The recent decision to grant a planning permit for a mixed use development at 451 Lygon Street, Brunswick East has raised questions of consistency in the way the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) considers development proposals that seek car parking dispensation.  Originally rejected by Moreland City Council, the approval allows for the construction of twelve dwellings above ground floor offices with no car parking.

This VCAT ruling has drawn attention to the Nightingale decision by VCAT late last year where an application for ground floor offices, 20 apartments and no car parking on a site adjacent to a train station was refused.

Alongside the recent decision in Brunswick East, ‘The Commons’ apartment complex designed by the same company responsible for the Nightingale project (and located on the opposite side of the road to the Nightingale site), has many people questioning the unpredictable position of Council and VCAT in dealing with this type of development,  which is eagerly sought after by many Melbournians.  Notwithstanding that the specifics of each proposal may have led to some reasonable differences in the decisions, on the face of it, it does appear that there are diverging opinions among the VCAT members on this policy issue.

With applications similar to those discussed above likely to become more commonplace, we believe that the State Planning Department needs to step in and provide better policy direction on how car parking should be dealt with in well serviced, inner-ring areas.  What extent of car parking dispensation is acceptable, and what impact should initiatives such as car share schemes and bicycle storage facilities have on the consideration of these proposals?  These are just some of the questions that need to be considered at a State level.

We at Collie will be interested to see what impact this most recent decision will have on the revised Nightingale proposal, which was submitted at the end of last year and includes three car parking spaces, and the approach of councils and VCAT to future sustainable development proposals.