Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne sets CBD rules for Melbourne
Developers will be allowed to build taller apartment towers in Melbourne’s CBD as long as they provide “public amenities” including office space as the city council seeks to maintain the city’s commercial core.
Melbourne’s move to control CBD development comes as Sydney also pushes back against a takeover of the central city by a flood of high-rise apartment towers.
Danni Addison, chief executive of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, a lobby group, said the new rules for the Melbourne CBD were “a very blunt tool” but had enough flexibility “to negotiate outcomes on a site by site basis”.
Victoria’s Planning Minister Richard Wynne has now made permanent a set of interim development rules for central Melbourne introduced last year.
The new rules were tightened further in April this year, setting a plot ratio of 18:1 to limit the extent of development that can be achieved over an individual city site.
In the final form of the rules, Mr Wynne has retained a key provision which allows developers to exceed that limit on density if they can meet guidelines on so-called public benefit.
That will mean adding public space or laneways around a new tower or including public space within a building.
Under the guidelines, office space will be considered a public benefit, as will a component of affordable housing.
Mr Wynne has also tweaked the permanent rules to allow a developer to count the administrative and holding costs for a project toward the valuation of the public benefit.
The new rules mandate setbacks and building separation and prevent overshadowing of the city’s most popular open areas such as Federation Square, the State Library forecourt, and the Yarra River.
There will be no maximum height limits beyond existing controls around Bourke Hill and Bourke Street Mall.
The mechanism allowing greater development – or “floor area uplift” – will be the most contentious.
Already under the interim rules, Mr Wynne has approved Sterling Global’s 70-storey tower, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, with a plot ratio of 29:1.
That $700 million tower met the public benefit requirement by creating an arcade and laneway and making accessible a historic wall of the nearby Royal Mint.
RMIT University planning academic Professor Michael Buxton said that development uplift provision was flawed because public benefit should be part of the approval, not the basis for a bonus.
“Providing incentives for public benefit is really going to allow for substantial additions to the height on top of an already generous plot ratio.”
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle strongly endorsed the the discretionary element to the rules and said the council itself would be an arbiter on the public benefit.
Of greater concern to Cr Doyle is the need to rein in the city’s galloping residential high-rise towers, which are crowding out the potential for commercial space to employ city workers.
“We’re going to have to consider some mechanism to provide incentives for more commercial development.
“We’re generating around 10,000 jobs a year. We need room for those workers.”
Sydney is already moving in that direction. The draft Central Sydney Planning Strategy laid out in July aims to reshape its CBD by limiting residential and promoting commercial development.