In March this year, the Victorian Government announced its intention to update Plan Melbourne (2014) – the strategic planning vision for Melbourne’s growth to the year 2050. This update is known as the Plan Melbourne refresh. Last week the Discussion Paper was released, marking the beginning of the consultation process. While the majority of Plan Melbourne will be retained in the refresh, the Discussion Paper demonstrates the Government’s interest in implementing some key policy changes with a particular emphasis on its preferred major infrastructure projects, climate change and energy efficiency, housing affordability and density, and transport priorities.

The Discussion Paper is informed by the 2015 Ministerial Advisory Committee Report (MAC Report) which can be found here. Key recommendations of the MAC Report considered in the Discussion Paper include:

  • confirming that the existing urban growth boundary should be ‘locked down’.
  • better defining the concept of ‘20-minute neighbourhoods’. One of the MAC’s major criticisms of Plan Melbourne (2014) was that it watered down the ’20-minute neighbourhood’ concept and many of its components were lost. It can be expected that this concept will be more robustly articulated in the Plan Melbourne refresh. At its heart is the idea of a polycentric city, with less of an emphasis on any one central area such as the Melbourne CBD. Higher housing densities will be encouraged close to neighbourhood centres.
  • increasing housing density and diversity in strategic locations, particularly in established areas. The supply of new housing should be shifted from a focus on greenfield growth areas in Plan Melbourne (2014) to a 70/30 split where 70 per cent of Melbourne’s new housing supply should be in established areas. This may entail the government exercising greater control over the release of greenfield land, and introducing planning reforms encouraging new housing in established areas.
  • reviewing the target to apply the Neighbourhood Residential Zone to at least 50 per cent of residential land should be reviewed – either by scaling back the target, or using it as a flexible guide.
  • investigating planning scheme mechanisms to support greyfield renewal (ie aging or undercapitalised areas of the inner or middle suburbs).
  • investigating a range of mechanisms to increase the stock of affordable and social housing, including the consideration of incentive schemes, mandatory requirements, and expedited approvals processes.
  • supporting renewable energy through precinct scale planning.
  • investigating whether new zones are needed for National Employment Clusters and urban renewal areas, or whether existing zones are sufficient.
  • updating the designation of some activity centres.
  • evaluating the merits of code assessment for multi-unit development to either replace ResCode with a codified process for multi-unit development, or identify ResCode standards that can be codified. This would require striking the right balance between the certainty brought about by a codified process, and the discretion achieved under the current regime.
  • protecting strategic agricultural land from urban and residential encroachment through planning mechanisms such as the application of overlays, zones, particular provisions or codes of practice.
  • removing the concept of the ‘Integrated Economic Triangle’. The Plan Melbourne refresh will instead reflect the Victorian Government’s new infrastructure priorities such as the Melbourne Metro Rail Project, the Cranbourne Pakenham Rail Upgrade, the Mernda Rail extension, the West Gate Distributor, and improvements to the cycling, bus and tram networks.

The full Discussion Paper can be accessed here.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

Public consultation with stakeholders, industry and community based on the issues raised in the Discussion Paper commenced on 22 October 2015. A series of consultation forums with representatives of industry, peak bodies and community groups will take place. Attendance will be by invitation, however all interested organisations and individuals may make submissions through the online consultation process. Submissions can be made here and are open until Friday 18 December 2015.

Based on these submissions, a Draft Plan will be released for submissions, and a Final Plan is expected to be released by mid-2016.