Melbourne CBD Growth

The Melbourne CDB has changed dramatically over the last few years, with the average number of residential developments between 2002 -2013 rising from four a year to thirteen in 2014 and twenty in 2015.

The new planning regulations implemented this year will change the growth of the CBD and restrict the densification of the city. The regulations impose discretionary plot ratio sizes to a maximum ratio of 1:24 and mandatory height restrictions with setback and overshadowing requirements on all new developments. The new regulations were implemented in hopes of avoiding the condition of towers being built with minimal distances between then and with minimal access to daylight and privacy.

The research project investigated the impact of the planning regulations on the CBD and South Bank within two future scenarios. The first calculated the increase in population and density of all the projects currently under construction and approved in the CBD zone, and the second calculated the projected population and density if all possible city plots were developed in accordance with the new planning scheme. The scenarios were then overlayed onto the existing CBD model to show the visual impact on the city.

The scenario is restricted only to the area subject to these regulation changes, and serves as a point of reference for the rest of the city of Melbourne and the other capital cities of Australia. While the future projections indicate a dramatic increase in the number of towers in the CDBD, it should be noted that this represents the maximum total number of possible developments, effectively putting a cap on the maximum population of the CBD. This continues the trend of other Australian capital cities where development is extending further away from their centres and out to the periphery of the city. The resistance to increased urban density and the continual vertical expansion of our cities will eventually need to change.

There are countless international examples of cities with far higher densities than Australian capital cities, many of which are not considered to be ‘high density’ cities.
These cities are able to achieve such densities due to their planning regulations. Japan’s regulations include incentives to promote development that incorporates into their design elements that will positively impact on the city, with these inclusions being rewarded with increased height or density allowances. New York City has strict plot ratio regulations to a maximum ratio of 1:10. If a development wishes to exceed this then it needs to purchase the air rights from the adjacent plots, effectively ensuring that tall towers cannot be built on adjacent sites. Both cities also have a far finer grain to their planning overlays, rather than general blanket overlays for the city.

If Melbourne continues to grow as predicted to 6.4million by 2050, which will see it overtaking Sydney as the largest city in Australia, then the planning regulations need to encourage and support growth in the city centre and curb the urban sprawl. By including incentives that provide a positive impact on the city into the regulations it would ensure the high liveability of the city of Melbourne continues well into the future.

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