The Red and Black Architect chats with Planning Minister Matthew Guy (and several other Victorians)

Recently the Victorian Planning Minister, Matthew Guy took some time out to face a chat room hosted by the leader newspapers. This was a brave move given the controversial nature of planning and the fact that anyone could ask probing questions. I took the opportunity of ask a few of these questions relating to my frustrations with planning in Melbourne.

Conflicting density policy

Following the recent debate about urban sprawl and density, I thought a question highlighting the conflicting policy in this area was in order.


Do you think heritage overlays in the likes of Fitzroy which pertain to a height, rather than the heritage value of the building being replaced, is at odds with trying to increase density in inner Melbourne?


Yes, it sounds like it is


Do you think these blanket height overlays should be replaced with protections for buildings of specific heritage value?


something for the Council to consider.

This to me is a fantastic insight into how the big picture ideas of the State Government can be dismissed in a local context. In a broad sense the local council has the power to put these big ideas aside and say not in our municipality. This power is then balanced with the Planning Minister’s powers to call in any individual proposal for his personal approval or rejection, leaving council in the cold.


Local, State or Federal?

One of the primary problems with the current planning system as I see it, is the national or even international issues being tackled differently by different jurisdictions. Here is my attempt to get to the bottom of it


Why should some councils prescribe additional standards above the new and very strict national requirements for disability access? again a national problem being tackled ad hoc?


That is a good point. Any examples?

At this point I attempted to provided an example of Moreland City Council apartment buildings which have additional council requirements above the Commonwealth standard. To me, equal access for all, is not a problem for just Moreland. Moreland has the right intentions but an Australian wide standard approach is much easier for everyone to design and regulate for. My comment at this point did not get posted and so I continued on with a similar theme.


The building code prescribes the minimum standards for daylight and ventilation to bedrooms, why do some councils accept this standard and others don’t? Melbourne council [say] yes, Moreland across the street [say] no


 Some Councils are more pragmatic than others. It’s ultimately a ResCode issue


I am more referring to higher level development where ResCode doesn’t apply.

Rescode is one such attempt to set a single standard across Melbourne. It is a guideline which sets out recommended limits on new housing up to three storeys high. Much to the annoyance of objectors to developments, compliance with ResCode across every clause, is not (nor should it be) mandatory for a planning permit to be approved. As indicated by Matthew Guy’s response, Rescode does discuss daylight to habitable room windows, however in developments of four storeys and above ResCode doesn’t apply. Furthermore, regarding the specific issue raised as an example, borrowed light, ResCode is silent.

Wrapping up

In a flash the time was up, leaving me to reflect on this type of discussion. There are some definite disadvantages in that the replies were short and that not all the questions I posed made it up to the forum. The distinct advantage however is that I had the opportunity at all. For this I extend my sincere thanks to Mr Guy.

The full transcript can be found here

Architecture is for everyone

About Michael Smith

Architect and Director of Atelier Red + Black based in Melbourne, Australia
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