Melbourne highrise heights limited

The Victorian Government has proposed new planning controls to restrict the height of highrise buildings on small plots of land in central Melbourne, including the Hoddle Grid and Southbank.

The new controls would see the site plot ratio drop to 18:1, down from 24:1, an interim ratio established by the state government in September 2015. Approvals will still be granted for buildings that exceed this ratio if an appropriate public benefit is provided.

Examples of public benefits include publicly accessible open areas such as plazas, laneways and parks, accessible enclosed areas within the building suitable for public use, and office use and social housing within the proposed building.

In other major cities plot ratios are still considerably lower than in Melbourne. Including the maximum density bonus, the plot ratio is 12:1 in New York, 9.9:1 in Hong Kong, 15.4:1 in Sydney, 8:1 in Vancouver and 14:1 in Singapore.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne told The Age the new planning rules would “balance the need for growth with protecting the city as we know it.”

Other proposed controls include fixed tower setbacks from streets and neighbouring buildings to ensure more daylight, reinforced shadowing and wind controls and height controls in special areas to protect sensitive spaces such as heritage and pedestrian precincts.

The proposed planning controls echo the findings of a February 2015 report by then-Melbourne City Council planner Leanne Hodyl undertaken as part of a Churchill Fellowship.

The report found that too much attention is given to the height of towers in Melbourne and what is more important in delivering good outcomes for residents and the broader city are the overall numbers of people living in a development, whether the apartments enable a good quality of life, whether residents have access to open space and community services and the cumulative impact on the public realm below.

The report stated that Melbourne would benefit from the introduction of policies that established appropriate density controls in central Melbourne and density bonuses to link development to public benefit and incentivize the delivery of new open spaces, affordable housing and other community facilities.

Following the public exhibition of the amendment and review of submissions, permanent controls will be introduced in September this year.

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