_urbanisation and melbourne

Last Thursday Collie staff members attended a UDIA event on urbanisation and the future development trends in Melbourne.  Three guest speakers shared their thoughts on some of the challenges facing development in light of the unprecedented population growth Melbourne is experiencing.  They offered some possible solutions to address these challenges.

All presenters agreed that more needed to be done to increase opportunities for residential infill development in the inner suburbs of Melbourne and to reduce the percentage share of high rise residential apartments and low density development on the urban fringe.  European cities that comprise higher percentages of medium density development were discussed as the model that Melbourne should strive to replicate.  Yes, we see you nodding in agreement….but, we hear you saying, there is too little action to change the culture to enable this to occur.

On this topic, Collie is concerned that the years of protecting the status quo through the over-use of heritage overlays, urban character areas (used to be called ‘existing conditions’) and were recently, neighbourhood residential zones, has made the required culture change much more difficult.  This is not to say that all detached ‘lower density’ dwellings should be a thing of the past but that a more enlightened planning approach needs real consideration.  But of course, there is that issue called politics!

Another topic that was focused on by all presenters was public transport projects including the outer suburban underground rail loop and a high speed Melbourne to Sydney rail link and the opportunities that these projects could create in unlocking land for medium density residential development along these transport corridors.

Much of the evening was focused around ‘big picture’ ideas that would improve Melbourne liveability and notably, there was little discussion on how these ideas might be implemented such as through planning reforms to rezone land along rail corridors and / or amending the Victoria Planning Provisions to require increased housing densities in identified more growth areas.

All in all, the evening was insightful and particularly relevant given the upcoming State election and the contrasting policies of the Labor and Liberal parties on these issues.