Is Mr Guy serious about Planning or is he the Minister for Skyscrapers?In Affordable Housing, city of port phillip, Development, Fishermans Bend, Planning
There was an article in the Business Day section of the Age on Wednesday 20 March, “Architect eyes on Montague”, which showed six potential developments in South Melbourne. I immediately wrote a letter to the Editor but it wasn’t published so I repeat my comments here. The thrust of my letter was that these proposed developments highlight the potentially disastrous outcomes that can be generated when Ministers for Planning encourage/allow unfettered and uncontrolled development in urban renewal areas. Note that Minister Matthew Guy is now the responsible planning authority for this area.
The City of Port Phillip took two years, with extensive consultation, to develop its Montague Structure Plan wherein up to 25,000 residents could be housed in a new liveable suburb covering 50 hectares of part of the now redundant industrial area of South Melbourne. The Plan included careful structuring of built form, tower separation wherever greater height was proposed, defined open space, solar access to core streets and human scale at street level. These are essential components of creating a liveable suburb, unlike the problems created in Southbank and Docklands. Port Phillip’s plan also focussed on a diverse and inclusive community, specifying that 20% of dwellings should be in the affordable category and of these that more than 1,000 be social housing units.
Five of the six mooted developments in the Business Day article are in a precinct where the preferred building heights in Port Phillip’s Structure Plan were ranging from eight to twelve levels, nothing like the thirty to fifty levels in these proposals. However the Structure Plan did realistically identify other precincts, appropriately located closer to the freeway, where heights could go up to thirty levels. All of this was planned to produce a real suburb but Minister Guy’s grander vision of a Fishermans Bend precinct (five times bigger than Montague which it subsumed) seemed to give scant regard for a properly developed structure plan. Depending on which media release one refers to, he is talking about 50,000 residents in a 240 hectare area but he has so far failed to produce any realistic plan for the area. Based on Port Phillip’s Montague Plan (25,000 residents in 50 hectares), you don’t need excessively high rise developments to achieve the desired residential density.
When Minister Guy first announced his “plans” for Fishermans Bend, he said it would be “….high rise, high density…… well certainly high density” (listen to his 3AW interview on 18 February 2011 http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/fishermans-bend-plan-suburb-must-be-affordable-20110218-1az0r.html you need to play the video). More than two years down the track, he clearly hasn’t done the work that the City of Port Phillip did to demonstrate how you can make high density liveable without being unnecessarily high rise.
This is not about a choice between urban consolidation or further expansion of Melbourne’s urban boundaries, as the Minister would contend. It’s about gaining density with controlled height and proper structure so that the outcome is liveable. It’s telling that these proposals should get an airing so soon after the Minister’s decision to approve Australia 108 (see my previous blog entry).
If these proposals are allowed through by Mr Guy then he will deserve the sobriquet of Minister for Skyscrapers.