The Victorian State Government has released Plan Melbourne, a draft containing 7 objectives, 41 directions and 115 initiatives that will shape Melbourne from early 2014 to 2050.

The 176-page plan has been hailed by Premier Denis Napthine as “the most significant document for the future of Melbourne and Victoria over the next 40-50 years”, and a vision that would help Melbourne remain as one of the most liveable cities in the world.

However, the focus is not just on Melbourne, but also Regional Victoria.

“This is about producing a state of cities, not just a city state,” said Napthine.

With Victoria’s population set to grow exponentially by 2050, regional towns will become population and employment hubs, while urban renewal projects will drive jobs in Melbourne, the blueprint says.

So far, the plan has received the backing of several key industry groups, including Victoria’s leading transport advocate RACV. However, the state opposition says the plan will change Melbourne, bringing gridlock and congestion.

“More high-rises, more people, more cars, but no public transport and no infrastructure,” deputy opposition leader James Merlino said.

Merlino added that the appeal rights of neighbours objecting to high-rise development would be removed under the more controversial parts of the plan.

Certain initiatives that were expected but missing from the Plan include accommodating for low scale unit development in established suburbs. Instead, the housing focus is on high density and detached housing, with less in between.

Outer urban rail extensions, such as Mernda and Epping North, are not included, while others like Rowvlle have been delayed.

Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur said a permanent growth boundary sent a strong message to the market and encouraged a greater share of future growth and development in regional cities and towns.

The RACV also called for bipartisan support for the plan.

“We believe it represents a chance to start getting transport infrastructure and planning right and to learn from the mistakes of the past,” said RACV acting general manager of public policy, Thanuja Gunatillake.

“This strategy offers a chance to end the chronic under-investment in transport projects and services and RAVC calls on both sides of politics to agree to the key proposals outlines in the report.”

Brief outline of the plan, courtesy of Tract Consultants:

The expected initiatives of the Plan include:

  • A heavy reliance on activity centres and renewal areas to accommodate more of Melbourne’s growth, with far less emphasis on established areas of detached housing
  • Significant residential growth in previously announced urban renewal precincts, including Fishermans Bend, Arden-Macaulay and E-Gate
  • A new Metropolitan Planning Authority with powers to plan state-significant sites and precincts, and oversee the delivery of the Plan
  • The establishment of 5 new metropolitan sub-regions - Central, Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western - as the basis for planning coordination and setting housing growth targets

The surprising initiatives of the Plan include:

  • A permanent metropolitan boundary to replace the existing Urban Growth Boundary, with a ‘locking in’ mechanism to be determined
  • A serious push towards de-centralisation through the use of Regional Victoria as a ‘release valve’ when growth areas fill, especially in towns like Bacchus Marsh, Ballan, Broadford, Kilmore and Wothaggi.
  • A massively expanded Central City - to be Australia’s largest commercial and residential centre by 2040 - at the hub of an ‘Integrated Economic Triangle’ of employment, ports and transport links
  • The Metro 2 Project - rerouting the Epping and Hurstbridge lines though a new tunnel to Melbourne University and ultimately Fishermans Bend
  • The identification of dozens of new urban renewal precincts like Cremorne, Collingwood, North Richmond to Victoria Park, and at Hampton, Jewell, Alphington and Essendon Stations
  • A possible future airport in outer south-east, with potential locations between Koo Wee Rup and Lang Lang identified

More controversial initiatives include:

  • A "code assessment approach" to multi-unit development, meaning that development which meets enhanced ResCode standards in certain areas - such as the new Residential Growth Zone - are exempt from notice and third-party appeals
  • The majority of new dwellings - 600,000 of a total 1,046,000 - will be built in established areas (an established/growth areas split of 57/43%)
  • Continued expansion of the freeway network, including the East-West Link (with sweeteners like new boulevards and tram upgrades added), and investigation of the North East Link (Greensborough to the Eastern Freeway)

For more information about Plan Melbourne, please visit Public submissions are open until Friday, 6 December 2013.