How will Plan Melbourne affect your neighbourhood

The Age: How will Plan Melbourne affect your neighbourhood? May 25, 2014. Jason Dowling. City Editor for The Age

The state government’s blueprint for how and where our city should be developed – Plan Melbourne – was finally released last week. It’s a policy with the power to make a difference to your backyard, neighbourhood, job and even retirement plans. How exactly? Jason Dowling peers over the fence.

■ It seems each state government wants to leave its mark with new planning rules and city boundaries. How does Plan Melbourne differ from previous plans?

It is more similar than different to previous plans such as the Labor government’s Melbourne 2030. With one of the world’s largest cities in geographic terms, spanning nearly 10,000 square kilometres, recent blueprints for Melbourne have attempted to limit Melbourne’s sprawl; this plan is no different and talks about setting a firm boundary. Easier said than done.

The new plan also wants to use what we have in a better way; more housing in suburbs that already have services (even though the plan also seeks to protect the suburbs from ”inappropriate development”); build near activity centres and employment clusters – government calls it ”common sense” planning. This plan, the government tells us, is different because it will be delivered with the help of a new Metropolitan Planning Authority.

■ But doesn’t local government have the power to approve and oversee new building?

Local government does strategic plans for their municipality and small stuff – house renovations and small developments, that are often what make residents and builders angry. Local governments are finalising new planning zones that will make clear what can be built where: how many homes on a block and how high. Plan Melbourne highlights activity centres and employment clusters where medium density development is expected. The rules governing setbacks, overshadowing and other aspects of design – ResCode – remain unchanged.

■ Will the new authority change VCAT’s controversial role in approving and rejecting planned developments?

No. VCAT remains Victoria’s planning umpire.

■ Planning is fraught with conflicts between developers and community conservatives, governments who want a growing economy and tax take and not-in-my-backyard residents. How does Plan Melbourne handle the politics?

According to one senior planner, the losers are residents in the growth areas, where there are no firm commitments to deliver community facilities and public transport services; the winners are those in the established middle suburbs. Will there be fewer planning disputes? In some places, yes. Plan Melbourne and the Planning Minister want to bring certainty to planning in Victoria. If you can afford to live in a leafy suburb with a neighbourhood residential zone you do not have to worry about a six-storey tower going up next door.

Likewise, if you are in growth zone or activity centre, don’t be surprised when workmen turn up nearby for that new multi-storey development. This document and the new zones are more prescriptive than the past. The uncertainty may come in the general residential zone that leaves the door open to challenge.

■ So, what will Melbourne look like in 30 years under this plan?

Teeming. Under current projections there could be 7 million people in the city – up from 4.3 million now. The CBD would have expanded massively with skyscrapers from Footscray Road to South Melbourne and Carlton. More train stations will have medium-density retail and apartment developments and there will be more freeways encouraging more people to drive, bike paths and maybe a new train line to the airport.

■ Where will the increased density be concentrated?

Melbourne’s west, north and south- east will take up the bulk of the city’s population growth to 2031. The south-east could have 480,000 more residents, the north 470,000 and the west 430,000. These areas still have undeveloped land within the urban growth boundary. It is also expected councils in the eastern and south-eastern suburbs will push for tougher housing zones to restrict development. Glen Eira has already locked up about 80 per cent of its residential area with the neighbourhood housing zone. Where will the new housing for the 480,000 new residents occur if vast tracts of residential land are zoned for little or no change?

■ What does Plan Melbourne have to say about how new infrastructure – roads, public transport, schools, and hospitals – will be planned and funded to keep pace with increased density in growth areas?

Big strategic plans – particularly for billions of dollars worth of infrastructure – are sometimes referred to as ”wish visions” by the sceptical. The former Brumby government in 2008 famously released a largely unfunded $38 billion transport plan. Plan Melbourne faces the same risk. It is not a budget document; it is an ambitious plan. There are colourful lines going everywhere. The East West Link looks likely – it has funding from tolls and billions of dollars in federal money.

After that it gets a bit murky. Plan Melbourne says the Melbourne Rail Link from Melbourne Airport to the city, South Melbourne and South Yarra will become ”progressively operational” from 2017-25. Less than 10 per cent of the estimated $11 billion cost is in the budget papers for the next four years. In the next three years that dives below three per cent. The budget papers say there is $40 million for this project in 2014-15 and remaining expenditure of $10.96 billion with an estimated completion ”from 2023-24”. With the state facing increasing funding pressure from federal government cuts it is difficult to see how this project will be funded.

■ Will Plan Melbourne finally give clarity and certainty – to those who want to build and to residents – as well as flexibility in housing options and affordability?

Yes. Plan Melbourne and accompanying zones make it clearer what can be built and where. Some ambiguity will remain as some developers push limits and some residents oppose any development. Will it be more affordable and will there be more housing choice? Unclear until zones are finalised but there are some worrying signs that choice may be reduced and housing will become increasingly unaffordable to buy or rent for a growing number of households. Suburbs may be locked up – gated communities where only those rich enough to buy a large family home can live. As these middle suburbs continue to accommodate an ageing population there are likely to be fewer choices available for these people to age in their suburb. Those calling for minimal development such as apartments and town houses may feel differently when they want to downsize as they retire or have their children enter the housing market close by.

Melbourne’s mega-city needs new boundary, plan says

The Age: Melbourne’s mega-city needs new boundary, plan says. May 20, 2014. Shane Green and Beau Donelly

Source: Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure

A permanent urban boundary to contain Melbourne’s sprawl is part of the new blueprint to deal with the city’s booming population, now forecast to hit almost eight million by 2051.

