Melbourne’s one-of-a-kind planning and property practice

Melbourne’s one-of-a-kind planning and property practice
Jack Hayes

When the founder of CBD-based Planning & Property Partners (PPP) Mark Naughton decided to leave the familiarity and safety of a multinational law firm to start his own practice, he was presented with a litany of questions; many of which he answered: why not?

Why can’t you create a business that is a front-end town planner and back-end planning legal practice under one roof? Why has this not been done before? And why has it not been replicated since?

Luckily for Mr Naughton, who is one of a small number of Law Institute of Victoria accredited specialists in environmental, planning, and local government law, no-one has, and PPP truly remains a one-of-a-kind. 

Now more than 16 years old, PPP is made up of 30 town planners and legal experts with their fingerprints on some of Melbourne’s most regarded projects including the multi-billion dollar Melbourne Square, the Australian Unity building at 217 Spring St, and Assemble’s mixed-used Macaulay Urban Renewal Precinct project.

PPP has also played a major hand in recent approvals for the redevelopment of the InterContinental Hotel on Collins St, Cabrini Hospital, Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre, and Shell House at 1 Spring St.

“We have managed to attract great quality and loyal clients who continue to give us a range of excellent work,” Mr Naughton said. “We are very proud to be, and will remain, a longstanding tenant of the city.”


If we can be involved in the better projects in our part of the world, then that is great. Our staff love getting involved in projects that they can feel and touch and see around them; that’s a real bonus in having the focus around the city and inner city.


PPP offers a range of services, from planning to environmental approvals, liquor approvals, land compensation matters, and they love their music festival approvals.

One of the planning leads is Sue Zhang, a qualified planner with experience across a wide range of strategic and statutory planning projects.

Ms Zhang told CBD News there was often a misconception that town planners worked exclusively in local government to approve or assess planning applications; however, in a private practice, her job was to “help clients to navigate through Victoria’s complex planning system, and get the approval they desire”.

“We help work closely with architects to achieve good site-responsive built-form outcomes that meet the relevant planning objectives,” she said.

“We have great working relationships with all local governments in Victoria, particularly the City of Melbourne. Those relationships are important because we can have constructive conversations to facilitate good planning outcomes.”

“You won’t find another firm where I, as a town planner, can walk across to our legal part of the office and say, ‘I’ve got a couple of questions; what do you think?’ The marriage between planning and planning law under the same roof is incredibly unique.”

When asked what more could be done to preserve heritage buildings in the CBD or retrofit existing commercial for residential or mixed-use purposes, Mr Naughton said he would be “delighted to think at some stage there could be a specialist body set up to assist building owners and managers to come forward with propositions … instead of being put through the usual planning and building approaches.”

“The challenge has to be to find ways to facilitate approvals and opportunities of consideration,” he said.

“We have bodies such as the Office of the Victorian Government Architect that assesses a building’s design excellence; we have bodies that have the ability to assess the conversion of a golf course to a residential housing estate … why can’t we have a specialist body with the right skill set that will enable them to test housing options and adaptability of buildings – we desperately need it.” •

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