PPV Volume 10 No 3

1. Central Geelong Framework Plan wins support – with some major adjustments

Central Geelong is Victoria’s second largest city and is undergoing significant urban renewal. Whilst there have been interim controls applying to the city centre for some time, the need for an agreed framework and permanent controls is long overdue.

A five person advisory committee was appointed to consider the draft Central Geelong Draft Framework Plan 2021 and Planning Scheme Amendment, with the report released in early March 2023 (Central Geelong Framework Plan (AC) [2021] PPV 107).

The draft Central Geelong Draft Framework Plan 2021 (the Framework Plan) was prepared by the then Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). It consists of a Structure Plan and Urban Design Framework (UDF) that seek to provide high level guidance for land use and development in Central Geelong for the next 30 years.

The Structure Plan sets out the vision for Central Geelong, and outlines the role and broad land use directions for its seven emerging precincts. It includes an Implementation Plan which outlines the proposed method for the statutory implementation of the Framework Plan, through a revised Schedule 1 to the Activity Centre Zone (ACZ1).

The UDF sets out the proposed built form controls for Central Geelong, and forms the basis of the centre wide and precinct-based built form controls in the proposed ACZ1.

The Framework Plan is to be implemented via Amendment C431 to the Greater Geelong Planning Scheme. The Amendment proposes:

  • updating the local policy in Clause 21.09 (Central Geelong) to be consistent with the Framework Plan
  • extending the current activity centre boundaries by rezoning land on the fringes of the current centre to the ACZ1
  • introducing revised land use and built form controls consistent with the Framework Plan by:
    • replacing the current ACZ1 with a new schedule (for sites within the ACZ1)
    • applying a new Design and Development Overlay Schedule 46 (DDO46) (for sites in other zones such as the Public Use Zone)
  • making the Framework Plan a background document to the Planning Scheme.

The Committee supported the overall strategic direction of the Framework Plan, “on balance”. It was satisfied that the general approach of preparing a Framework Plan which sets out the vision for the activity centre, and establishes preferred land use, built form and character outcomes for each precinct, was strategically sound. The general approach of predicting the future growth likely to be experienced in Central Geelong over the next 30 years, estimating the floorspace needed to accommodate that growth, and checking whether the controls can deliver that floorspace by way of a capacity analysis was the correct approach. The Activity Centre Zone is an appropriate choice of tool to implement the overall vision.

However, it identified a number of “significant adjustments” required to both the Framework Plan and the draft Amendment before approval. Some of these included the following:

Key growth and capacity issues

Three growth scenarios – ‘base case’, ‘upside’ and ‘optimistic’ were prepared for the Framework Plan. The Framework Plan is based on the ‘upside’ scenario, in which:

  • Greater Geelong has an annual average population growth of 2.5 per cent per year
  • Central Geelong has a:

– 2 to 2.5 per cent share of the municipality’s population growth
– 2.6 per cent annual average jobs growth rate.

Based on the upside scenario, it was estimated that by 2050, Central Geelong would need an additional 1.2 million to 1.4 million square metres of floorspace.

Some submitters felt that the upside growth scenario was an overly conservative basis on which to plan for floorspace needs to 2050. They considered that the Framework Plan should be based on a more ambitious 3 per cent annual average growth rate for Greater Geelong, and/or the more ambitious ‘optimistic’ scenario in which Central Geelong has a higher share (2.5 to 3 per cent) of the municipality’s population growth.

The Committee was generally satisfied that the upside scenario provides a robust and appropriate set of projections on which to base the Framework Plan. Nevertheless, consistent with the Frameworks Plan’s stated goal of providing sufficient excess capacity to allow for likely development outcomes, the Committee considered it prudent for the Framework Plan and controls to allow for capacity up to the high side of the ‘optimistic’ forecast (1.67 million square metres). This would ensure the future growth and development of Central Geelong is not unreasonably constrained at the commencement of the implementation of the Framework Plan’s vision for Central Geelong.

