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Focus: Plan Melbourne: refresh of Victoria's metropolitan planning strategy

16 November 2015

In brief: Housing affordability, climate change and energy efficiency are key focuses of the discussion paper recently released by the Victorian Planning Minster, which aims to 'refresh' the current Melbourne Metropolitan Planning strategy, Plan Melbourne. The paper draws upon the detailed report prepared by the Ministerial Advisory Committee chaired by Professor Roz Hansen. Managing Associate Meg Lee and Associate Kate Kirby discuss the key points.


How does it affect you?

  • The Minister for Planning has released a discussion paper on the proposed revision of the metropolitan planning strategy (Plan Melbourne 2016), to provide an opportunity for community, expert and stakeholder input on options regarding how Melbourne's future development should be guided and controlled in the face of current challenges.
  • The discussion paper proposes to maintain the key priorities from the former government's Plan Melbourne (2014), while increasing the focus of the existing strategy on housing affordability, climate change and energy efficiency.
  • Submissions are invited until Friday, 18 December 2015.
  • Developers, land owners, planning industry professionals and councils should review the paper and consider whether any of the specific proposals affect their interests or whether any key projects in the pipeline or strategic sites have not been considered by the paper and should prepare submissions accordingly.


In 2014, we reported on the finalisation of Plan Melbourne, Melbourne's metropolitan planning strategy. Plan Melbourne (2014) was subsequently incorporated into the State Planning Policy Framework in each of Victoria's planning schemes.

Following the change in government, Planning Minister Richard Wynne announced that he was reconvening the previous Ministerial Advisory Committee, chaired by Professor Roz Hansen, to review Plan Melbourne. The Minister has now released a discussion paper setting out options for a 'refresh' of the Plan Melbourne 2014 document. The Ministerial Advisory Committee Report contained 93 recommendations. The Discussion Paper responds to each of these recommendations and seeks feedback on 62 options for consideration in the revised 2016 Plan Melbourne.

The discussion paper notes that, while there is bipartisan support for much of the existing Plan Melbourne document and that considerable work and consultation went into its preparation, it is necessary to update the document to incorporate the current government's transport policies and commitments (including the Melbourne Metro Rail Project), strengthen the focus of the document on housing affordability, climate change and energy efficiency and better track the implementation of initiatives under the plan.

Initial responses to the discussion paper largely welcomed the renewed focus on housing affordability and climate change; however, the Planning Institute of Australia has expressed concerns about the potential introduction of code assessments for 'higher density developments' and has questioned whether a '"tick a box" approach to assessment' could potentially adversely impact on urban design and liveability outcomes in Melbourne.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) response to the discussion paper welcomed the focus on affordable housing and timely provisions of infrastructure, but cautioned against the adoption of any mandatory targets that limit greenfield development in favour of development on more expensive land in established suburbs, warning that this may inadvertently limit affordable housing supply1.

Discussion paper details

The discussion paper sets out 62 options for discussion in the several categories. We set out some of the key options under the categories of most relevance to our clients below:

Growth challenges, fundamental principles and key concepts
  • 'Lock down' the current urban growth boundary (that is, make it permanent) to provide certainty and contain growth. Our clients with land near the boundary may need to seek advice on the impact of a permanent boundary and may wish to make a submission in response to the discussion paper.
Delivering jobs and investment
  • Protection of extractive industry resources by implementing the outcomes of the Extractive Industries Taskforce – clients with extractive industry sites that may be poorly zoned or affected by encroachment should consider making a submission.
  • Evaluation of planning mechanisms that would be appropriate to 'protect strategic agricultural land'.
  • Preservation of commercial development opportunities and the delivering of key transport infrastructure at an early stage in central city urban renewal projects.
  • Increasing housing supply by establishing and implementing initiatives to support a 70/30 target – whereby 70 per cent of Melbourne's new housing is to be provided in established areas and 30 per cent is to be provided by greenfields sites (which closely reflects the current distribution of building approvals).
  • Better explaining the direction in the existing Plan Melbourne document to 'protect the suburbs' by providing circumstances where protection may (or may not) be required.
  • Deletion of the 'action' in the existing Plan Melbourne for Neighbourhood Residential Zone to cover 50 per cent of residential land and clarification about how residential zoning should be instead applied.
  • Setting housing targets relating to diversity, supply and affordability in the metropolitan area, and also by sub-region or, alternatively, putting in place a metropolitan housing strategy that 'identifies preferred housing outcomes (rather than targets)'.
  • Planning mechanisms to increase the supply of social/affordable housing. Such tools may be mandatory, facilitatory or simply provide incentives, including mandatory requirements for housing developments to contribute dwellings, land or money, and built form development incentives such as increased heights etc. The options for discussion include planning scheme reforms to clarify definitions of social and affordable housing, modified third-party appeal rights to expedite such projects and identification of scheme requirements (such as parking) that could be waived. This would be something that might come in handy for future Nightingale2 projects and provide support for waiver of parking requirements in favour of affordable and sustainable housing models.
  • Introduction of a new policy statement supporting the emerging concept of 'Greyfield renewal' – being urban renewal in locations where housing stock is at the end of its physical life and land values are attractive.
A more resilient and environmentally sustainable Melbourne
  • Identify climate change challenges for Melbourne's development, and the best mitigation, adaptation and responsive strategies for the projected impacts.
  • Seek lead partners in research, property investment or government to facilitate innovative demonstration projects in greenfield and urban renewal areas to support renewably energy, including through strengthening the structure planning process to require consideration of precinct-wide energy solutions. Again, this appears to provide support for projects such as the Nightingale model.
  • Mechanisms to ensure the planning system is able to respond to climate change and environmental risks by reviewing and updating policy, planning schemes (including planning overlays) and other hazard management planning mechanisms and update regulatory framework for the periodic incorporation of climate change science and data.
  • Opportunities in the planning process to encourage and facilitate the uptake of future renewable and low emission energy in Melbourne and its peri-urban areas, including generation technologies in greenfield and urban renewal precincts.
New planning tools/Implementation
  • Reinforce the role of local councils in implementing Plan Melbourne.
  • Consider whether new zoning is required for urban renewal areas and National Employment Clusters, or whether modification of the existing schemes could achieve the same outcomes.
  • Consider the introduction of new medium-density planning tools such as a codified approvals process so that developments could be approved if it meets specific requirements.
  • Amendments to the Precinct Structure Planning Guidelines and State Planning Policy Framework to mandate greater housing diversity and minimum dwelling density in the urban growth areas of 25 dwellings per net hectare for residential areas.

Next steps

The discussion paper raises important issues that will significantly impact on planning regulation in Victoria. It is therefore important that landowners and project proponents that could be affected by changes to land development regulation, such as through the introduction of requirements for affordable housing, setting a permanent urban growth boundary or targets for infill development, ensure that they are involved in the consultation process by lodging submissions before 18 December 2015.

The Victorian Government is intending to release the final version of Plan Melbourne 2016 in the first half of 2016, after which time it will be incorporated into planning schemes, and then updated every five years.

If you require any assistance with preparing a submission, please feel free to contact us.

  1. Urban Development Institute of Australia, 'Institute supports focus on affordable supply of housing and timely provision of infrastructure' (media release, 22 October 2015).
  2. Chaucer Enterprises Pty Ltd v Moreland CC [2015] VCAT 1615.

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