Melbourne council moves to end car parking requirements for new developments

Moreland City Council, which governs a cluster of suburbs in Melbourne’s north, hopes to reduce, and in some cases do away with, minimum requirements for car parking when granting planning permission to new developments, under a new transport strategy.

The Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy (MITS) and a companion Parking Implementation Plan were adopted by the council at a meeting on 13 March. In her foreword, Moreland mayor Natalie Abboud said the aim of the plan was to accommodate an anticipated growth in residents of 36,000 people by 2036 by moving away from a car-first approach to transport planning.

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“As cities grow, we need to make them more efficient,” she said. “Cars have proven to no longer be the best way to get all of us around. Once upon a time, this may have been the case, but we need to adapt in order to keep Moreland a great place to live.”

The document notes that the council is limited in what it can do to foster this change. “As a result,” the strategy says, “MITS has an emphasis on aspects over which council has direct control, such as car parking.” Under current Victorian planning law, minimum parking requirements for new developments apply across the state but are reduced in certain activity centres.

The council will ask the Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne to authorize it to prepare and exhibit an amendment by June 2019.

The Parking Implementation Plan, which was prepared by GTA Consultants and can be found here, proposes “establishing maximum car parking rates instead of minimum parking requirements for new development in Activity Centres, and reduced minimum parking requirements in Neighbourhood Centres.” This would be accompanied by an expansion of ticketed, patrolled parking areas around those areas so as to protect local streets from increased pressure on parking as a result of reduced parking requirements in new builds.

The plan also notes that the cost of constructing car parking is often hidden within the greater cost of building new residential developments. “A single car parking space can cost (in a basement setting) upwards of $40,000. This adds to the cost of residential and commercial development. Minimum parking rates result in parking being bundled with housing rather than giving people the choice to choose whether they want parking.

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“As the cost of the dwelling and parking is packaged, the cost of the car spot is hidden from the buyer. Giving people a greater choice as to whether they wish to pay for residential parking, or otherwise reduce the overall amount of residential parking, can remove the ‘built in’ costs of car use and incentivize people to explore other transport options that might be healthier and more affordable for them, as well as better for the community overall.”

The document also notes that while many of the council’s policies include aspirations to boost the share of non-car modes of transport, policies “could be more direct in pushing for a mode shift towards sustainable transport.”

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Moreland City Council previously supported carpark-free developments including the first Nightingale development in Brunswick by Breathe Architecture. The permit granted by the council was later revoked by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in 2015, due to lack of parking provision.

Planners have also called for a revision of the car parking requirements. Following the VCAT decision, Stephen Rowley, lecturer in urban planning at RMIT University said, “Minimum car parking regulations are a discredited planning mechanism.

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“I don’t know that we can think of a planning control that’s done as much harm to as many people for as undetectable a benefit as the application of minimum car parking controls in traditional strip shopping centres.”

The Planning Institute of Australia said at the time, “We need to move to models of urban planning that encourage and facilitate non-car transport. Minimum car parking controls can increase the cost of housing, lead to poor design outcomes, and are a severe burden on new businesses in established retail areas.”

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