Amendment C270, Central City Built Form Review

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By David Passarella, Partner

Do we really need to be this prescriptive?

As many of you are aware, the Victorian Government is in the process of embarking new planning controls for Melbourne’s central city. While the proposed controls are well intended to an extent, it’s questionable as to whether they are in fact needed at all.

This article will explore at a high level how the proposed provisions apply to the City Hoddle Grid and areas in Southbank, which includes:

  1. The introduction of a plot ratio of 18:1.
  2. Tower setbacks, with a street wall height podium up to 20 meters (which can be increased by discretion to 40 meters) and a minimum side and rear setback of 5 meters up to 80 meters high above the street wall.
  3. Discretionary and mandatory overshadowing requirements.
  4. Revised wind speed criteria.

Firstly, let’s look at the plot ratio provisions. It is interesting that the plot ratio has been reduced from 24:1 in the interim controls to 18:1 and now includes an opportunity for a floor area uplift if certain parameters can be met, which translates to a public benefit. This means that land owners/developers wanting to exceed the 18:1 ratio must establish by agreement with the Council provision for public open space, office use, public space within the building and social housing in the building, adding another layer of complexity to development proposals that exceed the specified plot ratio.

The aim of introducing a plot ratio is largely based on an understanding to set reasonable and clear expectations about potential reasonable yield of a typical development site. While the introduction of the plot ratio may arguably achieve this aim, it would seem to be a misguided tool to apply a uniform control across the whole city area to set height restrictions.

A better planning outcome is to measure the potential height of the proposed development by the way the building is designed to respond to the individual site context.  It is therefore no surprise that some city sites have greater development potential than others with regards to site context.  To apply a height control such as a plot ratio seems to be a very blunt tool.

With respect to tower setbacks, these will assist with providing greater separation between buildings. However for similar reasons set out above, individual site context should set these parameters. It is interesting to note that the setback controls prescribed do not appear to distinguish differences in land uses between commercial and residential buildings; therefore a commercial building appears to be regarded as having the same amenity expectation as a residential building.

Overall, the new controls limit development potential of city sites in a uniform way. While this may arguably produce a fair outcome as to development expectations, the controls will result in many underdeveloped sites that do not realise their full potential.

Submissions for Amendment C270 close on 30 May 2016, so if you are affected by the proposed controls you should make a submission.

For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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