There is a number of special planning controls that apply to proposed developments along the Yarra River Valley.
These controls have been formulated by the Yarra City Council and the Boroondara City Council in order to regulate development so that it is responsive to the Yarra River and its environs, particularly in regard to its scenic qualities and the amenity of properties within the immediate environs of the river.
Important features of these controls include:
City of Yarra
• The key planning control governing the siting and design of new development between Victoria Street and the Yarra River is a Design and Development Overlay (Schedule 4) control.
• The DDO4 control is aimed specifically at implementing the objectives and provisions of the “Victoria Street East Urban Design Framework” (MGS November 2005). This document was commissioned by the Yarra City Council, for the purpose of defining “broad built form principles” and related strategies for regulating new development within the Precinct.
• One of the important design objectives of the DDO4 control is:
“To relate the siting, the scale, bulk and massing of new development to the distinctive landscape character and topography of this section of the Yarra River corridor”
• Although there are a number of building height and setback standards prescribed in the DDO4 control, these are not mandatory, and can therefore be varied by Council; but only where it can be demonstrated that:
- There will be amenity enhancements to the river environs.
- The proposal results in greater articulation of the built form but without any net increase in building volume.
- The design must demonstrate “superior architectural quality” and principles of environmentally sustainable design.
• Under the DDO4 controls, the “absolute minimum” building setback from the river “crest line” is 10 metres. Notwithstanding however, the “desirable minimum” setback from the crest line is 20 metres.
• Under the DDO4 controls, the preferred maximum building height is approximately 15-16 metres above Victoria Street – i.e. say 5 storeys (to between RL31 metres AHD and 29 metres AHD).
• Also under the DDO4 controls, if development bonuses are to be afforded, these should be devoted primarily to increasing the area of public and communal open space along the river edge and on the associated building setback areas.
Boroondara City Council
• Under the Boroondara Planning Scheme, there are a number of special Overlay controls which affect the Yarra River and its immediate environs. The most significant of these is a Significant Landscape Overlay (Schedule 2) control, which applies to the whole of the Yarra escarpment area back to the skyline edge (as would be seen from the river banks).
• The SLO2 controls are aimed at protecting areas along and within the Yarra Valley environs from visual intrusion caused by inappropriate siting or appearance of buildings and works – as well as protecting and enhancing the skyline vista when viewed from the river, its banks, and adjacent pathways.
• Although the SLO2 controls are broadly based and therefore not highly targeted, they do prescribe that on all land affected by the control in the vicinity of the Honeywell site, a Planning Permit is required for all buildings or works which are proposed to be more than 6 metres above ground level. The decision guidelines for the assessment of Permit Applications under this control include the following critical test:
Whether the location, bulk, outline and appearance of the building or works will be in keeping with or enhance the character and appearance of the area as a river valley environs, including:
- The need to control the height of all buildings and structures.
- The need for ridge-lines on buildings to be responsive to the site contours on land with an average slope greater than 1 in 10.
- The need for building roofs to have an appropriate pitch.
- The need for exterior building colours and materials to be non reflective and blend with the natural colour of the surrounding environment.
However, over the past five years, the Yarra City Council especially has been receiving numerous proposals that make little attempt to be compliant with these guidelines. In one recently received proposal, to develop a site at 677-679 Victoria Street, Abbotsford, adjacent to a tree-lined bend in the river, many aspects of the guidelines have been set aside and a proposal has been prepared with many aspects that go far beyond planning guideline limitations. The proposal may be found at:
Of particular note are the following factors:
• The three buildings are to range in height (to parapet level) of between RL40.9 metres AHD to RL48.6 metres AHD. Thus the proposed buildings exceed the preferred height limits under the Yarra Planning Scheme by upwards of 17 metres (i.e. 6 storeys).
• The buildings are to be constructed on a podium which is to rise approximately 7-8 metres above Victoria Street level and which is to be setback from the title boundary (as distinct from the river “crest line”) by distances of generally between 10 and 12 metres. Although the lower levels of the buildings are to be modestly stepped back from the river at the upper levels, most of the increased setback areas are to be occupied by private balconies.
• The Victoria Street façade of the new development is to be dominated by the podium wall which (it would appear) is to be featured simply as an “off whiteconcrete precast” wall, extending west as far as the new driveway entrance, adjacent to the existing controlled intersection into Victoria Gardens.
• There is to be a tavern (wine bar) on the rooftop of the Stage 1 building (at the western end of the site). This is to be open to the public and this Stage is proposed to be open for business until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11pm on all other nights.
• There is also to be a restaurant of some sort on the top floor of the Stage 2 building, together with a roof deck above.
• There are to be a total of 586 apartments including 205 studio apartments, 81 one bedroom apartments, 118 one bed plus flexi apartments, 94 two bedroom apartments, and 88 two bedroom plus study apartments.
• There are to be 643 car parking spaces (which is 31 spaces less than the standard “ResCode” requirement , and makes no provision for the commercial uses in the development).
• There are to be two restaurants at lower ground level (facing north across the river), with total seating accommodation for 225 patrons. These restaurants are to have the same operating hours as the tavern (wine bar) on the top floor of the Stage 1 building.
• There is to be a two tiered terrace with boat hire facility at the lower ground two level leading via steps to a pontoon on the river. It should be noted that the works proposed on the river reserve are the subject of a separate approval process and therefore do not form part of this Application.
Views based on a computer-drawn three dimensional model (prepared by Robert McIntyre) which show the overall massing and height of the proposed development may be found at http://www.yarrariveractionalliance/com/proposed development/
The undersigned wish to petition the Victorian State Government to impose stricter legislation in parliament so that these gross abuses of existing planning guidelines no longer are brought before city councils in defiance of their planning guidelines.
We, the undersigned call upon the Parliament of the State of Victoria to strengthen the limitations that are legislatively imposed on property redevelopment proposals in Melbourne and across the State of Victoria.
While we support the intentions of the "Melbourne 2030" initiative, we are deeply concerned that property developers are now using this initiative as an excuse to propose developments that flagrantly neglect the limitations on existing planning guidelines at all levels of government in terms of height, bulk, visual imposition, density, traffic congestion, and most importantly, little or no consideration for the impact of the development proposals on the local natural environment.
Therefore, we call upon the parliament to legislate systemic, stronger planning guidelines so that clear and reasonable guidance may be provided to any prospective developer concerning acceptable limits to any future property development statewide. In particular, we respectfully request that the Victorian Parliament creates a much stronger legislative position effecting greater respect for environmental impacts that may be created by a future development in terms of its impact on the sustainable "liveability of Melbourne".
Most specifically, we request that parliament seeks to enforce greater limitation on developments that may impact upon the natural beauty and amenity of the Yarra River valley, especially in the Estuarine portion of the river.
The Our River, Our Future petition to Parliament of Victoria was written by Greg and is in the category City & Town Planning at GoPetition.