The issues around the Ivanhoe Structure Plan

By Dennis O’Connell

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.

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About Friends of Banyule Inc

President & Public Officer of Friends of Banyule Inc, a community not- for-profit organisation to enhance and protect the environmental assets of Banyule City. Currently fighting the proposed NE Link freeway through one of inner Melbourne's most ecologically sensitive areas and historical areas.
This entry was posted in Activity Centres, Baillieu Government, Heritage, Population Growth, Public Transport, Seat of Ivanhoe, Urban Growth Boundary. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The issues around the Ivanhoe Structure Plan

  1. Jose says:

    Australia has a fertility rate of 1.9. We do not have a population-growth problem that needs excessive planning, and we no not even need these “activity centres”. It assumes that there are no organized activities already in Ivanhoe? While the “plans” sound benign and about ensuring good liveability in the future, but they are really about imposing high-rise developments, something that has to be “managed” or we will end up with development-chaos! This is not the case. Ivanhoe needs protection plans, not growth-based ones. Population growth is a government policy, not to due natural growth. It’s optional.
    High density housing won’t stop urban sprawl either, which is continuing. There are too many population myths being used to justify these restructuring plans, but it’s really about allowing developers to fly-into the area, build their monsters, irrevocably change the neighbourhood character and amenities, and leave with profits – and political donations for the State government.

  2. AnO'Co says:

    issues around the Ivanhoe Structure Plan are relevant to the issue of development generally, which affects us all in some way no matter where we live. important to maintain public forums for discussion like this: more voices, more chance the politicians will listen…

  3. Ian Hundley says:

    I attended the information session on the Ivanhoe Structure Plan which was held on Thursday afternoon, 13 October.
    Banyule City Council officers provided feedback on submissions received from the community. Participants also had the opportunity to express views on the project.
    Just a couple of brief observations:
    The conclusion of one attendee that the strategy plan is an exercise in “damage minimisation” in the light of the fact that VCAT has already approved two seven storey developments in the area was especially interesting. It was suggested that although Banyule Council opposed the application it prosecuted the case rather ineptly by not calling appropriate technical witnesses on issues such as overshadowing. It was suggested further that the outcome of the appeal may have been quite different if the case had been better handled by the Council. Residents were said to be supportive of three or four storey developments on the site.
    It appears that the structure plan, even if it were to be incorporated into the Banyule planning scheme with the necessary consent of the minister for planning, does not offer any guarantees. It would provide no more than an additional level of comfort that prescriptions in relation to maximum height and bulk etc. might be adhered to. Scope would remain for these standards to be overturned by a determined enough developer. I understand that heritage overlays, such as for the protection of streetscapes, are particularly vulnerable in this regard. This does not sound like “best practice” planning.
    There was also frequent reference to the notion of planning for population growth with the idea that Banyule should be able to accommodate net population growth of about 19,000. Another participant asked the perfectly reasonable question: what additional population/ households Ivanhoe may be expected to absorb under the strategy plan? The speaker suggested that on his calculations the figure for Ivanhoe might be in the order of 5,000. The Council officer response appeared to be we don’t really know as the Victorian government has ceased the lot analysis that had been commenced in favour of site-specific assessments, presumably in the context of specific development proposals.
    This doesn’t sound like planning to me either. The Council and the state government should at a minimum have a reasonable model that indicates anticipated population and housing levels and distribution in each of the activity centres and outside activity centres.
    In fact, the intergovernmental interface (State and local) was a sub-text of a lot of the discussion, especially related to uncertainty that the state would deliver necessary services. There has been a loss of schools in the area, traffic congestion on Upper Heidelberg Road is already a problem, and the frequency and accessibility of public transport services is a continuing issue. In State policy driven projects like this the Victorian government needs to be a high level of confidence that the necessary State-delivered services are actually provided. The failure of the previous Victorian government to deliver necessary services was instrumental in the collapse of Melbourne 2030.
    Another participant drew attention to the major redevelopment proposed for the AMCOR site in Fairfield and the potential spill over effects for Ivanhoe.
    We were advised there are to be further public meetings on transport (18 October) and built form (20 October), with further meetings on the redrafted strategy plan (yet to be released) scheduled for 15 and 19 November.

    Ian Hundley

  4. Tony B says:

    There problem of planning is there is no population plan for Australia, including Victoria. Population Minister Tony Burke, after intense consultations and expert panels two years ago, decided after all the considerations that our skills shortages were paramount, far more important than all the other “shortages” we might be facing now and in the future. It was purely theatrical. This lack of a population plan means we can actually plan very little, except to prepare for growth. Our population growth is not inevitable, but decided by our governments in consultation with businesses. With few real industries in Victoria, property development has become the main economic activity, and this requires a constant influx of people to maintain the demand. Forcing Ivanhoe to soak up growth is about profits for developers, and has no benefits for the residents. On the contrary, it will exacerbate the congestion, existing shortages, and costs of living will increase. Victoria is swimming in debt, but our politicians are always pushing growth despite the costs – under the illusion that we can grow our economy and population forever in order to bring elusive prosperity.

  5. Vivienne says:

    Public transport is a poor-cousin of government’s preferred options of freeways, roads, linkages, tunnels and expansion of existing thoroughfares. This is because it opens more frontiers for housing, and ubiquitous “developments” that are so vital to our economy. Victoria’s debts are enormous. According to a recent report, every Victorian now has their own share of about $10,000 in what is now the State Government’s ballooning debt. Debt has rocketed by $4.4 billion over the past year, and now totals $56 billion. Auditor-General Des Pearson has warned the state’s ability to service that debt is on the wane. However, our State government still has an enormous appetite for growth, but little funding to service the infrastructure we already have. Public transport is only begrudgingly maintained. Government sponsors prefer roads and freeways as it opens up urban expansion and new business opportunities. They will quietly sit and wait until the public cry out for the NE Link freeway/tunnel due to increased demands on existing roads. They will then claim “market forces” are forcing their hands to construct it!

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