne's CBD and Southbank).2 A FAR, which is also known as a plot ratio, is the ratio of development floor space to site area. Under the proposed amendment, if a FAR will exceed the new base level (18:1), the Minister may agree to an 'uplift' (increase) in the FAR provided that all applicable built form parameters are satisfied and there is a public benefit (eg publicly accessible space or social housing within the development). The value of the additional floor area will be calculated transparently and the public benefit provided will be publicly listed.3

The proposed controls also impose the following 'fixed tower setbacks with defined flexibility' on the General Development Areas of Melbourne's CBD and Southbank:

  • a preferred street wall height of 20 metres, which may be increased if the site is on certain street corners or to match the existing streetscape;
  • a minimum five-metre upper level street setback for towers (above the street wall);
  • minimum side and rear setbacks of five metres for buildings up to 80 metres in height;
  • side and rear setbacks for buildings 80 metres or higher at 6 per cent of tower height; and
  • a separation distance for multiple towers within a large site of six percent of the combined tower height of the adjacent towers.4

The proposed amendment will also:

  • reinforce shadowing and wind controls. Revised discretionary and mandatory overshadowing requirements will protect key public spaces, including Federation Square, the State Library forecourt, the Shrine of Remembrance, Yarra River, City Square, Bourke Street Mall and Boyd Park;
  • introduce revised wind speed criteria to achieve 'adequate levels of personal comfort' rather than focusing on protection from extreme wind events;5 and
  • maintain all mandatory height controls in 'Special Character Areas', such as heritage and pedestrian precincts.6

The proposed built form controls (including the FAR) are similar to those that have been implemented in other large cities around the world. The proposed changes are intended to further balance opportunities for development in the CBD and will improve amenity of the public realm in central Melbourne.

As previously reported, industry proponents such as the Urban Development Institute of Australia and Property Council have expressed concerns about the potential economic impacts of the interim controls, which are currently in place. It is expected that these industry proponents and other interested developers will actively participate in the upcoming public consultation process for the proposed amendments.

What's next?

An independent planning panel hearing (by Planning Panels Victoria) on the proposed amendments is expected to commence on 11 July 2016. The Panel will review the proposed changes and all formally lodged submissions will be considered. Those who have made written submissions will also be invited to be heard at the hearing.

Following completion of the exhibition, submission, panel hearing and report processes, the Minister will consider and likely implement the proposed amendments to the Melbourne Planning Scheme. The amendment is expected to occur in September 2016,7 when the existing interim built form controls will sunset.

Footnotes
  1. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Shaping Melbourne's Central City: Melbourne Amendment C270 (April 2016) 3.
  2. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Melbourne Planning Scheme Amendment C270 Explanatory Report (April 2016).
  3. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Shaping Melbourne's Central City: Melbourne Amendment C270 (April 2016) 3.
  4. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Melbourne Planning Scheme Amendment C270 Explanatory Report (April 2016). See also Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Shaping Melbourne's Central City: Melbourne Amendment C270 (April 2016) 4.
  5. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Shaping Melbourne's Central City: Melbourne Amendment C270 (April 2016) 4; Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Melbourne Planning Scheme Amendment C270 Explanatory Report (April 2016).
  6. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Shaping Melbourne's Central City: Melbourne Amendment C270 (April 2016) 3.
  7. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Shaping Melbourne's Central City: Melbourne Amendment C270 (April 2016) 6.

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