Metropolitan Melbourne may finally be ready for genuinely sustainable housing.

While the planning industry has given theoretical support for reducing our reliance on the private car for some years, decisions putting this policy into practice have been few and far between.

Recently, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) directed the grant of a permit for the second Nightingale development at Station Street in Fairfield. Maddocks acted for the permit applicant, Nightingale 2.0 Land Holding Pty Ltd.

Nightingale’s application proposed a medium density apartment development – a part five and part six storey building for a mix of uses – three shops and 20 dwellings. What sets the development apart from hundreds of others in inner Melbourne is that not even a single car park will be provided on site.

Darebin City Council (Council) supported the permit application including the full waiver of usual parking requirements, but objectors took the decision to VCAT. The critical ground of the objector’s review related to the absence of on-site car parking.

Over two days in December, VCAT Member Whitney heard submissions and evidence including expert traffic engineering evidence called by both Nightingale and Council.

Ultimately, the VCAT decision says it is appropriate for the car parking requirement to be reduced to zero. Reasons which persuaded VCAT included the excellent range of public transport options available to the land (the site abuts Fairfield Railway Station) and the model developed by Nightingale for attracting buyers who are highly committed to living a sustainable lifestyle.

The Victorian planning regime has paid regard on paper to the notion of reducing private car dependence at least from the early 2000s, but decision making has lagged behind. In part this results from very mixed community support for sustainable transport modes over the private car with apartment proposals involving reduced car parking provision regularly attracting significant community opposition.

As recently as 2015, VCAT revoked a council decision to approve the first Nightingale development project in Brunswick with a zero car parking provision on site.

The Nightingale 2.0 decision handed down last week marks a significant shift in the decision making trend.

A copy of the full decision, cited Dinopoulos v Darebin CC [2017] VCAT 118, can be found here.