Before adopting the Amendment, the Committee recommended that DELWP undertake further work to adjust the controls to ensure they provide approximately 1.67 million square metres of additional floorspace to 2050, and to determine where in the activity centre the additional capacity should be provided.

Key strategic coordination issues

Some submitters were concerned that the Framework Plan failed to have appropriate regard to significant strategic initiatives such as the G21 Regional Growth Plan, growth area planning in the municipality, regional transport plans and significant strategic transport projects affecting Geelong and the region.

Generally speaking, the Committee considered the Framework Plan had appropriate regard to the role and position of Central Geelong in the broader Geelong and regional context, including planning and development of Greater Geelong’s growth areas. There are a range of strategic transport projects and initiatives at various stages of delivery, and while these might increase the efficiency of movements in and out of and within Central Geelong (and potentially create more capacity), their future is somewhat uncertain and they are outside the scope of the Framework Plan. It concluded it would not be appropriate to delay the Framework Plan and draft Amendment until these projects are resolved, which could take some time (even decades).

Key affordable housing issues

The ambitions expressed in the Framework Plan for Central Geelong to provide social and affordable housing were generally appropriate and were not materially contested at the Hearing. However, the Panel considered that the absence of supporting affordable housing provisions in the draft Amendment was a major missed opportunity that should be rectified before the Amendment is adopted.

It noted that its recommendations on affordable housing would result in substantial changes to the Amendment, and will have broad application. It considered that the changes should be the subject of re-notification, and parties should be provided the opportunity to review, comment and be heard on the proposed inclusions before the draft Amendment is finalised and adopted.

Key built form issues

The Committee accepted that there was a need to fill the gaps in the pre-interim controls (in particular, the absence of height limits in some areas, and the absence of setbacks and tower separation requirements). It accepted that refining the controls in this way would, in a general sense, assist to:

  • protect and enhance street networks and key open spaces
  • protect the valued heritage fabric and character of parts of Central Geelong
  • preserve views to Corio Bay
  • address the lack of identifiable destination points within the city centre
  • improve precinct identity.

The Committee did not consider that the Framework Plan provided a sufficiently robust analysis of the built form challenges and opportunities in Central Geelong to provide a clear explanation for the metrics of some of the controls, including the proposed heights and setbacks. Nor did it consider the Framework Plan provided a clear empirical demonstration that the pre-interim controls were allowing, and would continue to allow, undesirable or unacceptable development to proceed. It stated that the Framework Plan needed to be amended to more clearly explain:

  • the relationship between the built form typologies proposed in each precinct and the preferred employment/land use outcomes sought in those precincts
  • the key urban design and built form issues that the Framework Plan is seeking to address
  • how the revised built form controls address these issues.

The Committee broadly supported the proposed distribution of building heights across Central Geelong, the height ranges contemplated in the Framework Plan, and the preferred maximum building heights specified for the York, Health, Cultural, Waterfront and West Village Precincts.

However it was not persuaded that the heights in the Station, Knowledge and Enterprise and Retail Core Precincts have been correctly struck. It considered that further height can likely be accommodated in these precincts without compromising on the preferred character outcomes sought under the Framework Plan. Further work, including built form testing, was required before finalising the preferred heights for these precincts.

Key heritage issues – indigenous cultural heritage

The Committee was satisfied that while some minor improvements could be made, the Framework Plan is an exemplar in terms of the recognition of the historical importance of cultural values of the traditional owners of the land, and the role of the traditional owners in shaping future development outcomes that respect those cultural values.

It considered there was merit in including a map in the Framework Plan which specifically identifies areas and features of particular significance to the Wadawurrung People, and explains why they are significant, subject to further consultation with the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (WTOAC). DELWP’s review of the Framework Plan should also include:

  • further consideration of WTOAC’s request for additional objectives to respect and enable the continued occupancy of the landscape by its non-human residents, and to better respect and embrace the attributes of topography and visual connectivity to important features of cultural significance to the Wadawurrung People
  • the minor text edits requested on pages 7 to 9 of WTOAC’s original submission.

