By David Passarella, Partner
Welcome to 2016! Mills Oakley hope you all had a relaxing break. There were some interesting developments in the planning and environment arena in late 2015. Many of those remain relevant this year, some of which have been outlined below.
Plan Melbourne Refresh
18 December 2015 saw the conclusion of the consultation period of the Plan Melbourne Refresh Discussion Paper (Discussion Paper). In the first half of 2016, the public submissions made during the consultation period will be reviewed and Plan Melbourne 2016 will be prepared, with its release and incorporation into planning schemes proposed to occur in mid-2016.
The Discussion Paper did not propose a comprehensive revision of Plan Melbourne 2014, but rather proposed a strengthened focus on energy efficiency, housing affordability, climate change and long-term transport planning. Plan Melbourne 2016 will retain a focus on environmental protection in green wedge areas, delivering compact urban design within a fixed urban growth boundary and encouraging development in strategic locations.
Notably, the Discussion Paper included a proposal for a “code assess” approach to multi-dwelling development approvals to replace ResCode. Such an approach would involve the fast-tracking of planning applications where the development proposals met objectives of an applicable design code.
The Discussion Paper also included discussion of the potential creation of new zones for National Employment Clusters and strategic urban renewal areas to address various factors and to implement structure planning as the foundation for use and development.
Interim Central Melbourne Planning Controls
In early September 2015, the Victorian Government introduced planning controls for the Hoddle Grid and parts of Southbank (Central Melbourne) on an interim basis for 12 months. Amendment C262 to the Melbourne Planning Scheme introduced built form controls, which included mandatory building heights and setback and overshadowing controls.
Most notably, the amendment introduces a site plot ratio of 24:1, which is significantly lower than the average site plot ratio (around 35:1) of development in Central Melbourne over the last four years. The new plot site ratio operates to cap the Gross Floor Area of a development, based on the size of the site. For example, a 1,000 square metre site within Central Melbourne will be permitted to have up to 24,000 square metres of Gross Floor Area. The investigation and determination of a site plot ratio beyond the 12 month interim period will occur as part of the development of permanent planning controls moving forward.
Western Distributor Project
In December 2015, the Victorian Government approved the construction of the Western Distributor Project, including associated infrastructure upgrades. The Western Distributor Project includes the widening of the West Gate Freeway from eight to 12 lanes and the construction of:
- a tunnel under Yarraville which links the West Gate Freeway to Footscray Road;
- an elevated road along Footscray Road;
- a second river crossing over the Maribyrnong; and
- new cycling and pedestrian paths.
2016 will see a comprehensive planning process to determine the final design of the project, including consultation with the community, local government and industry stakeholders. The project is estimated to cost around $5.5 billion, which will be primarily funded by toll company Transurban with a supplementary contribution of around $400 million made by the Victorian Government. Construction of the Western Distributor is expected to commence in 2018 and conclude in 2022.
While at this stage it is not expected that residential properties will need to be acquired, there is the potential that some commercial properties may be compulsorily acquired for the Western Distributor Project.
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