The government’s new Plan Melbourne declares the need for a ”clear statement” on the boundary. But the final line could be different to the existing limits, with the plan setting up a mechanism to determine it.

The views of councils, the city’s physical features and boundaries formed by major infrastructure are among the factors that will be considered by the new Metropolitan Planning Authority, which will implement the new strategy.

The plan includes sweeping revisions to Melbourne’s population, now at 4.3 million, with the city expected to hit 7.7 million people by 2051, up from 6.5 million forecast in the draft of the plan only seven months ago.

Beyond limiting urban sprawl, the plan also proposes a boost in growth in Victoria’s regional centres to accommodate the extra numbers.

It also includes the Napthine government’s big infrastructure projects, such as the East West Link and the Melbourne Rail Link, including the airport rail link.

Premier Denis Napthine said the state’s population was growing at an annual rate of 2 per cent, compared with 1.8 per cent in the rest of the country. But he argued Melbourne could grow while at the same time protecting its treasured liveability.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the strategy provided a solid foundation to meet the challenges of a city of 7.7 million. ”This is a document that will define the way not just Melbourne, but the entirety of Victoria, grows into the future,” he said.

But opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said Mr Guy had ignored the 10,000 Victorians who gave their views for the strategy, and had rewritten the plan to justify ”a dodgy East West tunnel”.

”Last month’s state budget had no substantive funding for anything else in the plan because it has all been blown on Denis Napthine’s expensive dud tunnel,” he said.

The planning strategy, which aims to establish a direction for the next 40 years, also:

■ Expands the central city with the aim of becoming Australia’s largest commercial and residential centre by 2040. This includes urban renewal projects at Fishermans Bend and E-Gate, and a bigger employment cluster at Parkville.

■ Divides Melbourne into five metropolitan subregions: central, western, northern, southern and eastern.

■ Proposes 20-minute neighbourhoods – where facilities and jobs are only a 20-minute trip from home.

Planning expert Roz Hansen, who headed Mr Guy’s advisory committee and resigned in protest over public service interference, described the plan as ”very disappointing”. She said there was very little change from the October draft, with the main inclusions being the recent announcements by the government, such as the big transport projects.

She said there were many lost opportunities, such as initiatives for housing affordability, planning neighbourhoods for increased housing choice and more services. There was also a reluctance to improve metropolitan bus services in middle and outer suburbs.

Planning Institute of Australia state president Brett Davis was ”cautiously optimistic” about the planning blueprint. He welcomed the airport rail link and expanding of an employment cluster at Parkville. But he raised concerns about prioritising the East West Link.

”There does seem to be some retrofitting of policy to match some of the announcements that have just come out,” he said. ”The East West link … we wouldn’t identify as a priority project.”

Eight things you won’t recognise about Melbourne in 2051

The Age: Eight things you won’t recognise about Melbourne in 2051. May 20, 2014. Jason Dowling, City Editor for The Age

Get ready for more crowded footpaths, streets and public transport with Melbourne’s population expected to grow almost 80 per cent by 2050. Photo: Paul Rovere

The government is planning for a metropolis of 7.7 million by 2051, Melbourne is going to change a lot, according to Plan Melbourne. This is how it will affect you.

1) Welcome to BIG MELBOURNE

It’s going to be busier, much busier – on footpaths, freeways, backstreets, trams and trains.

Melbourne’s city centre will expand to become Australia’s biggest. Photo: Jessica Shapiro

Schools will have more students and the wait at the local doctors may lengthen. Melbourne’s population growth projections are massive – almost 80 per cent more residents by 2050.

2) Melbourne will be Australia’s largest city centre.

The CBD is sprawling. The Hoddle Grid will no longer be the centre of the city – add areas such as Montague (South Melbourne), e-gate (Footscray Road), and the north bank of the Yarra River.

You’ll have a lot more neighbours so here’s hoping they are agreeable. Photo: Supplied: Universal Pictures

3) The big squeeze

Everybody may need good neighbours but do you need this many? More than 60 per cent of all new homes will be in established suburbs. The Christmas street party is going to be a crowded affair.

4) Leave my leafy suburb alone!

There will be twice as many new apartments than houses.

More Melbournes will live in apartments and the the city’s CBD will be Australia’s biggest. Photo: Harry Afentoglou

The most crowded areas will be in Melbourne’s west, north and south east where population growth is expected to be double than in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

5) Freeway blitz

Melbourne is a city that can’t resist building a new freeway/tollway. Even after the $16 billion east west link from the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road, several more are planned, including completing the ring road from Greensborough to the Eastern Freeway and a new outer ring road.

Backyard play may move to shared communal areas with more Melburnians living in apartments and townhouses. Photo: Jason South

6) What jobs will you have?

There will be plenty of jobs in health and business services such as finance and insurance while manufacturing will almost halve its slice of Victoria’s workforce by 2031 to just six per cent.

7) Goodbye to the backyard

Bid farewell to the great Australian backyard with lots more living in apartments. Two apartments or townhouses for every new detached home.

8) Well, this you may recognise – a long wait for the train

Don’t expect to be catching a train to the airport for that trip to Bali next year.

New train vision could take decades. Melbourne’s City Loop was funded through a combination of state government money and a levy on city properties – it still took almost 15 years to complete.

Melbourne’s Rail Link from Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross and South Yarra will cost up to $11 billion. Less than 10 per cent of this is in state the budget papers. At the current level investment – without federal funding – it could take 40 years to fund the project.

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