2009 Victorian bushfires: spotlight on planning and building regulations

THE Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission this month turned its attention to planning, building and fuel-management practices in the lead-up to Black Saturday.

Among the topics already discussed were the inadequacy and lack of implementation of the Wildfire Management Overlay (WMO), vegetation control and that too many people were living close to the bush.

Counsel assisting the commission, Melinda Richards, stated that "the importance of land use planning as a bushfire risk mitigation measure has been recognised for some time."

Ms Richards said on Monday 8th February that "over the next 60 hearing days the evidence will focus on how land use planning in Victoria deals with bushfire risk mitigation, how well that has occurred and is occurring, whether there are aspects of the way in which the Victorian land use planning system addresses bushfire risk that could be improved and, if so, how."

  • Written by Urbanalyst

Planning system reforms are undemocratic and lack justification: MAV

Proposed changes to the Planning and Environment Act threaten to remove community involvement and add uncertainty and cost to Victoria's planning system, warns a Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) submission.

Cr Bill McArthur, MAV President said local government supported the need to continually improve the planning system - particularly with the challenges of a growing population and current economic downturn - but not at the expense of good planning outcomes or democratic involvement.

"Communities should be concerned. The erosion of council roles in the planning system means less community input to the decision-making process.

  • Written by Urbanalyst

New trains for Melbourne stalled

NEW trains for Melbourne's metropolitan rail system have been delayed, with the first new train that was introduced for service last December still not in operation.

The new trains, which were a feature of the $38 billion 2008 Victoria Transport Plan, have not yet begun regular operation.  Under the plan, the Brumby Government ordered 38 X'trapolis trains (18 were already ordered prior to the plan, 20 were ordered as part of the plan), with new trains scheduled to be added to the rail system every month this year.

In December last year, Acting Premier Rob Hulls and then Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky joined passengers on the 10.13am Glen Waverley service to mark the first day of the new train's service.  But that same day, the train was sent back to the workshop with problems including issues with its electronic communications and digital display units. It has since remained out of service.

  • Written by Urbanalyst

Swim at the Yarra? Pool and fitness centre idea floated

AN outdoor pool may be built on the banks of the Yarra River, according to The Age today.

A consortium called Birrarung Pools and Melbourne Lifeform Development said in a statement that it was "exploring the feasibility of establishing a special-purpose community pool and aquatic and fitness centre adjacent to the Yarra River."

"The multi-use facility comprising swim, gym and bike pursuits would occupy a site on the banks of the Yarra River near to and west of the popular Melbourne Aquarium" said that statement, adding it would incorporate "world-leading environmental standards."

The Age states that the consortium includes architects, engineers, environmental consultants and sports administrators.

The consortium has said that it has received positive support from a number of "major enterprises in the city," and that copies of the scheme have been submitted to both Melbourne City Council and the State Government.

  • Written by Urbanalyst

$25.6m Swanston Street redevelopment plan unveiled

A $25.6 million plan to upgrade and enhance Swanston Street has been unveiled by Melbourne City Council today, with Council due to consider and decide on the plan next Tuesday 2nd February.

A report on the Swanston Street redevelopment was released today, with the following recommendations:

  • $25.6 million plan to create a world-class promenade;
  • By 2012, private cars and taxis would be banned;
  • Creation of a seamless civic space created with dedicated bike lanes;
  • Construction of four new public spaces incorporating tram stops, new street furniture including public seating, ceremonial lighting, additional trees and planter boxes and public artworks;
  • Service delivery vehicles would continue to have restricted access, with a further review in 2012; and
  • Encouragement of additional pavement-based activity including outdoor cafes and innovative retail.
  • Written by Urbanalyst

Trains impounded in Melbourne: services may be affected

THE braking issues with Siemens trains and Melbourne's rail network have continued this year, with up to nine trains having been impounded and taken out of service recently. It has been reported that one Comeng train has also been impounded.

It is the first major issue to face new Minister for Public Transport Martin Pakula, who was sworn in last week after Lynne Kosky's sudden and unexpected resignation.

Mr Pakula has been unable to specify a date when the trains will be able to resume regular service, instead saying "I think it is important that the vehicles undergo proper safety checking and so I think it is unhelpful to put artificial timelines on it."

However, Mr Pakula has admitted that the impounded trains may have an adverse impact on Melbourne's train services. "We know that this is going to be a bigger problem as school kids go back and particularly if the weather heats up, so we are very keen that the trains are back on the network as soon as possible," he said.

  • Written by Urbanalyst

Yarra Council objects to proposed Richmond Dimmeys redevelopment

YARRA City Council has lodged an objection on heritage grounds against the proposed redevelopment of the historic Dimmeys site on Swan Street, Cremorne.

Mayor Cr Jane Garrett said Yarra Council's submission to Heritage Victoria raised concerns about the scale and proportions of the proposal from applicant Richmond Icon Pty Ltd stating that the building "which tells us so much about Melbourne’s cultural history deserves protection" and that the applicant is not "safeguarding that legacy."

