Local Structure Plans originally emerged under Melbourne 2030 and related Planning Scheme amendments including VC71 (providing for development along transport corridors and activity centres), as part of planning policy under the previous government.
These had the aim of fostering closer urban development, providing planning “certainty” (although it is questionable for whom) and reducing urban sprawl. In the event, M2030 whilst having laudable goals, was ultimately unsuccessful in both as urban boundaries have been extended and closer urban development has continued at a frenetic pace, driven by pressure from developers and without for the most part, sufficient consultation with the community or appropriate infrastructure and transport planning.
While it is preferable for local government to develop such plans and have a say in how development occurs (otherwise development is likely to occur on an ad hoc basis), these need to be carried out in consultation with the community, which is essential if they are to be successful. If not, they will be strongly opposed by communities and less likely to provide positive and well planned outcomes.
Importantly, Local Structure Plans also need, if they are to be successful, take account of neighbourhood character, heritage overlays, height limits, size, bulk and scale and be in keeping and not at odds with, surrounding streetscapes and the general townscape. Overall, they should be sympathetic to the existing built and natural environment. Critically, they need to be done on a consultative basis and involve the community.
Equally important is the development at the same time, of improved public transport infrastructure to cope with the additional residential numbers and traffic volumes which will be generated. This should include increased train and bus frequency as well as improved connectivity between modes. If closer urban development does not occur in conjunction with an integrated infrastructure and planning approach, rather than allowing it to be developer driven as currently, it will lead to ad hoc, poorly planned outcomes.
Whilst the Save Ivanhoe group are not against development per se (refer recent article in Nillumbik and Banyule weekly), which is the position of Friends of Banyule, they as well as FOB, believe this should be in character with and sympathetic to, the built and natural environment in which it is situated. The Banyule House subdivision as well the proposed development adjacent St John’s Anglican Church in Warringal Park, are just two examples of where this is not the case. The proposed developments being out of character and scale with their surrounding historic and natural environments. In the case of the Ivanhoe Structure Plan, the initial draft proposes six to eight storey development, including around Darebin Station, along Lower Heidelberg Road between the Darebin Creek and Upper Heidelberg Road and in the Ivanhoe shopping precinct. These height limits are clearly significantly higher than existing built structures and streetscape in these locations. They have naturally caused concern amongst the community and need to be discussed further with residents, traders and community groups and, redrafted or amended as necessary before being proceeded with.
Council, after receiving quite strident opposition to the current draft plan, have undertaken to revise and redraft the existing structure plan and to put it back out for discussion and further consultation during November. A walk with residents and Council officers (including CEO, Director of Planning, Manager Strategic & Economic Planning and others) around the areas affected by the proposed Structure Plan, took place on Saturday 10th September. A further walk is planned for coming weeks in October.
It is important I think to make the point of not being against development, but at the same time, to show support for a fellow community group who, like FOB, are campaigning to protect their local environment. FOB have already provided a link to Save Ivanhoe’s web site on our site and have written to Council on the Draft structure Plan supporting Save Ivanhoe’s and residents concerns.
Issues of the built as well as natural environments are of concern to us all as development continues to proceed at such an intense pace across Melbourne, driven by a boom which has shown little sign of abatement in recent years. These issues are being repeated across the metropolitan area and beyond, exacerbated by spiraling population levels adding approximately 1600 people per week to Melbourne’s current 4.0 million or so existing population. It is important that local communities are involved in and are part of the planning process, rather than standing by or being excluded as is largely the case at present and in doing so, allow these current levels of urban growth and expansion, without proper consultation, planning and infrastructure, to simply happen.