Artist's impression of the proposed Nightingale development.

The Planning Institute of Australia is calling for Victoria to rethink its car-parking policy to improve housing affordability, health and the state’s sustainability credentials.

The Victoria branch of the PIA issued the call following a recent Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruling that overturned planning approval for a new apartment block on the basis that it did not have enough parking.

Based in Melbourne’s inner city Brunswick area, Breathe Architects’ Nightingale apartment development had been set for imminent construction when an action brought by an adjoining developer won its bid in the VCAT to overturn Moreland City Council’s approval of the project.

Under state requirements, a development the size of Nightingale would generally require 20 car spaces, however the council is able to reduce numbers required depending on certain criteria. In this case it decided “a total waiver could be implemented” as residents were to instead be issued with “green travel plans” for public transport.

It was this decision that the neighbouring developer took umbrage with, as he believed that the lack of parking would impact on the traffic and increase the parking burden experienced by surrounding neighbours.

The court ruled in favour of the applicant, stating, “when all is said and done, no such arrangements, whether by means of alternative cars or public transport, are as convenient as private car ownership”.

The case has not only had ramifications for Moreland, but also for any Victorian council with sustainability ambitions, not to mention the investor/buyers who now need to have their deposits refunded.

Victoria needs to “encourage and facilitate non-car transport”

James Larmour-Reid

PIA Victoria president James Larmour-Reid said the Nightingale case highlighted the “long overdue need to review the basis for the use of minimum car parking controls”.

“On an almost daily basis we hear news stories about the challenges of housing affordability, climate change and obesity,” Mr Larmour-Reid said. “These issues must be given priority over concerns about the nuisance of on-street parking.”

He said minimum car parking controls could increase the cost of housing and lead to poor design outcomes, and were also “a severe burden” on new businesses in established retail areas.

“We need to move to models of urban planning that encourage and facilitate non-car transport.”

Mr Larmour-Reid added that although zero parking “can’t work everywhere at the moment”, the state needed to “work towards a city model where people have the choice not to be car dependent”.

He added that the recent release of the Plan Melbourne Refresh Discussion Paper, which aims to make the city a “leader in climate change action”, provided “the perfect opportunity to open this debate”.

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