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Focus: New authority launched and draft metropolitan planning strategy released

22 October 2013

In brief: The Victorian Minister for Planning has released a draft of the State Government's 40-year plan for Melbourne and, at the same time, has launched the new Metropolitan Planning Authority that is charged with implementing the plan. Special Counsel Meg Lee and Lawyer Will Duffy review the key features of the plan and the authority.  

How does it affect you?

  • The Victorian Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, recently released a draft Metropolitan Planning Strategy (the Metrostrategy), which is proposed to be the blueprint for the ongoing development of the greater Melbourne metropolitan region over the next 40 years.
  • Coinciding with the release of the draft Metrostrategy, the Minister for Planning also launched a new planning authority called the Metropolitan Planning Authority (MPA), which is to play a critical role in managing urban development throughout Melbourne over the lifetime of the Metrostrategy.
  • The MPA will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the newly released Metrostrategy (known as Plan Melbourne), and will be given specific powers to plan the development of state-significant sites and precincts.
  • The MPA is to be the key government body responsible for overseeing the new Metrostrategy and its functions and powers will have a range of implications for landowners, developers and councils, although key details about its powers are yet to be revealed. 

Background

On 9 October 2013, the Minister for Planning released for comment the draft Metrostrategy, which is designed to guide Melbourne's urban development through to 2050.

The Metrostrategy is not an operational planning scheme or a new version of the State Planning Policy Framework, but rather sits above the schemes and policy as a high-level overview of what Melbourne could look like, focusing on key areas for redevelopment and renewal. The Metrostrategy builds on the extensive consultation process following the release in October 2012 of the discussion paper, Melbourne, let's talk about the future, prepared by the Ministerial Advisory Committee (see our Focus article on this discussion paper).

At this stage, the Metrostrategy has been released as a draft for the purposes of public comment, with submissions being accepted up to 6 December 2013. Once submissions have been reviewed, the Metrostrategy will be finalised and given statutory force through a Ministerial direction and an amendment to the planning scheme. In launching the Metrostrategy in an online video, the Minister announced that it will be implemented by January 2014 (which does not leave much time to consider any submissions).

Coinciding with the release of the Metrostrategy was an announcement that the Growth Areas Authority would be relaunched as the MPA, to focus on managing and delivering many of the strategic goals of the Metrostrategy.

Information has not yet been released specifying the scope of the new Authority's powers and exactly how the role of the MPA will differ from the superseded Growth Areas Authority. However, as discussed below, the Metrostrategy provides some indication of the role the MPA will play over the next few decades.

Key features – the Metrostrategy

The Metrostrategy is a long-term master plan designed to achieve seven broad planning objectives, including creating greater job and investment opportunities, improving housing choice and affordability, improving transport networks and reforming planning governance and regulation.

Within these seven categories are 41 goals or 'directions' that provide greater detail as to how the overarching planning goals are to be achieved. Key directions include:

  • the adoption of a new Metropolitan Melbourne Structure Plan to be included in the State Planning Policy Framework, which identifies current and proposed boundaries for the expanded Central City area, national Employment Clusters, Metropolitan Activity Centres, and State-Significant Industrial Precincts;
  • implementation of a trial of the new VicSmart process to enable faster assessment of straightforward, low-impact, planning permit applications in selected localities;
  • the facilitation of an investment pipeline of transit-oriented development and urban renewal through development of land around train stations and along transit corridors;
  • increasing housing supply near jobs, services and public transport to reduce the cost of living and improve transport options;
  • amending Precinct Structure Planning Guidelines to require the delivery of an average of 18 dwellings per hectare in new growth areas;
  • increasing the capacity of ports (Melbourne and Hastings), airports (Melbourne and Avalon), and the Western Interstate Freight Terminal;
  • establishing a permanent metropolitan urban boundary to replace the Urban Growth Boundary;
  • implementation of a new statewide development levy system; and
  • identification of key economic corridors making up the Integrated Economic Triangle (formed by the Hastings-Dandenong corridor, the Hume corridor to the north and the Wyndham-Geelong corridor to the south-west) that connect Melbourne with regional Victoria.

