Collie recently attended a public lecture by Places Victoria on the next ten years of Docklands, arranged by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects.  Docklands has generated its fair share of controversy since development first began a little over ten years ago.  It is hailed by some as the economic catalyst that Melbourne desperately needed at the end of the 1990s, offering cheap rent and prime location to local and international businesses.  Indeed, it is now home to such organisations as ANZ, NAB and Ericsson – and, as announced earlier in the week, Commonwealth Bank – and provides employment for 29,000 people.  Docklands also has the highest concentration of ‘Green Star’ (an environmental rating tool) rated buildings in Victoria.

On the other hand, critics lament the lack of early detailed planning and the absence of community infrastructure and ‘culture’.  There are no schools in Docklands, no community meeting places and very little attractive usable open space.  Such facilities normally act as the glue for community, and Docklands’ lack of culture could be partially attributed to their absence.  Large tracts of the precinct were sold to developers through a tender process, and the area can feel disjointed and lack the ‘fine grain’ of the nearby CBD.  And then, of course, there’s the ill-fated Ferris wheel.

Places Victoria (in collaboration with the City of Melbourne) is attempting to address some of this criticism through the recently-released Community and Place Plan.  The plan sets priorities for the next ten years of Docklands’ development and includes $300 million in community infrastructure projects, including schools, libraries, civic centres and pedestrian and cycling paths.  It is to become a reference document for the City of Melbourne and Places Victoria’s business plans, and will inform the future strategic work in the precinct.

Planning control over the precinct has been handed back to the City of Melbourne, a move some critics have demanded for years. With more than 50 per cent of the precinct left to be developed, the City of Melbourne now has an opportunity to better integrate Docklands with the rest of the Municipality.

While Docklands may be learning from its early planning mistakes, it seems as though such lessons have not been implemented in the nearby development of Fisherman’s Bend, which we have discussed here.  With rezoning complete and planning permit applications being accepted, the renewal of this inner city area may face similar struggles in its early years.  The City of Port Phillip, continuing on with the plans from before the area was rezoned, has developed a structure plan for the suburb of Montague and strategic directions for the Fishermans Bend precinct as a whole.  It is yet to be seen how these plans will be received by Places Victoria or the Minister for Planning as the responsible authority.  What is clear however, is that detailed planning is required and required soon, if Fisherman’s Bend is to provide the facilities and structure necessary to create a cohesive and attractive community.