Amendment C105 to the Moreland Planning Scheme was gazetted on 23 September 2010. Amendment C105 applies, through the use of a Design and Development Overlay, interim height limits to the Brunswick Major Activity Centre around Sydney Road and Lygon Streets. But is this the right way to go to encourage development in our activity centres?

Amendment C105 seeks to implement the Brunswick Structure Plan to protect areas around Sydney Road, Lygon Street and Nicholson Street in Brunswick and Brunswick East from ‘inappropriate’ development while the Structure Plan is finalised. The Design and Development Overlays recommend various height limits ranging from three storeys up to seven storeys. Amendment C105 was an ‘overnight’ amendment approved by the Minister for Planning without public notification, hence the interim nature of the controls.

Brunswick Major Activity Centre is a significant opportunity to provide increased residential population in an inner northern Melbourne area that is extremely well served by a range of public transport and other services. The existing mix of land uses also provides opportunities for multi-storey residential and mixed use development.

It should be noted that the Brunswick Structure Plan was prepared in 2006 and adopted by Moreland City Council in 2008. It seems accepted, including in recent Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) decisions, that general planning policy has ‘moved on’ in the past four years since the Structure Plan was developed. Since the initial preparation of the Structure Plan in 2006, a number of developments have been approved either by Council or VCAT throughout the Structure Plan area with heights exceeding those recommended by the Structure Plan.

Is it not the role of VCAT to consider whether development is ‘appropriate’ in this Major Activity Centre while Council completes work on the Structure Plan, as has been the case for the past four years? What of those developers who have purchased properties next door to an approved thirteen storey development that are now told that their property has a recommended height limit of five storeys applying to it?

Despite the document being four years old, Council has yet to complete work on the Structure Plan to an extent that it can be tested rigorously through a full planning scheme amendment process. Will Amendment C105 encourage Council to speed up this work?

Alternatively, the Brunswick Major Activity Centre seems an opportunity for the Department of Planning and Community Development to take a greater role in implementing another Activity Centre Zone like they have done in Doncaster.

Contact Jay Hollerich : jjh@colliepl.com.au