Next step for West Melbourne

By Sakshi Agrawal

The creation of a new high street on Spencer St and 10,000 sqm of new public open space are just a few of the exciting changes earmarked in the City of Melbourne’s West Melbourne Structure Plan. 

The master plan, to be legislated under planning scheme amendment C309, is now a step closer to gazettal after council management requested that Minister for Planning Richard Wynne appoint an independent panel to consider final submissions. 

Councillors were unable to comment on the item at its Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting on May 7 because councillors Leppert, Louey, Pinder, Reece and Wood had received election donations from a donor affected by the amendment. 

The master plan seeks to transform West Melbourne into one of the city’s unique inner urban renewal zones and is broken up into five distinct precincts - Adderley, Flagstaff, Historic Hilltop, Spencer and Station Precinct.  

Adderley, which is bound by Railway Place, Spencer St, Abbotsford and Rosslyn St, is characterised by height controls of two to four storeys in order to respect the area’s heritage buildings. Retail, commercial and artistic activities are also flagged. 

Flagstaff is enclosed within King, Adderley, La Trobe and Dudley streets and located to the west of Flagstaff Gardens. This area will be developed as a central city fringe precinct with a mixture of building sizes and functions which include residential, education and commercial. 

Historic Hilltop, located opposite the Queen Victoria Market (QVM), is bound by Peel, King, Roden, Dudley, Victoria, Lothian and Spencer streets. This area will retain its heritage character with evolving open spaces and wide green streets. 

The Spencer precinct is the centre of West Melbourne and located between Roden, Dudley, Rosslyn, King and Spencer streets. The precinct will be mixed-use with mid-rise development under the plans. 

A standout highlight of this precinct and the entire structure plan is the transformation of Spencer St into a central high street of West Melbourne. Tram and priority bus services will be extended to connect with Footscray and Arden, with the street to be rezoned as special use for the provision of more shops, cafes and restaurants.

Station Precinct will also offer a mixture of retail and hospitality surrounding the soon-to-be renamed West Melbourne train station (currently North Melbourne) with contemporary developments, terraces and warehouse conversions to complement the area’s heritage. 

Melbourne Planning Scheme Amendment C309 proposes new planning provisions into the Planning Scheme which will guide the land use and built form components of the West Melbourne Structure Plan 2018.

The amendment was publicly exhibited between November 22, 2018 and February 4, 2019 and received a total of 53 submissions. More than half of the submissions were in support of the amendment either in full or in part, while key concerns raised from many of the submissions related to floor area ratios, building heights, car parking, overshadowing and affordable housing. 

One submission argued that height controls didn’t take “individual sites and the opportunity for architectural excellence with a taller built form” into account. While Flagstaff is touted for discretionary building heights of up 16 storeys, building heights generally don’t exceed 10 storeys throughout the other precincts. 

Some submitters also argued that the lack of flexibility in floor area ratios would cause under-utilisation of the land. Others said that the ratio was not necessary and should be removed completely. 

Amendment C309 would replace the previous West Melbourne Structure Plan, which was completed in 2005. 

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