A recent planning study has criticised the lack of planning guidance for high rise development in the Melbourne central business district.

The report’s author, Leanne Hodyl, is a town planner at Melbourne City Council and her research project was completed as part of a Churchill Fellowship.  The study compared the high-rise planning policies of five cities (New York, Vancouver, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul) to Melbourne. A'beckett St

The report concluded that “high-rise apartment towers are being built in central Melbourne at four times the maximum densities allowed in Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo – some of the highest density cities in the world“.  The re  port states that planning policies for high density residential development in Melbourne are weak, ineffective or non-existent.

The study compared a block in Melbourne bound by A’Beckett, Elizabeth, Franklin and Stewart Streets with what would be permitted in the comparison cities.  The investigation found that the density permitted in Melbourne (8,600 residents within the study block) far exceeds the allowable density in the other cities – Hong Kong came in second with ‘only’ 3,600 residents in a single block.

While the report acknowledges the benefits of high-rise apartment development in major cities, it highlights the need for appropriate planning guidance to ensure that our liveability is not compromised through poor quality housing and public realm.

Currently, there are no specific design standards for high rise apartment development in Melbourne.  In comparison, residential development in Victoria under five storeys is assessed against a detailed residential code that seeks to manage off-site amenity impacts and ensure appropriate amenity for future residents.

City viewThe report suggests that Melbourne would benefit from policies that apply density controls, include density bonuses, enforce tower separation and establish minimum apartment standards.  Density bonuses are a common incentive used in other major cities to encourage developers of high rise buildings to fund community facilities or affordable housing.

While some municipalities, including Moreland, are attempting to introduce minimum apartment tower standards, we believe that a state-wide approach is necessary to ensure that new policies for higher density development are consistent across Victoria.

When in opposition, the Labor Party was critical of the lack of standards for apartment towers and the numerous tower approvals by the previous Planning Minister, Matthew Guy.  We will be interested to see how the new Planning Minister responds to this issue.

Enquires to Tessa Bond on 03 8698 9300 or txb@colliepl.com.auPrima pearl