City Limits Panel Discussion

001The Property Council of Australia facilitated on 16 April a panel discussion on issues around the future growth of Melbourne.  The discussion was ‘oiled’ by a presentation form the Gratten Institute on some key findings from its City Limits book released earlier this year.

In a follow on from an article about City Limits published on the Collie website in March this year, the panel discussion was interesting with knowledgeable speakers and a good moderator in Christian Grahame of Mirvac.  Some interesting issues raised included:

  • the growing mismatch between areas of residential and employment growth, the adverse impact on commuting times and family time and even the shutting off of work opportunities and loss of good resource use;
  • the “stupidity” of the ‘reformed’ residential  zoning undertaken by the previous government and it  s adverse impact on the development of a balanced and forward looking City in terms of middle ring virtual ‘no-go’ areas;
  • the lack of attention over too many years to required new transport infrastructure or better utilisation / management of existing infrastructure and the growth pressures that will exacerbate these problems;
  • the importance of employment clusters in Sunshine, Monash, East Werribee and Dandenong South as  providers of employment closer to residential suburban locations;
  • the need for a metropolitan planning authority that is empowered to plan Melbourne holistically rather than allowing it to continue to be “run by 31 local interest groups”.

How Much is too Much – Overshadowing of Solar Panels

002As published last week, France has just introduced laws that require new buildings in commercial zones to have green roofs or be partially covered in solar panels.  Much like the lack of green roof policy, Victorian planning schemes lack planning guidance for solar panels (location and protection of access to sunlight), particularly when it comes to overshadowing of existing panels.

An article in the March edition of the VPELA revue explored various VCAT decisions that deal with the issue of overshadowing.  The review found that overshadowing decisions within Victoria are assessed on a case-by-case basis with important factors including the position and vulnerability of panels and the reasonableness of the extent of overshadowing.

As solar panels become an increasingly popular addition to the rooftops of Melbourne, there will need to be more focus on policy to provide guidance on the initial appropriate location of and protection of sunlight access to solar panels.  This is a vexed issue as uncontrolled and poor locations of solar panels should not become the stopper to the reasonable development opportunities for a neighbouring property.  On the other hand, well-located solar panels deserve sunlight access consideration.  The direct economic benefits of solar energy to the operators of the solar panels are more quantifiable than general shadowing requirements and thus the stakes and potential for conflict are likely to be higher.

NSW Residential Flat Design Code

RFDCA landmark decision has been handed down in the NSW Land and Environment Court that relates to the NSW Residential Flat Design Code (RFDC).

The RFDC aims to improve the design of apartment buildings through the provision of design guidelines for principles set out in the State Environment Planning Policy 65 – Design Quality of Residential Flat Development (SEPP 65).  SEPP 65 was introduced in 2002 as a State-wide policy to implement planning controls for apartments.

Under Clause 30A of SEPP 65 apartment areas cannot be a reason for refusal of a development if the area of each apartment meets or exceeds the minimum standards set out in the RFDC.  The ruling in this case found that the minimum apartment area standards that Clause 30A applies to are those found in the table in Part 3 of the RFDC.  The case effectively determined that compliance with the ‘Rules of Thumb’ (defined in the RFDC as recommended minimum standards) does not guarantee that a development will avoid refusal.

This issue is topical in Victoria with the current press about and apparent work going on in respect of a future ‘apartment design code’.