The Planning Minister: on the proposed central city planning controls

The Planning Minister: on the proposed central city planning controls
Monochrome portrait of Richard Wynne
Richard WynneApril 28, 2016

Skyscrapers generate a lot of buzz around Melbourne.

We are reviewing the central city planning controls for the first time in 30 years and this has generated more interest than any other planning issue I have been involved in.

Melburnians love their CBD and our city draws residents, tourists and investment from around the world.

Developers want to build here, more people want to live here and businesses base themselves here because of the amenity and character around the Hoddle Grid and Southbank.

This week we began public consultation for proposed controls which would require an 18:1 floor area ratio.

Developers can still build beyond that ratio, and there is no upper limit - but there must be something in it for the city.

Large-scale development cannot suffocate the inner city. Modelling done as part of our review showed the central city would be over-developed and degraded without government intervention.

The inner city needs to be shaped with a clear vision and we cannot allow projects to be rubber-stamped in isolation from their surrounds.

We’ve already had encouraging feedback from the property industry and the public, pleased we are creating certainty and a vision for how we want the city to grow.

It has also been said that the horse has bolted, that the sheer volume and scale of approvals to date will create dark, windy streets.

Which reinforces why new controls were necessary.

I have approved 28 inner-city projects as minister, under the previous rules - more than $7 billion worth of construction.

I have sought the best outcome for the city with every approval, and for some permits I have included conditions such as increased setbacks and improved apartment layouts.

But we need a system which pushes for great design and the best outcome from inception.

Conditions shouldn’t be bolted on at the end of the planning process.

I also reject any notion that developers will shift their focus to Sydney.

In central Sydney plot ratios rarely exceed 15:1, even with bonuses, and the average project has a 12:1 ratio.

Melbourne’s land is more affordable and the permit process in Victoria is considerably faster.

Internationally, New York, Vancouver and Hong Kong have included plot ratios of 5:1 to 10:1 with bonuses for open space, affordable housing and other community infrastructure.

Requiring good community outcomes from major development: it is common sense – and common practice.

The record demand for sites and appetite for investment would not continue if we allowed for more overshadowing and homogenous building design, with no incentive for investing in amenity.

Approvals granted by the former Planning Minister included average plot ratios of 35:1 and up to 63:1.

Rubber-stamping under the previous government meant the bar begin to fall on design quality in favour of maximum yield for profit.

Some applications which have crossed my desk clearly seek to target a high-as-possible yield with little regard to the surrounding streetscape.

That sort of unfettered development does little for innovation.

I believe our generous controls, unrestricted upper limit and the sheer talent of our architectural industry will encourage innovation.

These controls have the flexibility to respond to individual sites.

We will continue to see investment in Melbourne, but it will be coupled with good community outcomes.

I look forward to working through the submissions and ideas which come through the consultation over the next month.

But more than anything, I cannot wait to see what future projects our vision inspires.

Richard Wynne is the member of the legislative assembly for Richmond and Minister for Planning.

Editor's note: Submissions on the Central City Built Form Review close on May 30 and public hearings will be held by Panels Victoria in the coming months, before permanent controls are implemented in September. For more information, visit

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