Plan Melbourne isn’t done, it’s just being “refreshed”, says VIC GOV
Melbourne a future Manhattan says Monash Architecture Studio

Without planning changes, Melbourne’s CBD is at risk of darkened streets, wind tunnels and less open space.”—Richard Wynne Victorian State Government Minister for Planning.

This statement of justification followed Wynne’s massive overhaul of Melbourne's CBD planning laws on Friday 4 September, but it hasn’t been unanimously accepted.

Much to the surprise of most, Wynne announced the beginning of a 12 month interim period of temporary planning controls last Friday which would see height limits, plot ratio controls and tighter controls on overshadowing of the river and public squares come into effect for the Melbourne CBD and parts of neighbouring Southbank.

Wynne says that the dramatic increase in the quantity and scale of development proposed, and approved, within the Central City has raised the cause for his concern and that these developments have created infrastructure capacity pressures and poor amenity outcomes which have the potential to damage investment attraction to Central City.

“The Melbourne Planning Scheme currently favours discretionary, performance-based controls to enable alternative built form responses and there has been no significant update of the planning controls guiding development in the Central City since 1999, with most controls based on even earlier work,” he says.

“As a result the controls are outdated and there has been inconsistency in the use of discretion and therefore no certainty or consistency of outcomes.”

He announced a host of changes to planning controls for the Melbourne CBD which most notably included a maximum 24:1 plot ratio—still far more lenient than central Sydney’s maximum plot ratio of 11:1; minimum boundary setbacks; mandatory height limits to replace discretionary limits; and tighter controls on overshadowing of the river and public squares.

The City of Melbourne’s role as a referral authority has also been made official.


 The Urban Development Institute slammed Wynne’s application of overnight interim planning controls in Melbourne’s CBD, asking the Andrews Government to “open its eyes” to the longer term implications of its actions.

“Now is not the time to be undermining investor confidence nor is it the time to be sending messages to the business community that Melbourne is closed for business,” says The Institute’s Victorian chief executive Danni Addison.

Addison did welcome the addressing of issues such as amenity and preserving Melbourne’s liveability but wasn’t chuffed by the the Minister’s “blunt action” of introducing interim controls without warning.

"Swift, uncanvassed action such as that taken overnight by the Planning Minister serves only one purpose – to undermine investor confidence, which can only lead to reduced activity," said Ms Addison.

The Property Council also chimed in on the discussion and defended the rights of those investors who had bought sites expecting to put in planning applications for 40 or more levels but would now be left millions of dollars out of pocket.

"People who have purchased sites before Friday night, some of those sites may now be unviable [to develop] and a lot of money has gone into them," explains the council's executive director Jennifer Cunich in a report by The Age.

 "All of that has just evaporated overnight."


But not all developers were as negative as the UDIA. Grocon head of development Dan McLennan for example told the Australian Financial Review that it was "a bit too early" to say the interim measures – subject to a 12-month consultation – would cut investment.

But McLennan did say that the new plot ratio controls alone would not be enough to stop the buildings being approved that Wynne is fighting back against, instead he believes the state should consider a NSW-style requirement for developments above a certain value to hold design competitions, forcing developers to consider a range of ideas for their projects.

"One of the more concerning trends I see in the CBD of Melbourne would be the concentration of design within certain firms, as opposed to a broad spectrum of architects in developing the look and feel of the city," McLennan told the AFR.

"The best architects we've worked with have been the ones who really challenge you as opposed to the ones who simply draw the lines where you want them to. In the cut and thrust it's frustrating, but you look back at the end product and you see the benefit."


The land affected by this amendment in terms of zones and design and development overlays (height controls) is within the Capital City Zone Schedules 1, 2 and 3, Public Use Zone Schedules 1, 2 and 7, Road Zone, Public Park and Recreation Zone, Mixed Use Zone and General Residential Zone and is also within the Design and Development Overlay Schedules 2, 7, 40, 60 and 62.

 The amendment introduces mandatory built form controls to the Central City on an interim basis of 12 months, by making the following changes to the Melbourne Planning Scheme:

  • Amend Capital City Zone, Schedules 1 and 2 to introduce mandatory controls to limit overshadowing to identified public spaces and introduce wind analysis application requirements;
  • Amend Capital City Zone, Schedule 3 to introduce mandatory controls to limit overshadowing to the Shrine of Remembrance and its northern forecourt;
  • Amend Design and Development Overlay Schedules 2 (Height Controls- Capital City Zone), 7 (Former Fishmarket Site Northbank), 40 (River Environs), 60 (Southbank) and 62 (Bourke Hill) to change discretionary height controls to mandatory height controls;
  • Insert a new Design and Development Overlay Schedule 10 (DDO10) to apply mandatory podium height and setback requirements with a discretionary site plot ratio control to the remainder of the amendment area and include provisions to allow reconstructed and replacement buildings and transitional provisions for current applications;
  • Amend Clauses 22.01 (Urban Design within the Capital City Zone) and Clause 22.02 (Sunlight to Public Spaces) for consistency with the revised shadowing controls and built form controls of DDO10;
  • Amend the Schedule to Clause 66.04 to make City of Melbourne a recommending referral authority for planning applications for developments with a gross floor area exceeding 25,000 square metres, for which the Minister for Planning is the Responsible Authority, within Schedules 1, 2 and 3 of the Capital City Zone;
  • Amend 8DDOPT3 by deleting Area 2 and Area 3 of Schedule 60 to the Design and Development Overlay; and
  • Insert map 8DDO10 to show Design and Development Overlay Schedule 10.