Key heritage issues – post-contact heritage

Some submitters, including Council and the National Trust, were concerned that the Framework Plan should have been informed by a comprehensive heritage review of Central Geelong. Concerns were also raised about potential inconsistencies between the proposed controls and the existing heritage policies and Heritage Overlays in the Planning Scheme, and that these should be identified and resolved before the draft Amendment is adopted.

Broadly speaking, the Committee considered that the Framework Plan appropriately articulates the heritage values that are sought to be protected and integrated into the new future for Central Geelong. However, it noted that some of the heritage reviews which broadly informed the Framework Plan were outdated. It considered the Framework Plan should include priority actions for reviewing the existing Heritage Overlays and local policies and guidelines that apply within Central Geelong and that any inconsistencies identified should be resolved by a future amendment as a matter of priority. The Committee recommended that this further work be completed within 12 months after the Framework Plan was adopted and the draft Amendment implemented.

Further, the Committee held that DELWP had not provided sufficient justification to demonstrate that a mandatory heritage setback control is warranted. It concluded a discretionary six metre setback is appropriate, subject to decision guidelines being added to the ACZ1 to guide the exercise of discretion.

Key public realm issues – open space and green spines

Given the uneven distribution of open space in Central Geelong and the lack of open space in many parts, the Committee considered that there should be greater emphasis in the Framework Plan on a range of opportunities for future open space, including on privately owned sites and through the provision of pocket parks, road narrowing and the like.

Given the shortage of open space, particularly in the southern parts of the activity centre, the Committee supported the identification of the Council owned car parks and the Station Forecourt as future open space. However, given the uncertainty associated with their future use they should be identified as ‘potential’ future open space ‘requiring further investigation’. The Committee did not consider that adequate strategic justification had been provided for identifying other government or institutional sites as locations of potential future open space and that the Framework Plan should be amended accordingly.

In relation to the green spines, the Committee considered that there is adequate strategic justification for identifying the Malop Street and Gheringhap Street green spines in the Framework Plan, but the strategic justification for the other potential green spines had not been made out. The Gheringhap Street green spine should be identified as a ‘potential green spine subject to further investigation’. The other green spines should be removed. However, the Committee had no difficulty with including an action along the lines of ‘Investigate opportunities for further green spines, subject to a full investigation of their potential impacts on the traffic network’.

Key public realm issues – overshadowing

The Committee noted that the mandatory overshadowing controls proposed to protect streets and open space were a particularly controversial aspect of the proposed built form controls, with many submitters saying they had not been justified (particularly the controls designed to protect streets from overshadowing). Other submitters supported the mandatory overshadowing controls, saying that they would protect Central Geelong’s highly valued open spaces.

On balance, the Committee considered that mandatory controls are justified to protect open space (including the future open space) and the three key pedestrian streets of Gheringhap Street, Malop Street and Little Malop Street between Fenwick and Moorabool Streets. All other streets currently identified as Primary Streets should be reclassified as Secondary Streets, with discretionary shadow controls.

It also considered further work was required to assess the impacts of the overshadowing controls on the achievable floorspace around the other existing and future open spaces. If the amount of lost floorspace was significant enough to impact on other policy objectives, then it stated that further consideration should be given to permitting allowable shadow on some or all of these spaces as well.

Strategic development sites, floor area ratios and master planning requirements

The Committee considered that the Framework Plan should be amended to better explain the role of Strategic Development Sites (SDSs) and to recognise the importance of SDSs in the future success of Central Geelong’s redevelopment. The selection criteria for the identification of SDSs should be expanded to include sites with key anchor land uses, gateway sites and other large sites that are capable of accommodating more intensive built form.