  • Written by Urbanalyst

Vic Govt announces $363m Melbourne Park upgrade

VICTORIAN Premier John Brumby announced on Tuesday a major $363 million upgrade and redevelopment of Melbourne Park, the current home of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis event, securing the event in Melbourne until 2036.

As part of the plan, Melbourne Park will have a third enclosed, all-weather stadium, with Margaret Court Arena receiving a new retractable roof and an additional 1500 seats, boosting its seating capacity from 6,000  to 7,500.  Margaret Court Arena joins Hisense Arena (10,000 seats) and Rod Laver Arena (15,000 seats) in being the third enclosed tennis court.

In addition, the upgrade will include:

  • A new Eastern Plaza, incorporating eight new indoor courts and 13 outdoor courts for elite training and general public use as well as change room facilities and a gymnasium;
  • Refurbishments to Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena;
  • Additional parking; and
  • A footbridge linking Melbourne Park to the Rectangular Stadium.
  • Written by Urbanalyst

VPP Review: Proposed changes to Clause 52.11 (Home Occupation)

THE Department of Planning and Community Development is inviting comments on proposed changes to Clause 52.11 (Home Occupation) of the Victorian Planning Provisions.  Changes are being made to make the provisions consistent with the Small Business Ministerial Council's (SBMC) national guidelines for facilitating home-based business.

Home-based business accounts for a large proportion of small businesses in Australia, with nearly one million people operating a business at, or from, home (SBMC 2004).  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as at June 2007, there were approximately 483,000 small businesses in Victoria and over 60% of those businesses were home-based.

Planning has been recognised by the SBMC as an important tool that can facilitate and foster the growth of home-based businesses.

  • Written by Urbanalyst

$286m Springvale homemaker centre development fast-tracked

THE Government has cleared the path for the development of a $286 million homemaker centre development on Princes Highway and Westall Road, Springvale.

Visiting the site on Friday, Mr Madden announced the fast-tracking of plans to increase the number of tenancies in the centre, which will create the largest restricted retail precinct in Australia.  It is expected that around 1500 jobs will be created when the retail centre opens.

The news was welcomed by Greater Dandenong Mayor Jim Memeti, who said that "the decision to build a development of this scale in our city not only shows confidence in our local economy and our future, but also expands on Greater Dandenong's retail diversity."

  • Written by Urbanalyst

38 storey Box Hill development fast-tracked

DAYS after announcing the fast-tracking of an industrial project at Truganina, west of Melbourne, Planning Minister Justin Madden on Friday announced the fast-tracking of a $100 million, 38 storey development for Box Hill.  If built, the Box Hill development will be the tallest building outside of the CBD and St Kilda Rd precinct.

Originally refused by Whitehorse Council in August last year, the proposed development consists of a 38 storey building and 6 level basement car park (342 spaces).  The subject site, zoned Business 1 and located on the corner of Carrington Road and Station Street, has been vacant for many years and is currently used as a public car park.  The proposed development is to feature a range of uses including 176 serviced apartments and 232 apartments, gymnasium, food and drink premises, offices, restaurants and retail premises.

  • Written by Urbanalyst

Melbourne 2030: Disadvantaged, disaffected and disillusioned? Report highlights social challenges

MELBOURNE risks losing its status as one of the world's most liveable cities due to massive population growth, a lack of affordable housing, increasing poverty and lack of access to public transport, services and job opportunities according to a report released last month by the Melbourne Community Foundation (MCF).

The report, prepared by the McCaughey Centre at the University of Melbourne, warns that Melbourne is in danger of becoming a city of disadvantaged, disaffected and disillusioned citizens in 20 years if we do not act now.  The report was commissioned to review, refresh and provide input into the 2009 update of MCF's 2006 publication MacroMelbourne Initiative: developing strategic responses to disadvantage in Melbourne today and towards 2030.

The report argues that the most significant trends and challenges causing disadvantage and inequality in metropolitan Melbourne are:

  • Written by Urbanalyst

Truganina industrial development fast-tracked

IT has been announced that an industrial development at Truganina has been fast-tracked by the Victorian government.  The site, approximately 662 hectares in size and on the north-western boundary of the City of Wyndham, will feature a new $60 million Kmart distribution centre, to be developed by Goodman Group.

Planning Minister Justin Madden yesterday visited the new industrial area to turn the first sod of the industrial area's development and stated that "the Brumby Labor Government is standing up for Victorian families by speeding up the planning process to create jobs, manage growth and help families secure their lifestyle".

It was stated that the fast-tracking of projects is one reason why Victoria is mitigating the impact of the global financial crisis better than other places in the world. "We are using planning provisions to fast-track proposals to release land for industrial use in areas of most need to create local jobs," Mr Madden said.

  • Written by Urbanalyst

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