Plan Melbourne Strategy and recent changes to height limits in General Residential Zones
The State Government has recently released its PLAN MELBOURNE 2017 -2050 Strategy and at the same time amended the provisions of the state-wide residential zones.
Council supports many aspects of the PLAN MELBOURNE strategy, and particularly the ongoing recognition of the value of the Green Wedge and the importance of protecting the character of the Peninsula’s towns and villages. These policy directions have had strong bi-partisan support for many years.
PLAN MELBOURNE also continues to support the Mornington Peninsula Localised Planning Statement, July 2014, which reinforced the need to ensure that new development respects existing character. In most residential areas on the Peninsula, the existing character is based, at least in part, on a consistent building height of only one or two storeys, and with very few taller buildings. For many years the planning controls for the Peninsula have specified a maximum building height of two storeys, and in many areas a limit of 8 metres.
In this context, Council’s main concerns relate to significant changes to the General Residential Zone (GRZ) which now allows for the construction of buildings up to three stories or 11 metres in height across many communities on the Peninsula. This can often occur without even the need for a planning permit.
These changes to the height limits, allowed under the new GRZ provisions are considered to be at complete odds with the State’s policy direction to respect the character of the Peninsula’s residential areas. The new provisions may well result in adhoc and intrusive development that is totally out of character – and sets the scene for ongoing uncertainty and conflict. In some areas, there are already additional Design and Development Overlays, (for example in hillside areas and some of the smaller coastal villages) which do provide an additional level of protection, but unfortunately not all areas have these controls in place at this time.
Council is currently finalising a Housing and Settlement Strategy that will further clarify the appropriate location and form of future development on the Peninsula. Once this Strategy has been exhibited, Council may seek to apply further Design and Development Overlays and/or introduce Neighbourhood Residential Zone (which continues to include a two-storey height limit) for most residential land within the municipality to ensure that the scale and height of buildings is controlled to maintain the existing valued character of each town and settlement.
Having regard to the Mornington Peninsula Localised Planning Statement and the significance our town and settlements to both our local community and the broader Victorian community, it is critical that our residential character is not devastated by the recent changes to the GRZ.
We urge the State Government to acknowledge this at the State Level policy and to introduce appropriate interim height controls for our residential neighbourhoods, at least pending the completion of the Housing and Settlement Strategy. This request is based on the following key points:
- Protection of neighbourhood character is particularly emphasized in both State and local planning policies for the Mornington Peninsula. This change is fundamentally contrary to those policies.
- This decision will have a potentially critical negative impact on the character of many local villages and townships across the Peninsula.
- Local communities had no say before this decision was announced.
- Council was not consulted in any way on this amendment.
- It is only fair to retain the previous height limits until there has at least been proper community consultation on this key issue.