Nightingale takes off: Melbourne architects' development approved
Architects call for support for affordable, quality housing that isn’t about profit

An architect-led apartment development in Brunswick, Melbourne has had its council approval revoked by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) because it doesn’t have any car parks.

Nightingale Apartments, designed by Breathe Architecture, received planning approval from the Moreland Council back in March, however the five storey mixed use development consisting of two ground floor offices and 20 residential dwellings has now lost an appeal lodged with the VCAT by a neighbouring developer.

The development site at 6 Florence Street, Brunswick is situated across the road from the award winning ‘The Commons’ apartment complex, also designed by Breathe in a similar sustainable ethos and without car parking facilities. Like The Commons, the Nightingale developers are a band of local architects who share a belief that high-quality, yet affordable medium density housing can be made a reality with triple bottom line design. One way the developers planned to reduce the cost of the Nightingale apartments was by removing car parking from the building. More on the development here. 

But Nightingale’s neighbour at 8 Florence Street was unpleased with the Moreland Council approval and has now successfully appealed the ruling at VCAT.

Chaucer Enteprises, who plan to develop the neighbouring 8 Florence Street into a five storey apartment block with basement car parking, lodged the appeal because they considered it unfair that they be subject to planning car parking provisions while Nightingale is exempt.

The decision to revoke the Nightingale approval was handed down by VCAT Senior Member Russell Byard, his ruling suggested that while the guiding ethos of the Nightingale development was commendable, it did not warrant exemption from complying with clause 52.06 for car parking.

Byard emphasise section two of the clause 52.06 in his objection explanation which reads:

To ensure the provision of an adequate number of car parking spaces having regard to the demand likely to be generated, the activities on the land and the nature of the locality.

Basically, Byard argues that although the first generation of The Nightingale residents would be vetted and wouldn’t require car parking spaces, successive generations as well as visitors to the apartments would demand the provision of parking in the future.

"How can it be good planning, or equitable in relation to Chaucer and other developers, that they should be required to contribute to the meeting of the parking demand they generate whilst The Commons and Florence are to be excused?” he explains.

“If The Commons and Florence are to excused, why not Chaucer and all the others, including those yet to be proposed? I consider that this would be poor planning, and contrary to the purposes of clause 52.06”

He also says that claims made by Breathe that the removal of car parking would provide for more affordable housing were unconvincing.

“Another claim made in relation to the design and materials proposed is that they would produce ‘affordable’ housing,” he says.

“The proposed absence of onsite car parking is one aspect of this alleged affordability. However, I am not persuaded that there is any mechanism whereby such affordability would be achieved, or maintained in relation to succeeding generations of owners.”

Breathe and the Moreland Council believe that the Nightingale development, which is located next to a train station, a bicycle path and within walking distance of trams, did not require car parking.  The development was also expected to include bicycle parking, a shared car facility and a ‘green travel plan’, which would be issued by the body corporate to residents.

But again, Byard considers such a green plan as not futureproofed.

“This appears as a worthwhile arrangement although administratively burdensome to the future body corporate arising from subdivision of the proposed development,” he says.

“Such body corporate may or may not prove willing to sustain such arrangements over the long term.”

Breathe Architecture now plans to resubmit the development application with an addition of some car parking spaces on the ground floor.

Six Degrees Architects and Andrew Maynard Architects also have versions of Nightingale in the works.