Residents on warpath over planning

Jason Dowling and Simon Johanson

August 16, 2010

    BATTLES between developers and local communities over giant urban renewal projects have broken out across Melbourne.

    And with the state government planning to house an additional 316,000 residents in Melbourne’s ”established areas” over the next 20 years and with many former industrial sites ripe for development, confrontations between developers and local communities are tipped to soar.

    In Williamstown, residents are battling a huge residential development proposal on the former Woollen Mills site, while across the bay in Sandringham plans for a 500-dwelling development have energised the community.

    A big residential development on the old Honeywell Site in Victoria Street, Abbotsford, has been taken to Victoria’s planning tribunal by objectors and in Moreland there has been local anger at a 14-storey development on Albert Street.

    Planning Institute of Australia Victorian president David Vorchheimer said planning disputes were often caused by a lack of certainty in the planning process.

    ”If you want to ensure that you have minimal resistance from the community you need to have a set of controls which says where development ought to go and what it should look like and that is what planning is all about,” he said.

    ”Effectively, what keeps happening is you have got a situation where the community’s understanding of what the rules are and the way in which they are being applied don’t align,” he said.

    This view is backed by Melbourne City Council planning committee chairman Peter Clarke, who said there had to be more certainty in planning. ”People want to know that if they buy a block of land they know what’s going to happen next door, and they can go to the local planning scheme to find out,” he said. ”They don’t want unilateral change imposed on them.”

    The opposition has produced a draft policy that would restrict residential towers to a maximum of nine storeys in the suburbs. Planning Minister Justin Madden dismissed the idea. He said Melbourne needed more housing, and communities had to decide if they wanted old industrial land to provide extra housing or to remain for industrial use.

    He said the high cost of cleaning up old industrial sites often meant residential developments had to be large to ensure they were economically viable. Mr Madden said there should be strategic planning in advance in which councils consulted communities about where additional housing should be located.

    ”We’re working with local government around housing growth requirements so that local governments can identify the housing growth needs over the next 20 years or so and then they can identify where they justifiably think the housing can go and in a sense the sort of numbers – that is not without some sensitivity,” he said.

    Mr Madden said additional housing was not just about population growth. ”If we had no population growth we would still need more housing because there is a change in the way people are forming their households. People are forming smaller households,” he said.

    Paul Hameister from developer Hamton JV – which is behind the Honeywell site proposal – said the planning process had recently been improved by the establishment of a major case list for developments worth more than $5 million.

    ”The government hasn’t predetermined the outcome but has allowed them to be heard on a more timely basis,” he said.


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