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Focus: Final version of Metropolitan Planning Strategy released

23 May 2014

In brief: Following consultation and feedback, a final version of the Metropolitan Planning Strategy, known as Plan Melbourne, has been launched. While the focus of Plan Melbourne continues to be on employment cluster locations and urban renewal opportunities, there is also a renewed focus in the final document on key Government infrastructure projects – the East-West road project and the Melbourne Rail Link project. Special Counsel Meg Lee reports.

How does it affect you?

  • The Victorian Premier and Minister for Planning released the final version of the Metropolitan Planning Strategy, Plan Melbourne, on 19 May 2014, seven months after the draft document was released for consultation.
  • The plan will now be formally adopted into the Victoria Planning Provisions by way of a State-wide Ministerial Amendment. It will then need to be taken into account in all strategic and statutory planning decisions. A new Ministerial Direction 9 will also be released to advise decision-makers on the implementation of Plan Melbourne. A new Metropolitan Melbourne Structure Plan will also be developed to support the initiatives in the plan.
  • All land owners, infrastructure providers and developers should familiarise themselves with Plan Melbourne to determine new opportunities for development and new decision-making processes, particularly in the urban renewal precincts and employment clusters identified in the plan.

Background

In December 2012, we reported on the initial Metropolitan Planning Strategy discussion paper, Melbourne, lets talk about the future. The discussion paper was prepared by the then Metrostrategy Ministerial Advisory Committee chaired by Professor Roz Hansen. Following community consultation and forums, targeted industry feedback and formal submissions, a draft of Plan Melbourne was released in October 2013 and a further round of consultation and feedback occurred. The constitution of the Ministerial Advisory Committee changed following the resignation of Professor Hansen at that time and it was then chaired by Geoff Underwood.

In releasing the final version of Plan Melbourne, Mr Guy announced the establishment of a new Ministerial Advisory Committee to help direct the development of the strategy, chaired again this time by Professor Roz Hansen and including members Brian Haratsis, Chris Gallagher, Professor John Stanley, Tony Nicholson and Bernard McNamara.

What are the key changes between the draft and the final Plan Melbourne?

While much of the content has remained the same, there are some key changes between the draft document and the final Plan Melbourne. The important substantive changes between the draft plan and the final Plan Melbourne include:

  • Updated population projections are included – the draft plan was based upon population figures of 6.5 million by 2050, whereas the final plan is based upon growth to 7.7 million by 2051. The flow through effects of the increase are that, instead of 1 million more dwellings and 1.2 million more jobs being required, 1.6 million more dwellings and 1.7 million more jobs are needed by 2051.
  • Additional 'city-shaping'1 infrastructure projects are included – including a new Airport Rail Link (as part of Melbourne Rail Link), CityLink-Tulla widening; rail extensions to Rowville and Doncaster; a rail link to Avalon Airport, the Port of Hastings and the Cranbourne-Pakenham Rail Corridor Project. The current Victorian Government plans for the expansion of the Port of Melbourne and ultimate development of the Port of Hastings to replace it are now reflected in amended initiatives such as 3.6.1 which now states that the Port of Melbourne will be leased for a medium-term period.
  • Revised Melbourne Rail Link route included – the new route runs from South Yarra to Domain station, through to a new Fisherman's Bend Station and then to Southern Cross. The draft plan had included a Metro Rail concept with a route from South Yarra, through Domain station and then under Flinders Street and through to Parkville. This previous route has been abandoned by the Victorian Government for reasons including the disruption to Flinders Street during construction.
  • Increased focus on the East-West Link road project – While this project was included in the draft document, additional references to this project are now throughout Plan Melbourne and the timing for it has been brought forward to the medium term, to be completed during 2017-25 (rather than as previously identified in the draft as a long term, post-2025 project);
  • Further detail on the proposed Metropolitan Melbourne Structure Plan has been included. Table 1 now includes the Port of Hastings Industrial Precinct as one of the State Significant Industrial Precincts. It also deletes the previous concept of 'neighbourhood centres'. It instead expands upon the urban renewal precincts stating that they will play an important role in accommodating future housing and employment growth and making better use of existing infrastructure. It identifies Fishermans Bend, E-Gate and East Werribee as the existing precincts and states that the Minister may identify other urban renewal precincts over time and notes that there may be a facilitative role for government to play, particularly where there are contamination issues or significant government-owned land in strategic locations.

The final version of Plan Melbourne has also been updated to refer to the latest status of other related reforms such as the new residential zones, VicSmart and the Social Housing Framework.

Plan Melbourne also now includes a new Figure 18 titled Proposed 'Eye on Melbourne' Outcomes and Monitoring. The Eye contains a vision for Melbourne which is that 'Melbourne will be a global city of opportunity and choice'. The Eye sets out a summary of all of the metrics by which the success of Plan Melbourne can be measured and the relevant objective (of the seven outlined below) to which the measures relate. The measures include: job density in specified locations; housing affordability; growth in dwellings; trip time and distance.