The Committee did not support the application of floor area ratios (FARs) in Central Geelong. It was not persuaded that they are likely to be effective in achieving the purposes outlined in the Framework Plan. It considered the built form objectives of the FARs will be more effectively achieved through the preferred built form controls in the ACZ1, coupled with tailored design and built form objectives in a built form control such as a Development Plan Overlay (DPO). It held that the community benefit purposes outlined in the Framework Plan are unlikely to be delivered by a discretionary FAR without a floor area uplift scheme and that a substantial amount of further work would be needed before introducing a floor area uplift scheme. Further consultation would also be required.

It also considered that the requirement to prepare a master plan for SDSs should be deleted from the ACZ1. For the larger SDSs (the Westfield and Market Square sites), it was appropriate to apply a DPO, with tailored schedules that set out the master planning requirements for those sites. The DPOs should preferably be applied as part of this amendment process. However further work is required to prepare and finalise the DPOs, and the draft Amendment should not be held up if that work is not able to be completed in a timely manner.

For the remaining SDSs and any other larger sites, it was appropriate to include the requirement for a staging plan, where appropriate, as part of the application requirements in Clause 6.0 of the ACZ1.

Transport issues

The Committee noted that McKillop Street forms part of the Principal Freight Network and as such it was appropriate for this road to accommodate freight traffic. Redirecting freight traffic to McKillop Street should, however, be subject to further investigation to confirm that this would be an appropriate outcome. It should also be complemented by education, directional signage and associated road and intersection upgrades.

It considered there was merit in formalising the tourist route. Eastern and Western Beach Roads already effectively operate as such, and it is consistent with the broader strategy of the Framework Plan to encourage visitors to enjoy the Geelong Waterfront and linger around Central Geelong.

The Committee supported the general approach of providing decentralised long term parking on the fringes of Central Geelong, and focusing parking within the central city area on short term customer/visitor parking. This would assist in minimising congestion and improving amenity within Central Geelong, and encouraging a shift toward more sustainable transport modes. However further investigations are required in conjunction with investigating future public transport upgrades, to determine whether the decentralised parking hubs are in fact required and if so what size they need to be. The locations of the future parking hubs also requires further investigation.

The final Framework Plan and Planning Scheme Amendment was approved on 1 March 2023.

See also:

  • Guide to Planning Appeals: Activity centres

2. Port Fairy Structure Plan – whether all residential land should be NRZ and whether sea level rise should planned for 0.8m or 1.2m

In Moyne C69moyn (PSA) [2022] PPV 82, it was proposed to implement the recommendations of the ‘Port Fairy Coastal and Structure Plan 2018’ through changes to local policy, new zone and overlay controls, updated flooding controls and changes to operational provisions.

The Panel noted that the Structure Plan had a long gestation period (in that it was adopted by Council in 2018) and while it will likely be out of date in a short period of time, it provides a solid basis for understanding the rationale for the future development of Port Fairy and most of the zone and overlay control changes. The Panel concluded the Structure Plan was generally sound.

Whilst the Panel supported the Amendment, it identified two major issues of concern. The first issue was the universal replacement of the General Residential Zone and Mixed Uzse Zone with the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) and the second issue was the proposal to apply Floodway Overlay for a planned sea level rise of 1.2 metres instead of the common approach of 0.8 metres.

In relation to applying the NRZ, Council submitted that the application of the NRZ was to protect land against inappropriate development into the future. However, the Panel considered this approach failed to be cognisant of planning for diversity in housing opportunities through State policy. It also considered that it was not consistent with its own local policy and key directions of the Structure Plan. It stated that Council was not able to demonstrate this was entirely necessary nor needed.

Overall, the Panel supported the application of the Neighbourhood Residential Zone to areas covered by the proposed Design and Development Overlay schedules 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7.

In addition, the Panel rejected the proposal to rezone land currently in the Low Density Residential Zone and Farming Zone to Rural Conservation Zone on the basis that this had not been well justified.

In relation to the projected sea level rise, both Council and the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority advocated for sea level rise of 1.2 metres over 0.8 metres because of global projections and local conditions at Port Fairy. Many landowners submitted that the 0.8 metre rise projection should be applied.

