Minister backs planning controls

By David Schout

The Planning Minister has backed CBD development rules in light of criticism from the Property Council of Australia (PCA) that Melbourne’s “historic competitive advantage” was at risk.

The PCA is calling for a bipartisan establishment of a city planning advisory group to review the C270 planning controls.

Those controls, officially in place since November 2016, sought to limit what the current Labor government saw as excessive building approvals and height allowances by the previous government.

The lack of control on high-rise building applications, it claimed, caused overshadowing and wind issues that negatively impacted CBD residents, workers and visitors.

But the PCA has claimed these controls have gone too far and resulted in the approval of just two new commercial developments (the Victoria Police Centre on Spencer St; and Wesley Place on Lonsdale St) and one new residential development in almost two years.

The PCA’s Victorian acting executive director Matthew Kandelaars said the balance should be reset.

“Although there are still cranes across Melbourne’s skyline, if industry’s concerns are not immediately addressed, when those cranes come down they won’t be replaced and nor will the jobs they support,” he said.

Mr Kandelaars said it was especially vital to address the significant decline in commercial office development approvals in the inner-city.

“Strong supply is crucial to support our growing population and smart jobs of the future and to allow Victoria to remain internationally competitive.”

He said when the current pre-C270 developments were completed, the city would be forced to deal with a office space supply issue, which will then cause commercial rents to rise.

But Planning Minister Richard Wynne said his government was pleased with the amendments set out in C270, and gave no indication it would review guidelines.

“These controls ensure adequate separation between tall buildings and the street, enshrine protections for public space and important landmarks and set a fair density level for new developments,” he said.

Under the current rules, developers are able to exceed 18:1 plot ratio limits if the prospective building meets “public benefit” guidelines.

“We introduced these planning controls to protect Melbourne’s liveability,” Mr Wynne said.

He did not directly respond to the PCA’s claim that the decline in investment would impact jobs, other than to say the Victorian Government’s “investment in roads and transport, hospitals and schools … has created more than 340,000 new jobs since November 2014”.

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