Paul AustinOctober 25, 2010
TED Baillieu is seeking to paint himself as the saviour of Melbourne’s heritage, pledging to halt what he calls ”Labor’s wrecking ball approach” to planning in the city and suburbs if he wins next month’s state election.
In a bid to exploit fears that over-development is destroying the character of the city, the Opposition Leader will today unveil a planning blueprint that would declare large parts of Melbourne off-limits to high-density living.
Under the policy, contentious new laws that allow for high-rise residential blocks along major tram, train and bus routes across Melbourne would be scrapped.
Melbourne’s so-called development ”activity centres” in suburbs including Greensborough, Camberwell, Doncaster, Sunshine, Maribyrnong, Ringwood, Moonee Ponds, Dandenong, Box Hill, Epping, Footscray and Broadmeadows would be retained but given explicit boundaries.
Residential and open-space areas outside the boundaries would be designated as ”no development” zones.
A Coalition government would also:
■ Set up a state register of significant public land – including the city’s major parks as well as open space along the banks of the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers.
■ Require every council to draw up a municipal heritage strategy to protect buildings and natural features that make up the character of their area.
■ Overhaul the Minister for Planning’s powers to ”call in” and rule on contentious development projects that are held up by local objectors.
■ Legislate to ensure the minister has to detail to Parliament the reasons for any proposed sale of public land.
”The unique character of Melbourne’s suburbs must be preserved and protected before it disappears forever under Labor’s wrecking ball,” Mr Baillieu will say in policy documents to be released today.
The Coalition policy runs the risk of putting offside property developers and sections of the business community that traditionally back the Liberal Party.
Mr Baillieu – who like Premier John Brumby supports a ”big Victoria” – will also come under pressure to explain how a Coalition government would cater for Victoria’s population boom while putting tighter restrictions on development.
But the policy will be welcomed by community groups such as Save Our Suburbs and Melbourne Heritage Action, who have members across the city including in marginal seats that will be crucial to the result of the November 27 election.
Coalition planning spokesman Matthew Guy will ”sell” the policy as the way to prevent Melbourne becoming another Sydney and to end what he calls the ”one-size-fits-all” approach to planning and development across the city.
”We are not by any measure anti-development, but we believe residents, councils and developers have a right to know what parts of Melbourne can be developed and what parts can’t,” he says.
The government will argue that it shares Melburnians’ passion for preserving their city’s heritage and ”liveability”, and that Labor has a plan to manage Melbourne’s population growth.
Planning Minister Justin Madden says the government’s Melbourne @ 5 Million strategy document specifies the parts of the city identified as suitable for higher density development, while the state’s planning provisions ”protect neighbourhood character”.
Battles between residents and developers over ”urban renewal” projects have become a feature of Melbourne in recent years. Mr Madden used his ministerial powers to intervene in 233 planning matters in the year to April – up from 161 in the previous year.