Call for plan for the central city

Some order may come to the apparent planning chaos within the CBD if City of Melbourne planning chair Cr Ken Ong has his way.

Cr Ong wants the council to again attempt to lead a planning scheme amendment resulting in firm rules governing built form within the Hoddle Grid area.

The council attempted four years ago to introduce a CBD built form planning scheme amendment (C188) but the document was not accepted by the State Government.

Cr Ong says lessons have been learned since 2011 and the council had not covered all the necessary aspects in its previous attempt.

He says that a West Melbourne structure plan is currently on the council’s drawing board and, once complete, the only remaining urban renewal area without such a plan will be the CBD.

He said Docklands, Southbank, Arden-Macaulay and City North all had comprehensive planning guidelines in place.

“The CBD will be the only area left without comprehensive planning guidelines and it’s time we tackled it,” Cr Ong said.

He said he would be pushing for the task to be included in the council’s 2015 action plan.

In the 2011 document the council said:  “The present planning scheme provisions fail to present a clear, easily accessible picture of the desired built form in most parts of the central city. Some provisions fundamental to the desired outcome have insufficient statutory weight, or are buried in tracts of policy whose intent may overlap or contradict.”

As reported elsewhere in this edition, since 2011 nearly 800 floors have been added to the CBD skyline comprising 5089 apartments, 188,00sqm of office space and 53,000sqm of retail space.

Cr Ong said much of the CBD was still without height controls, which had resulted in the current development bonanza.

“In Elizabeth, Spencer and Lonsdale streets there are no height controls.  So we are seeing buildings coming up to 60, 70 and 80 storeys,” he said.

“How big is too big?  You can build up to where the aeroplanes will just miss you.  Is that a good outcome?” Cr Ong said.

Elsewhere in this edition, we reveal that more than twice the development that has occurred in the CBD during the past 13 years is either currently under construction or on its way (see page 7).

But Cr Ong said it was not too late to introduce comprehensive planning controls within the Hoddle Grid.

“We need proper guidance on heights, setbacks, wind patterns, etc,” he said.

“We need to plan how these developments interact with people at street level.” Cr Ong said the starting point for such a review would be to consult all the relevant stakeholders to determine what was required.

He said that without proper height controls, we would see developers buying and demolishing towers built in the 1960s and 70s and pushing further into the sky.

“Unless there are heritage restrictions on a site, there is nothing stopping a further explosion of development,” he said.

“I want to lock in built form planning controls for the central city.”

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