UPDATED: The Victorian government’s announcement that a new plan for Fishermans Bend is in the works has raised hopes that sustainable development will be once again put front and centre.
Last week planning minister Richard Wynne announced there would be a new plan for Fishermans Bend – one that would almost double its size from 250 hectares to 455 hectares, but, according to a media release from Mr Wynne’s office, also create a liveable community.
The announcement said the new plan would address “concerns about height and density of buildings, the absence of open space and the lack of local consultation”.
The plan would draw on “best practice planning” to find the best locations for residential housing, public transport, schools and community services.
The urban renewal area, the largest in Australia, would also now be planned as five discreet areas, with the addition of a “jobs-creating Employment Precinct”.
The planning minister will now take responsibility for planning approvals of over 25,000 square metres, and an interim height limit of 40 storeys has been imposed for the Montague and Lorimer areas, and 18 storeys in the Sandridge and Wirraway precincts, with lower maximum height limits in the areas abutting existing neighbourhoods in Port Melbourne. Last year, planning applications for towers over 50 storeys had been submitted.
A spokeswoman for the planning minister told The Fifth Estate that environmental guidelines would feature in “a detailed plan which will be developed by the Metropolitan Planning Authority in conjunction with councils for Fishermans Bend”.
“As well as announcing Fishermans Bend would be expanded to 455 ha last week, Minister Wynne said a detailed infrastructure assessment will be at the heart of future plans for the area. As well as sustainability measures, it will take in transport planning, community services, open space and developer contributions – the very detail the previous government’s plans sorely lacked.”
The former Coalition government drew the ire of the sustainable development industry and local councils when it sidelined environmental outcomes in its final master plan and design guidelines released mid last year.
“The Liberals had a plan for a soulless skyline with no services and no standard of living,” Mr Wynne said. “We have a plan that puts people first – providing the space and comfort residents will want and the jobs and services residents will need.
“A community can only be as tall as it is deep. We’re not interested in simply rubber-stamping skyscrapers. Smart development thinks about residents and their quality of life.”
Move welcomed by industry
The announcement of the new plan has been welcomed by the property industry and local council in the area.
The Property Council of Victoria’s executive director Jennifer Cunich said if done correctly Fishermans Bend could become “Australia’s next leader in sustainable urban renewal best practice”.
“The Property Council looks forward to working with all local stakeholders on enhancing the sustainability potential of this exciting urban renewal area,” she said.
However, Ms Cunich did note that local property owners could be put out, and that the height limits proposed were not supported by the PCA.
“The announced changes will undoubtedly cause short-term heartache for local property owners, but will ensure that there is greater certainty for investors, developers, planners and the community over the long term,” she said.
“The Property Council believes that mandating height limits will have a negative impact on density development. Consequently, we support a ‘preferred height limit’ in the area thereby allowing local design innovation and development to better flourish.”
The City of Port Phillip, where 90 per cent of the former 250 ha site was located, said the move was a positive step forward that would allow greater community involvement.
“Council has consistently advocated for more community involvement, stronger height controls and a focus on planning for early delivery of community, open space and transport infrastructure,” Port Phillip Council Mayor Amanda Stevens said.
“The State Government’s review… ticks these boxes and shows they have listened to the concerns of Council and our community.”
Height limits, she said, would increase community confidence regarding the prevention of inappropriate development.
She said her council was ready to start creating the infrastructure described by the government – open space, public transport and community services.
“Council is ready to start building new parks and bike lanes, innovative community services and new neighbourhoods, and is looking forward to working closely with developers to explore innovation in building construction, sustainability, design, green walls and roofs and the provision of affordable housing.”
The Green Building Council of Australia had previously called out the former government for not mandating high sustainability outcomes.
“The Victorian government has the opportunity to lead the way in setting world-leading social, economic and environmental benchmarks at Fishermans Bend – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we cannot afford to waste,” GBCA chief operating officer Robin Mellon said at the time.
Community engagement and new governance arrangements will be in place by the middle of the year, with strategic planning expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2016.
Formal exhibition of the recast precinct is planned for the second half of 2016.
- See our story A greener vision for Fishermans Bend