Coalition promises to rein in development on Melbourne’s leafy streets

By Benjamin Preiss & Clay Lucas

18 June 2018 — 1:00pm

Zones that control medium-density property development in sensitive areas would be changed and tightened up, under a Coalition promise to “protect” Melbourne’s streets.

With five months until the next state election, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy went to leafy Glen Iris on Monday morning to announce he would bring back a two-dwelling limit on blocks in the city’s quietest residential areas.

Under Labor, developers on blocks bigger than 400 square metres have been allowed to build as many dwellings as they like – but they must provide a minimum “garden area” of 25 per cent of the block.

Mr Guy was planning minister under the previous Baillieu-Napthine governments, and brought in the two-dwelling rule – although he only applied it in Melbourne’s more exclusive areas.

He simultaneously opened up Melbourne’s inner-city Fishermans Bend area for high-density, high-rise development and approved an unprecedented number of high-rise towers in Melbourne’s CBD.

On Monday, Mr Guy said he would bring back his nine-metre height limit in the city’s general residential zones. Under current Planning Minister Richard Wynne, this zone had been expanded to 11 metres, with a mandatory three-storey height limit.

This was done because developers were squeezing in three levels in nine metres, leading to low-quality designs and apartments with very low-ceilings.

Mr Guy said Melbourne could not afford to become a city of more than 7 million people. “That’s not the kind of city we should be leaving our children,” he said.

Mr Guy promised to re-establish his rules for neighbourhood and general residential zones, in a move he said would protect them from overdevelopment.

“We’ve always said development is fine in defined areas,” he said.

Mr Guy faced widespread criticism for the roll-out of residential zones when the Coalition was in government, both because they favoured Melbourne’s richest areas and because of the messy process surrounding their introduction.

The Coalition has promised its policy would protect quiet streets from overdevelopment and place higher density housing in high activity zones, which would include areas surrounding railway stations.

Laura Murray, president of the Planning Institute in Victoria, said the proposed changes were “extremely concerning”.

“You will not find such limited density … in any other major city around the world,” she said. “We need to unlock the missing middle, not restrict development in these areas.”

Melbourne’s planning blueprint, Plan Melbourne, has bi-partisan support, and encourages increased density in Melbourne locations near existing infrastructure, jobs, services and public transport.

Ms Murray said Mr Guy’s plans was not in line with this policy because it severely limited development on large blocks that could accommodate far more than two dwellings.

Mr Wynne has been contacted for a response to the policy announcement.