In response to submissions (including expert evidence), the Panel stated:

The Panel accepts there are reasons in addition to the modelling to adopt the 0.8 metres SLR. Doing so:

    • is consistent with State Planning Policy, and
    • will lead to the application of flood controls for Port Fairly consistent with the statewide application of policy, and
    • the GHCMA has not adopted a SLR of 1.2 metres elsewhere in its jurisdiction.

The Panel does not take the position that a SLR of 1.2 metres will not occur. As the witnesses agree, the future cannot be predicted with certainty. This is consistent with Council’s closing submission as quoted – “we are not yet at the time period when we can safely know what climate change impacts on sea level rise will be”.

The position adopted by the Panel is based on all the information presented to it in the Hearing, through the evidence of experts and submissions. 

The Panel accepts the controls based on 0.8 metres SLR will provide Council with ample control over development of flood prone land.

See also:

  • Guide to Planning Panels: Structure Plans applying to townships, urban growth areas and established residential areas

3. A stretch too far – some Maribyrnong heritage precincts to be pulled back

Amendment C172 of the Maribyrnong Planning Scheme proposed to apply the Heritage Overlay to eight heritage precincts covering 923 properties (Maribyrnong C172mari (PSA) [2023] 10).

Of the 923 properties impacted by the Amendment, 808 or 88 per cent are considered contributory. There are no properties categorised as individually significant. There are four Inter-war and Post-war precincts, two Inter-war precincts and two Post-war precincts.

Housing styles considered contributory include:

  • inter-war bungalows
  • post-war Austere dwellings
  • post-war brick veneer dwellings
  • Post-war migrant dwellings
  • Post-war flats
  • Housing Commission of Victoria dwellings.

The Amendment also rezones land to the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) and identifies the precincts as ‘limited change areas’ on the housing framework plan.

There were 199 submissions with most (166) objecting to the Amendment. The key issues for submitters relate to the value of protecting Inter-war and Post-war architecture, concern about building condition, impediments to property maintenance and alterations, sustainability measures, property value and financial implications.

Procedural issues included the lack of consultation in the preparation of the Heritage Study due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, a perception there was a lack of notice for the Amendment and that more could have been done by Council to ensure the very multi-cultural community had a better understanding of the Amendment.

Whilst the Panel supported the Amendment and considered it to be strategically justified and consistent with the relevant Ministerial Directions and Practice Notes, it expressed concern that several of the proposed precincts were deemed to be significant across both the inter-war and post-war eras, which spans some 40-60 years. It was stated:

The Panel considers this has caught more places of significance than otherwise would be the case if one era was considered. The Panels considers that while these places might be good examples of an area’s growth, in some precincts they fail to demonstrate why or how they are important or significant to the era, which is the requirement of many of the HERCON criteria. The variety of housing styles across two eras and in some cases one era, the Panel finds, indicates a lack of integrity or consistency more so than a level of local heritage significance that meets the threshold for the application of the Heritage Overlay.

The Panel went on to say:

Generally, the Panel considers the threshold measures are too broad and have the potential to consider too many places as contributory. This is particularly evident in precincts that span both the Inter and Post-war eras, such as Bottomley’s Paddock and Summerhill Road. The era of significance spans some 40-50 years from 1920’s to 1960’s, and in some instances 1970’s. The Panel appreciates Council’s attempt at preserving some continuum of development across the decades as evidence of its growth. However, the danger in considering such a wide span of years is that too many properties are sought to be protected simply as examples of these eras. This is not a justification for the Heritage Overlay if it is simply protecting development as examples of an area’s growth. A level of importance must be established that shows why both Inter and Post-war eras inform the geographic extent of a precinct and that the places sought to be protected are better than average rather than merely a representation of styles over a period of time and not diminished by too many non-contributory properties.

