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    Melbourne’s new planning controls wins over even the sceptics

    Nathan Johnson

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    One of the most outspoken critics of mandatory apartment standards has conceded to the Victorian government’s new wave of planning controls on plot ratios in Melbourne’s Hoddle Grid and Southbank.

    Craig Yelland of Plus Architecture is a long-time assailant of the State government’s plans to adopt a set of Victorian Apartment Design Standards (VADS), suggesting that they will affect housing affordability and supply, and stifle creativity in the architecture profession.

    But at a recent event hosted by Architecture & Design in Melbourne city, Yelland did concede that while the recently proposed planning control C270 isn’t ideal, they could have some benefit to the community. At one point he even called them “okay”.

    C270 will, among other things, limit the extent of development possible on each city site to 18:1, down from the current 24:1 ratio that was established by the state government as an interim ratio in 2015.

    While Yelland did make it very clear that he is still opposed to any sort of regulation on apartment design, he did welcome a discretionary clause in the new rules which will allow developers to increase their plot ratio if they can prove to planning that their project will create a public benefit.

    The C270 document lists the inclusion of public open space and laneways, on site office use, public space in the building and social housing in the building as examples of ‘public benefits’.

    “It’s a good idea because it provides developers with an incentive to provide public amenity because they can then build bigger and their return on investment will go up,” Yelland commented.

    But Yelland did warn that Melbourne is running the risk of heading down the path of boring buildings, which has been the case in other cities with regulated apartment standards such as Hong Kong and Sydney.

    In particular, Yelland was deeply troubled by the effect apartment standards have had in Sydney, suggesting that the creativity of Sydney’s multi-res architects has been stifled because they’re designing to meet standards and “best practice” rather than looking for new and innovative ways to design.

    OTHERS ONBOARD

    Architect David Waldren, who is head of culture and innovation at Grocon, told The Herald Sun that any controls that improved amenity was a distinct plus.

    “The interim controls were appropriate, and there was then a pause while we considered what was appropriate construction,’’ he said.

    He also believes that the new proposals won’t stifle development and will encourage more considered construction.

    “There has been a preponderance of some very tall buildings that were not giving back to the city. Melbourne has a rich architectural tradition, and these controls should help continue that.’’

    Professor Michael Buxton, of RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research, also told The Herald Sun that the controls aimed not to stop but to improve high-rise developments.

    “It will help restrict the gold-rush mentality of developers plundering the amenity of the CBD,’’ he said.

    THE NEXT STEPS

    An independent hearing process will commence in July 2016 regarding the C270 control. All are welcomed to submit a submission which will be considered at a Planning Panels Victoria hearing if they wish. The Melbourne Planning Scheme will not be amended until the full exhibition, submission, panel, and reporting process is complete and considered by the Minister for Planning. This is expected to be in September 2016. For more information and to lodge a submission, visit: www.delwp.vic.gov.au/central-city

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