Central City built form review

Development in the central city in the last 10 years has been unprecedented with dozens of large towers under construction, and dozens more in the pipeline.  Built form controls in the city have failed to keep up with community expectations with regard to built form and amenity, the effect of towers on existing city character, and the majority of developments have taken place without any notion of ‘giving back’ to the city and its inhabitants. It is great to see the Minister introduce Melbourne Planning Scheme Amendment C270 to create firmer built form controls in the central city – the Amendment includes the Hoddle Grid and the Southbank area.

Of particular interest to heritage enthusiasts is the plan to further recognise, strengthen and even extend the protection of ‘special character areas’, which notably are all areas with high concentration of historic buildings.  The central retail core of the city is already covered by a 40 metre height limit, and the proposes to extend this 40 metre limit to include the shops on the west side of Elizabeth Street in the Hoddle Grid.  This is very welcome, but ideally it would go a few metres further and meet with the Hardware Lane and Guildford Lane special character areas.

The Amendment is based on the idea that plot ratios will now apply in the central city to control the density and setback of towers, with options for developers to gain some extra height in return for including public benefits, such as public open space or social housing, within the development.  Heritage contributions could also form part of the approved list of public benefits.  Sydney and Perth already have schemes in place to facilitate the flow of benefits to heritage conservation as part of new development applications.  In Victoria, this could most easily take the form of money paid by developers into the existing Melbourne Heritage Restoration Fund, with a focus on works to places in need within the CBD that have no other access to funding. Given the scale of this reform, and the numerous places that could benefit, the results could be a great improvement to the appearance of the CBD.

The National Trust and Melbourne Heritage Action have made a joint submission to Amendment C270 – click here to download the PDF (1 MB).

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