4 August 2014 — BRIEF: The Victorian Government Architect, the City of Melbourne, industry and researchers will take part in an open public forum being held tonight (Monday) by the Inner Melbourne Planning Alliance to discuss what Alliance president Darragh O’Brien says are concerns about the quality of outcomes created by the densification of residential development across Melbourne’s urban renewal zones and the CBD.

Dr O’Brien, who is founder of the Architectural Research Consultancy and former founding director of the Spatial Research Group at Monash University, said that while the Alliance supported densification, there was a need for better quality design standards and clear frameworks for the guaranteed provision of soft infrastructure including public open space.

“These spaces are not being provided in the masterplanning as secured land. If you were building hard infrastructure, such as a road, would you be putting the plans out and telling people that you will be buying the land for it in future?

“Where is the plan for providing amenity for those people in the urban renewal areas and the CBD? Our biggest concern is around what happens at street level.”

He also said the consultation processes were not ensuring the needs and concerns of the community were being heard.

“By the time the plan reached the community it had no wriggle room. Even the development and property sectors feel they are not being properly consulted,” Dr O’Brien said.

The standards under development by the Office of the Victorian Government Architect together with the City of Melbourne for apartment design in multi-residential projects are also on the forum agenda.

Dr O’Brien said that while these guidelines are necessary, there would still need to be some flexibility, but not so much looseness that developments will not achieve baselines for environmental and social sustainability.

He pointed out that all the plans, such as Plan Melbourne and the Fishermans Bend Strategic Plan, might “say all the right things” but mechanisms were missing for ensuring delivery.

“The real issues are around quality outcomes, and we can’t rely on the open market to deliver those. So we need policy also to ensure they are delivered.

“We are trying to create a situation where developers, and the community and planners can all be in the one room.”

The forum panel will include Geoffrey London, Victorian Government Architect; City of Melbourne coordinator of city plans and policy Leanne Hodyl; and Ashley Williams from Evolve Development, representing the Property Council.

Event details here.