Key features – the MPA

The primary function of the MPA is to advise on, and oversee the implementation of, the Metrostrategy. The MPA will work directly with local councils, government departments and other stakeholders to deliver key aspects of the Metrostrategy. It is also intended to fulfil the role of Responsible Authority for the development of urban renewal precincts designated to be of metropolitan significance, however, this will obviously require further legislative and planning scheme reform to be implemented.

Under the Metrostrategy, the key activities of the new MPA are as follows:

  • Metropolitan Activities – provide advice to the Minister for Planning on matters relating to land and development consistent with the Metrostrategy and undertake planning and land use studies as directed by the Minister.
  • Regional Victoria Activities – provide general planning advice and support local government in the delivery of the objectives of the Regional Growth Plans, as directed by the Minister for Planning.
  • Precinct Activities – prepare precinct structure plans and integrated infrastructure and service delivery plans for designated priority sites and precincts.
  • Decision Maker Processes – act as the planning authority on designated precincts or sites.
  • State Budget Processes – provide advice to government on infrastructure priorities and land use opportunities consistent with the Metrostrategy.

The MPA will assume responsibility for the planning and delivery of so-called 'places of metropolitan significance'. These are locations that the State Government has an interest in developing due to their city-shaping role and their existing and potential contribution to productivity and economic growth. 'Places of metropolitan significance' include:

  • the Central City (CBD);
  • National Employment Clusters (for examples, RMIT/Melbourne University cluster in Parkville, and the Monash University/CSIRO/Australian Synchrotron in Clayton);
  • Metropolitan Activity Centres (places well serviced by public transport with potential for mixed used and higher density development, including Dandenong, Footscray, Epping, Sunshine and Ringwood);
  • Transport Gateways (Port of Hastings, East West Link and the Melbourne Metro); and
  • key industrial and employment precincts (including the Port of Melbourne and the Western Industrial Precinct).

The new MPA will also be responsible for providing advice on the timing, staging and investment of key urban renewal precincts such as Fishermans Bend, Arden-Macaulay, East Richmond Station/Cremorne precinct, and the Flinders Street to Richmond Station corridor. Other possible renewal areas to be investigated by the new MPA include:

  • industrial land along the Dandenong rail line between Huntingdale and Yarraman rail stations;
  • industrial and commercial zoned land along the Upfield rail line between Brunswick and Batman rail stations;
  • commercial and industrial zoned land along the Epping rail line between North Richmond and Victoria Park stations; and
  • commercial and industrial zoned land in the Cremorne precincts near East Richmond railway station.

What will happen next

The old Growth Areas Authority website has been rebranded to reflect the introduction of the MPA, with a notice that the website will be progressively updated to reflect the change.

At the time of writing, there has not been any substantive change to the content of the site, but the coming months should see further detail published regarding the role and functions of the new MPA.

However, the Metrostrategy notes that, as a priority, the MPA is to conduct a rapid planning assessment of all state-significant precincts (including the expanded Central City, national Employment Clusters, Metropolitan Activity Centres and state-significant industrial precincts) and will submit a report to the Minister for Planning in 2014 outlining the key challenges and opportunities in each precinct, including existing planning controls and any surplus government land and recommend new streamlined approvals processes.

As noted above, submissions may be made on the Metrostrategy until 6 December 2013, but a media release from the Minister for Planning notes that the Metrostrategy will be implemented on 1 January 2014. If this is correct, there will be limited time for the consideration of any submissions. Further, the legislation to set up the Authority and introduce its role as both a Responsible Authority and a development/advisory body is yet to be released and will also be likely to require a Statewide Planning Scheme Amendment to be implemented and become operational in the planning schemes.

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