What are the key directions and strategies?

The seven objectives and outcomes from the draft Plan and the associated 41 'directions' that sit beneath these objectives have been adopted in the final Plan Melbourne without change. Most of the 115 initiatives which sit below the 'directions' have also been retained and refined where relevant to include references to the new 'city-shaping' infrastructure projects outlined above.

The seven objectives and outcomes are:

  • Delivering jobs and investment: create a city structure that drives productivity, supports investment through certainty and creates more jobs;
  • Housing choice and affordability: provide a diversity of housing in defined locations that cater for different households and are close to jobs and services;
  • A more connected Melbourne: provide an integrated transport system connecting people to jobs and services and goods to market;
  • Liveable communities and neighbourhoods: create healthy and active neighbourhoods and main Melbourne's identity as one of the world's most liveable cities;
  • Environment and Water: protect our natural assets and better plan our water, energy and waste management systems to create a sustainable city;
  • A state of cities: maximise the growth potential of Victoria by developing a state of cities which delivers choice, opportunity and global competitiveness;
  • Implementation: Delivering better governance: achieve clear results and deliver outcomes through better governance, planning, regulation and funding mechanisms.

Some of the detail in the numbered 'initiatives' that sit below the 41 directions include some radical changes in planning decision-making and foreshadow significant planning scheme reforms to streamline and standardise the system.

For example, there is a proposal (initiative 1.3.1) to extend the VicSmart process (which exempts applications from third-party notice and appeal rights and provides for a 10-day decision-making timeline) to state and regionally significant developments in defined industrial and employment precincts. As such, this could apply to large areas of land and significantly speed up development timelines.

Another example is direction 7.1 which is to 'Drive delivery and facilitate action' and includes several initiatives relating to decision-making bodies. This includes:

  • ensuring the Metropolitan Planning Authority (MPA) has sufficient powers for delivery of state-significant projects;
  • creation of five metropolitan sub-regions and create associated Regional Management Forums to focus on identification of barriers and recommending solutions to implementation of the Plan Melbourne initiatives. It is unclear who will sit on these management forums;
  • preparation of the new State Planning Policy Framework. Work on this has already begun through the appointment of an Advisory Committee chaired by Geoff Underwood;
  • further streamlining of Municipal Strategic Statements and overlay controls. Some of this work is being done by the Planning Policy Framework Advisory Committee.

Other important aspects of Plan Melbourne relate to the pro-active facilitation of urban renewal. For example is direction 6.1 which is to enable an investment pipeline of transit-oriented development and urban renewal. The initiatives include the pro-active identification of new urban-renewal precincts and working with local government to rezone privately held land around railway stations and train corridors to identify additional residential, employment and mixed-use development.

Another key initiative is the concept of the '20 minute neighbourhood'. The plan states that the State Planning Policy Framework will be updated to specify the role of neighbourhood centres to articulate their retail, residential and mixed-use role to assist decision-makers. New practice notes and guidelines will also be developed to give guidance on the role of shops and supermarkets in the new commercial zones and on establishing new village strips in inner and middle suburbs.

The delivery of a 'permanent boundary around Melbourne' (direction 6.1) remains in the final version of the Plan Melbourne document. The MPA is charged with the responsibility of investigating options for a mechanism to lock in a permanent boundary for Melbourne's contiguous metropolitan built-up area. The MPA is required to have regard to input from local government; the report already prepared by the Logical Inclusions Advisory Committee of November 2011; Melbourne's natural values and topographic features and boundaries formed by major infrastructure in determining the boundary.

What will happen next?

There are several planning scheme amendments that will be required to implement the various initiatives of Plan Melbourne, some of which will follow on from Advisory Committee Reports such as the Planning Policy Framework Report. Other changes may be introduced more immediately, for example to ensure Plan Melbourne is referred to in the Schemes to guide decisions. Amendment VC106 was announced this week to implement Plan Melbourne, however details of the Amendment are yet to be released. Ministerial Direction No.9 will also be amended shortly to update it to refer to the key directions and initiatives of Plan Melbourne and to guide decision-makers as to how to take these into account.

The new Metro Melbourne Structure Plan will also be developed in due course and will then need to be incorporated into the Schemes.

Legislative changes will be required for the other initiatives such as:

  • the extension of VicSmart to employment precincts and industrial areas;
  • notice and review right exemptions for State and regionally significant development;
  • decision-making powers for the MPA for Metropolitan Melbourne; and
  • the permanent growth boundary for Melbourne.

Many of the planning scheme amendment changes and certainly the legislative changes will occur without any further public input. All land owners, infrastructure providers and developers should therefore familiarise themselves with Plan Melbourne to determine new opportunities for development and new decision-making processes which may apply to their projects, particularly in the urban renewal precincts and employment clusters identified in the plan.

Footnotes
  1. See p 17 of Plan Melbourne.

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