For some precincts the impact is clear. The statement of significance for the Bottomley’s Paddock precinct is 12 pages long and primarily made up of descriptions of what is significant for Inter-war housing (1915 – 1940), Post-war austere housing (1940-1950), Housing Commission of Victoria (late 1940’s – early 1950’s), Post-war brick veneer (1940-1965) and Post war migrant housing (1955-1975). The listings document what the Panel considers as an exhaustive list of typical elements of these types of housing, not the important elements that should be preserved. The Panel believes this approach has led, in some Inter and Post-war precincts, to an excessive application of the Heritage Overlay to housing that is just an example of the era of development without due consideration given to its importance and the impact on non-contributory properties.

By comparison the existing heritage precincts of Queensville Estate (HO8) and Angliss Housing Estate (HO1) target a decade of development only and do not span several eras. Using Bottomley’s Paddock as an example, even though it is described as an Inter and Post-war precinct, some of the individual areas (six in total) are from one but not both eras. Napoleon and Wellington Streets is by itself a Post-war ‘precinct’, Tucker Street and Palmerston Street are Inter-war streets, but Molesworth Court and Hope/Barton/Stanley/View Streets are both Inter and Post-war streets. Bottomley’s Paddock is discussed further in Chapter 5.

Another example, the West Footscray precinct, is different. It affects five generally contiguous streets, with four of the streets (Berthandra Court, Hartley and Rondell Avenue and First Street) dominated by a single era of development with most places deemed contributory. Neil Street has a mix of inter and post-war housing. Given the high degree of contributory properties and different eras of development in contiguous streets the Panel considers, as a precinct, there is a story to be told of the area’s development collectively instead of individual streets. The West Footscray precinct is discussed further in Chapter 12.

The Panel notes that, when questioned about the length of the statements of significance, it was the evidence of Ms Peters that the statements of significance were not too long, and it was not unusual for heritage precincts to span several eras. These considerations are developed further in each precinct chapter.

Underpinning the Panel’s concerns was how a threshold of significance was established. It stated:

The Panel agrees with Dr Rowley that an assessment for Criteria A must do more than just tell a story of the place’s development; its importance must be established. In other words, it must be better than average; it cannot just be an example of Criteria A, for instance. This applies to assessments of Criterion D and E. The Panel’s consideration is restricted to PPN01. The Panel accepts that a Step 1 assessment using the VHR Guidelines does also provide guidance but has not used them in its consideration.

The Panel generally accepts the establishment of the six threshold measures was a good approach to overcome the lack of guidance provided by PPN01. The Panel assumes that at least one, not all, of the threshold measures must be met to inform local significance. The Panel has reviewed these threshold measures and two measures deserve further scrutiny – ‘character’ and ‘continuity’.

The Panel was consistently advised by Council, in response to whether other overlay controls were considered, that neighbourhood character is different from heritage. The Panel agrees. PPN01 states clearly the Heritage Overlay is not intended to operate as a neighbourhood character control. Yet the ‘character’ threshold measure is drafted as:

The building makes a positive contribution to the cultural heritage significance or character of the precinct, as it conforms to the typology of built fabric, or history of development of the precinct.

This seems to be both a heritage and neighbourhood character threshold measure. The Panel gives regard to this measure only for the heritage significance of the precinct, not its neighbourhood character contribution.

Regarding ‘continuity’, the Panel asked Council to clarify how a place constructed outside of the era of significance for the street could be considered as contributory. Council accepted, in a McCubbin Street example, that those properties outside of the era of significance could be listed as non-contributory but did not refer to the ‘continuity’ threshold measure in its closing submission. The Panel considers the ‘continuity’ threshold measure is of little assistance in establishing significance in the defined era of significance.

The Amendment attracted some media coverage over the Christmas New Year period with many residents claiming they were not adequately consulted. The Panel observed that was impacted by the lack of broad consultation due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Practitioners involved in potential heritage controls are urged to read the Maribyrnong C172 report as it addresses some on-going issues regarding Identifying thresholds of significance and identifying precincts.

See also:

  • Guide to Planning Panels: Heritage > Identification of precincts, Criteria and thresholds