The Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, has caused a stir by ‘calling in’ 26 Fishermans Bend planning applications. His intervention is necessary.
The release of the draft Fishermans Bend Framework in November led to a flurry of new development applications before less permissive planning controls are finalised. Planning panel hearings on those controls begin next week.
A raft of new planning applications was notified to the February meeting of the City of Port Phillip’s Fishermans Bend Forum – all received since November. Several were to be appealed to VCAT.
VCAT reaches decisions based on consideration of how planning applications conform to state and local planning policy in planning schemes. In assessing these recently received Fishermans Bend applications, VCAT would be obliged to rely on the planning controls introduced by then Planning Minister Guy in 2012 (supplemented by mandatory height controls introduced by Minister Wynne in November 2016).
But significant planning work has been done since 2012 which must be taken into account.
Pared right back, the steps that have been taken so far have been to
- review and confirm the Fishermans Bend Vision which includes the fundamentally important eight sustainability goals and aspirations for each of the precincts in Fishermans Bend
- develop and release the draft Fishermans Bend Framework.
Each step has been informed by public conversation and feedback.
The strongest recurring themes of concern from all consultation were about open space, public transport and community facilities appropriate to the level of development. It has been a challenge to develop plans to deliver these things when all the land is in private ownership. Nevertheless, the draft Fishermans Framework does just that. The draft Framework is an integrated, wholistic plan for Fishermans Bend.
In contrast, each developer puts their site front and centre. Several applications propose ‘villages’ of clusters of apartment towers on their large sites rather than considering how their applications relate to the objectives of the framework as a whole.
Alongside the development of a planning framework have been a number of initiatives all closely aligned with delivery of the framework – aptly called catalyst projects.
A new primary school is up and running, a park in Montague is under construction, the government bought the General Motors Holden site on part of which Melbourne University has committed to building a new engineering campus.
Fairness is fundamental in planning. A Planning Panel made up of some of Melbourne’s most eminent planners will begin hearing submissions on the draft Fishermans Bend planning controls next week. They will form a view, on the basis of submissions received and close scrutiny of the draft planning controls, whether they are the most appropriate planning controls to deliver the intent of the framework.
The Planning Panel process is a tried and tested way of reviewing proposed planning controls. When the Panel’s advice has been received by the Minister, and the controls become part of the planning scheme, there should be no obstacle to development proceeding. Minister Wynne has made it clear that all applications will be considered by an expert advisory committee.
The progress towards developing new planning controls has been slower than impatience would prefer, but in fact significant planning work has been done that is very close to being finalised.
The number, scale and intensity of the applications, should they have been decided in advance of updated planning controls, would have fatally undermined the intent of the Fishermans Bend framework and the public consultation on which it was based.
Janet Bolitho is a community representative on the Fishermans Bend Ministerial Advisory Committee