Waiting to learn new rules

By Alastair Taylor

It’s a new year, we have a new state government, an updated project database and potentially a new planning approval regime for the Capital City Zone which encompasses the CBD, Southbank, Docklands and Fishermans Bend.
With the election of the Andrew’s Government at the end of November last year it’s understandable that there has not been much seen, said or done in relation to new development in the CBD.
In news reported on The Mandarin, the new government is doing what most new governments do and restructuring the bureaucracy and it has been reported that planning will be morphed into a new  Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
If you take the name of the new department on face value, one might notice that one other key land-use portfolio has been omitted: Transport; it will now reside in a new Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.
Approvals
Tucked at the back end of an ABC TV report on January 15, the Acting Premier, James Merlino, foreshadowed changes on the horizon for Capital City Zone planning approvals.
There was no supplementary question and details remain sketchy as this stage, however the Mr Merlino alluded to the City of Melbourne and the Office of Victorian Government Architect playing a greater role.
Under the current regime, the City of Melbourne is consulted and invited to comment on applications which are lodged when the Minister of Planning and his/her department are deemed to be the responsible authority, however the ultimate authority still rests with the planning minister.
There are many in the industry – including us at Urban Melbourne – who would undoubtedly be keen to see the detail of the foreshadowed changes. No doubt, there would also be many developers who still have a planning application before the Spring St planning department who will be wondering if the changes to the approvals process will affect applications lodged up until the date they are announced.  Rest assured this will be monitored closely.
Australia 108
In the same ABC TV report where the Acting Premier made the comments about the new Capital City Zone planning approvals regime, news came to light that Australia 108 will kick off its onshore sales campaign in February.
Although the tower will not be located in the CBD, it’s hard to imagine its presence not having an effect on the central city.
If you stand and look southwards anywhere on Queen Street at present, the Eureka Tower on Southbank dominates the vista.  When Australia 108 gets off the ground, the odds of the tower dominating the William St vista are quite attractive.
At 319m tall, with well over 1000 apartments and a unique “starburst” architectural feature located two thirds the way up the facade, Australia 108 will catch everyone’s eye both near and far.
Database
During the downtime over the Christmas and New Year break, we at Urban Melbourne have embarked on a large-scale update of our project database and, since the start of January we have been looking at volume of projects, the amount of residential units they yield and what kind of building these projects are in specific regions.
We define a low-rise building as a structure with have five levels or less; a mid-rise has between six and 12 levels; and high-rises have 13 or more levels.
We also break the CBD up into two regions: East and West End with Elizabeth St the boundary and all projects located between LaTrobe Street and Victoria Parade (sometimes known as the “CBD annex”) to be divided into the sub-region, depending on which side of Elizabeth St they are located on.
No surprises that we are not tracking any low-rise buildings in the CBD, however we do have two mid-rise projects – one in the East End and one in the West End.  There are 33 high-rise projects in total for the CBD ranging in size from 100 units up to and over 1000 units, 12 of the projects are located in the East End and 21 located in the West End.

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