Follow Port Places

Managing Density

An explainer kind of post

A laissez faire approach to height was one of the major criticisms of the early planning for Fishermans Bend.

The draft Fishermans Bend Framework, out for consultation, proposes height and density controls in combination. Height controls are more familiar as a planning tool for moderating development. Floor Area Ratios less so. Floor area ratios (FARs) are a new building’s total floor area in relation to the size of the piece of land it is being built on. FAR was recently introduced in the City of Melbourne.

FARs enable different responses to the challenges and opportunities each site presents. Buildings can be configured in different ways to achieve different outcomes as shown in this (over simple) diagram from the Framework.1

Why has this approach been taken?

  • Where there is a height control, even if it is in a discretionary range between a preferred and an absolute maximum, planning applications tend come in at the maximum permitted height (sound familiar?)
  • Most applications received for Fishermans Bend to date are for a tower on podium – leading to a uniform kind of development. This is especially the case for the applications for Normanby Road
  • The framework imagines different kinds of buildings across Fishermans Bend
  • Height controls give certainty but can lead to uniform outcomes
  • If all the applications in the system were acted on, and continued at the same pace under the existing framework, the population projections would way exceed 80,000 people. That is why a density control is proposed to complement the height controls.

The FAR for Fishermans Bend is based on the the assumption of 80,000 people, 80,000 jobs as per the Vision adopted in September 2016. Those figures are the basis for distributing density through Fishermans Bend. But the density and height controls are not spread out uniformly across Fishermans Bend like jam. Instead, the densities proposed respond to the vision and character described for each of the precincts of Lorimer, Wirraway, Sandridge and Montague.

Wirraway,  furthest away from public transport (and closest to the beach), is intended to be a more family friendly kind of place and is supported by a FAR in the core area of 4.1 to 1.  Greater density is proposed at Sandridge closest to the proposed the train station with a a FAR of 8.1 to 1.2

Recognising the importance of public open space in Fishermans Bend, these controls will be supplemented by a control to prevent overshadowing of precinct and district parks between 11am and 2pm for 21 June to 22 September – the strictest overshadowing control available under the planning scheme.

Bringing these ideas closer home to Port Melbourne, here are examples of two large sites which have configured development differently across their sites. Decide for yourself which is the better outcome.

Portside at 1 Graham St, built in the ’90s, occupies an entire Port Melbourne block. The buildings are full of interest from each street frontage, and the shady, textured landscape gives pleasure to residents and passers by alike. It has some height, but also some lower elements – all organised around this lovely green space.


Portside at 1 Graham St, Port Melbourne by Becton

As an aside, perhaps you think Port Melbourne has always looked this way. Well, enjoy this Full Frontal clip from the ’90s showing Graham Street and how bereft it was. Hard to believe it is the same place. (The best street views are at 0.40 – look out for the Graham).

Here is the second example:

In 2013, a development of 250 two to three level townhouses was approved for the very large block of the former Symex operation at Ingles St, Port Melbourne. Some of the townhouses are already occupied but large areas of the site remain to be built. With the exclusion of heritage buildings, the townhouses will cover the whole block. There is minimal open space. The rear lanes are lined with garages.  There is very little space or opportunity to plant trees. The planning documents claimed that the narrow streets were reminiscent of Port’s narrow streets.

A more imaginative response to this site might have seen greater height in some areas to allow for more open space without reducing the number of dwellings.

There are many of these narrow internal streets lined with garages

And more to come


September 2016 Fishermans Bend Vision, the next chapter in Melbourne’s growth story
Read more detail on the FARs for each of the precincts in the draft Fishermans Bend Framework on p41



  • Hi Janet The Ingles Street development is truly a disappointing outcome for such a substantial site and unfortunately the same developer has recently received a permit to do the same again on Plummer Street near Salmon Street. The reality is that the FAR massing diagrams sought in your article will not be the reality. With FARs of 2:1 to 4:1 you are going to see Fishermans Bend riddled with this type of thing because without a substantial difference in yield EVERY developer is going to choose the easy option of slab on ground and CHEAP 3 of 4 storey development to avoid the HUGE cost of piling to 60m

    • JanetBolitho

      Thanks John - it was good speaking with you last week. It will be interesting to follow the arguments put to the Planning Panel. It is a regret that the early re-zoning was not accompanied by supportable controls. Someone said about Fishermans Bend that 'it is ours to lose' as an opportunity. Let's not lose it.

      • Hi Janet I totally agree with hour comment ‘it is ours to lose’ as an opportunity. Let’s not lose it. I have a lengthy submission I am lodging to the Panel Hearing which demonstrates that what we actually need for the foreseeable future are less controls in order to stimulate development. We run the risk of making the Bend totally undevelopable. I have some very interesting data to indicate the impact recent controls elsewhere have had in Victoria, in the Capital City Zone which includes Fishermans Bend Development applications for substantial buildings have dropped from 43 in 2015 down to 11 last year in 2016 and we have 15 to date this year. Last year has only seen 4 of those applications approved from these applications down from 19 approvals in 2015 and 25 approvals in 2014. 4 approvals is not much for the whole of Melbourne CBD and including Fishermans Bend. This year has seen only 1 approval and it is for an application originally refused in 2016. 4 permits is not going to sustain the Victorian construction industry, a crash would seem unavoidable. You have my details if you want to catch up and discuss as I'm pretty scared what this means for Victoria.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *