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Prescribed rules and discretionary guidelines: it's the discussion we need to have

Discretionary guidelines and prescribed planning rules - it's a discussion we need to have. That's the view I formed after attending the Melbourne Conversations Urban Heritage / New Architect - where to now? event held on Monday night at the Capitol Theatre.

In many more words that what I have used above, an audience member posed that question to the panel toward the end of the 90 minute session. It was prefaced by a discussion on the sheer number of development proposals which were called in for Ministerial approval along with widespread tut-tutting when a graphic produced in Monday's Age was also displayed.

It's fair to say there weren't many Matthew Guy fans in the audience yet conversely I thought it unfair that the audience - judging by the collective groan any time a reference to the current Planning Minister was made - appeared to categorise all development approved by Guy as somewhat sub-standard. Which is quite frankly - to use a fantastic Scottish vulgarity - pish.

In his answer to the discretionary guidelines versus prescribed planning rules question, Rob Moore from the City of Melbourne explained that much like the community, developers want certainty. That certainty wasn't necessarily just planning-related but also financial.

What is the core component a developer requires in order to do what they do? Buyers? Architects? Planning Consultants? Marketers? No, it's land - the acquisition and price of land is key.

Rob Moore told the audience a story of an experience he had in a meeting with a developer where they believed more defined planning controls would have a positive, stabilising impact on land prices and would help cut out wild land speculation which currently occurs.

There were a few awkward moments of disbelief from the audience after that story however as Professor Kate Darian-Smith appealed to the audience shortly thereafter, we should continue this conversation.

If we accept our current planning system won't dramatically change (who wants to go through yet another tear-it-up-and-write-another-strategy process?), how can it change to give both industry and community certainty?

Much criticism was heaped on Plan Melbourne for its lack of any controls to compel the inclusion of affordable housing in new development - is that the only area which needs to have serious debate prior to the first review of Plan Melbourne?

When is the best time to add planning controls so the market players can adjust their business models?

Should we give anti-change organisations like Planning Backlash a voice or treat them like a Sydney radio shock-jock (best ignored)?

Can we have our cake and eat it too?

The floor (and comment thread below) is open.

Lead image credit: Wikipedia.

29 comments

Bilby's picture

Rob Moore also explicitly said that he now favours height controls across Melbourne, for a variety of reasons. His point was that without controls, our system of "guidelines" and recommended built form for certain areas is simply not working, with discretionary height limits delivering up to (and over) 100% increases in some areas. His point was well taken - this is not "planning" in the usual sense of the word (i.e. where policy decisions are made up front in order to deliver a particular outcome in terms of built form, amenity and liveability (including heritage considerations) down the track). He did clarify his point after Mary Drost spoke about a "contradiction" in his desire for height controls vs building more density along public transport corridors, however, arguing that we need to be clear about where higher buildings are permitted and where they are not. I imagine that he would extend this logic to high rise buildings also - there are places where they are appropriate and there are places where they are not (e.g. the tower behind the Forum Theatre in an existing lower-rise area is a perfect example of where not to build high - a few extra storeys, perhaps, for the trade off of a heritage restoration of the theatre, but not a blatant transgressing of the spirit and letter of the height controls on the precinct). I did think it was interesting that there was little 'finesse' in terms of the discussion around built heritage along transport corridors like Smith Street in Fitzroy / Collingwood, however. In these areas, while 6-8 storeys may or may not sit well enough in the visual landscape, the issue of demolition of the crucial built heritage fabric of these places, in terms of the economic and cultural uses they currently attract, was not addressed at all. And in many cases, new 6 storey builds call for the demolition of most of the existing structure, bar the front room or heritage facade - not a great outcome in an inner-city area dependent on built heritage for its lifeblood as a community and economic powerhouse for smaller creative industries.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

Melbourne has had performance based planning controls for the past 20 years and the sky has not fallen, in fact Melbourne is a better place now than it has ever been.

It is a little unfair to blame all of this on Guy Matthews as the previous government approved towers on a similar scale using exactly the same planning controls.

Eureka Tower was double the 'preferred' height limit and was approved by a labor government with little public consultation. Would Melbourne be better today if Eureka Tower had never been proposed because there was no flexibility in the planning scheme to accommodate buildings over 160m on the site?

The same could be said of Freshwater Place, Vision, Prima Tower and many others that were also approved by the previous government.

Tall towers on small sites, podium car parking and small apartment sizes were allowed by the previous government who approved towers like Vision.

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Bilby's picture

Yes, Melbourne would be better if Eureka tower had not been approved - it helped to justify further breeches of the planning scheme without providing much in the way of trade-offs for the additional height. And for many Melburnians, the proverbial sky has indeed "fallen" - the city is now starting to lose its heritage and design "soul" as laneway after heritage laneway is compromised by service grills, carpark entrances and noisy plant equipment, and important heritage streetscapes and interiors are being progressively demolished and facaded across the Hoddle Grid. I don't have a problem with Eureka per se, but if the planners in their wisdom determined that the area was suitable for buildings half the height, then it is important to stick (roughly) to that. If there are areas suitable for tall buildings, then by all means, build high and build to the highest design standards. In addition, Melbourne might well be denser and more dynamic today had the tower boom been moderated before it became the stuff of dogma. Had we had some real leadership on density and high quality inner and middle ring neighbourhood planning, we might not have seen the serious degradation in solar access, increase in wind effects and loss of heritage in the CBD over recent years. Rob Moore was not advocating "no flexibility in the planning scheme", but rather suggesting that 10-20% discretion might be appropriate. Why bother having planning regulations at all if they are discretionary to any degree? (That's not a rhetorical question, by the way, Nicholas - I really don't understand your argument, unless you are saying, "Don't have any planning controls at all"?) Secondly, the previous government (despite their appalling track record in planning) approved far fewer tall buildings in the same period of time. But how that is relevant to the discussion, I am unsure - this is not a party political debate. This is about orderly and well thought out planning of the city - not the government which implements it.

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johnproctor's picture

Bilby re: full demolition of Smith Street (or any other strip).

I wasn't at the seminar so not sure the exact context of Rob Moore's presentation/point but I assume it refers to the Rob Adams "Transforming Australian Cities" report that suggests you could accomodate 1 million extra people along tram and bus corridors. The methodology for that report was very conservative in my opinion for example it excluded:
- any site without rear laneway access,
- state heritage register sites
- frontages less than 6m width
- and 50% of heritage overlay sites.

i.e. a hell of a lot of sites in inner melbourne's shopping strips wouldn't be touched at all to achieve the goal.

your comment re: Mary Drost's 'contradiction' comment is also a funny example of showing how someones position can influence how they interpret what they hear. To Mary Drost 'height controls' should mean low height limits. to Rob Moore 'height controls' can mean a mix of anything from 12m to 300m. and to some people on the forums of this site and skyscrapercity probably think 'height controls' should mean anything 200m+

City of Melbourne is not so bad but the City of Yarra shoots themselves in the foot with all of these issues by not doing reasonable strategic planning. They put up 3 storey height limits on the assumption that their strategic redevelopment sites (like Vic Gardens) will deliver all the development in their munipality then wonder why the Minister doesn't approve the structure plan. Meanwhile if they were just prepared to allow 6-10 stories on sites like the Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, Safeway, Richard Wynne's office and that dodgy opp shop near Bank of Melbourne then they could defensibly say we have identified areas that are appropriate for development along this strip and the rest of it should be protected as much as possible.

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Bilby's picture

Actually, JohnProctor, Yarra have just released their new zones, and the sites on Smith Street that you mention are indeed all in the Commercial 1 Zone - which has no height limits at all. So the Commonwealth Bank, Woolworths, Richard Wynne's office, etc. all fall within an area designated for more dense development. Many of the councillors in Yarra would argue against the appropriateness of this, since Smith Street is (arguably) the most important commercial heritage strip of its kind remaining in Australia, but they have no choice, given the rather blunt instrument provided by the minister (i.e. the C1Z). For my part, I would say that where you have infill sites that don't have heritage buildings on them, I see no problem with this approach, however at the state level of the planning scheme, heritage overlays regularly fail to trump density considerations for individual sites. To me, this is the wrong approach - and again, a rather unsubtle way to achieve planning targets. Why we can't have district wide density targets and then provide incentives in the form of height allowances, for example (or reduced rates for heritage restoration and retention of greater percentages of heritage fabric), I don't know. If we did this in the CBD, for instance, we would begin to see the 'bomb sites' and tired office buildings and other mid-rise non-heritage sensitive sites being redeveloped as high-rise, whilst retaining our extraordinary collection of Victorian, Edwardian and inter-war heritage stock to enhance the liveability and cultural richness of city life for those who live in these new apartment buildings. The overall result (i.e. vastly increased density) could thus be achieved without compromising the heritage of Melbourne. What would you say about a plan like this that is more discriminating in its application to sensitive heritage sites and precincts?

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johnproctor's picture

^ but zone can be treated with DDO's and incorporated documents like Structure Plans and the heritage overlay to protect sites... Together these instruments if put into the scheme with appropriate research and justification could protect the important bits of Smith Street by providing 3 different instruments to outweigh the state level density objectives.

However City of Yarra so blindly sticks to its '3 stories everywhere in heritage shopping strips' often with limited actual site by site heritage or character assessment. This is just not a sustainable position to maintain (eg. I believe Smith Street actually has a structure plan incorporated in the scheme that basically says 'no development').

They would be much better saying '3 stories at every building predating 1950* and 6-8 stories everywhere else' and they might actually have a chance at rejecting developments on sites they believe should not be developed.

I believe this approach is very similar to your 'incentives' suggestion in the second half of your comment.

* note I used this for ease of sentence. obviously they should actually do a heritage study and protect buidligns of any vintage that actually have heritage value on not protect those that don't. not every old building on smith street should necessarily be protected. a single story frontage that was facaded 20 years ago might as well be refacaded with a taller rear if appropriate. and a building from 1970 might be special and owrht protecting.

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Bilby's picture

John, you put quotation marks around your claim that Yarra prescribes, '3 stories everywhere in heritage shopping strips' - where are you getting this information from? There is no incorporated DDO on Smith Street prescribing 'no development'. In fact, there is no DDO on Smith Street apart from the Heritage Overlay - if there was, how would it be possible for developments like "Haus" (8 storeys) and "You and I" (7 storeys) and "Smith and Co." (7 storeys) to have started construction on Smith Street this year? And in terms of protecting heritage, just look at what happened on the Banco site - two of the most important heritage buildings on Smith Street were demolished and are now being "reconstructed" using tilt slab technology, including the original and first Coles Store in Victoria and William Pitt's original "Foy & Gibson" retail store. And further up Smith Street street, Neometro will soon flatten the 'Citro Motors' 1924 Motor Garage. Your claims simply don't stack up, and meanwhile, Smith Street is being reconfigured by developers with no regard for quality heritage outcomes. Put simply, Smith Street's heritage is being progressively degraded by development. This is not a wild claim - it's fact, based on the evidence on the ground. I'm not arguing that there should be no development, but I am arguing for better design responses to the remaining heritage building stock and much less demolition of heritage built fabric, including street frontages, interiors, and in some cases, rear lane way elevations, where they contribute to the historic character and meaning of the area. We can have both (development and good heritage outcomes), so lazy legislation and design responses are no excuse.

http://www.propertyobserver.com.au/finding/residential-investment/new-de...

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johnproctor's picture

sorry you are right - the Smith Street Strcuture Plan never made it into the scheme. However I never said that there was a DDO on Smith or a heritage overlay I specifically said that if a Structure Plan, DDO and Heritage Overlay were all enacted you COULD protect the street. For example there isn't a heritage overlay over much of Smith north of Johnston which is were Haus and You and I are.

I was shocked when I noticed the other day that the two 'heritage' components of Smith and Co are just tilt slab mock ups. I'd assumed it was at least going to be a brick by brick rebuild of the original facades - especially the one at the southern boundary of the site which was still standing even earlier this year I think (where as the Coles store was demolished some time ago).

More on Smith Street -
http://www.yarracity.vic.gov.au/Planning--Building/Structure-and-Local-A...

and a quote from Page 19 of the panel report with respect to the refusal of the planning panel to endorse Council's request for a DDO (in 2011) to implement the reco's of the structure plan.

"The Panel is also struggling to align a Structure Plan that identifies the entire length of Smith Street in the one precinct seeking to protect heritage character and to match building heights
with its neighbours, with the reality that parts of that street host single storey post war warehouses that are without any heritage qualities or protection."

The comments above re: Smith Street (which I now live near) come from the fact the exact process of the link above on Smith mirrors my personal involvemnent as a community member on the Swan Street structure planning reference group process in about 2010/2011 (when I lived in Richmond). The community members on the reference group were happily working with the Council officers and consultant planners on building heights etc. generally agreeing low rise along most of Swan Street with slightly higher (4-6 stories) generally along the length of Swan Street between Burnley and Mary Streets. And with slightly higher heights on Church Street generally and in particular near East Richmond Station and up to 10-12 stories at Richmond Station. When the document went to a Council meeting Council ignored the work of the reference group and pretty much unlilaterally reduced all the proposed building heights by 2 or more stories across the structure plan area. When they put this to DPCD at the time seeking an amendment to incorporate the adopted structure plan into the planning scheme DPCD told them to go back and rethink the building heights with some sort of evidence basis rather than just a last minute council decision of 'whatever was planned -2 stories.' Rather than engaging in the process Yarra just shelved the process.

Since then with no guidance in the scheme developments like Dimmeys proper, the former Dimmey's carpark on Railway Place, the new building currently going up on Punt Road just south of Swan have all been approved at heights that were higher than what Council wanted with the VCAT decisions specifically referring to a lack of guidance within the planning scheme and the fact they cannot provide weight to the Council Adopted Structure Plan because it was not gazzetted into the scheme. (I do note that personally I'm not uncomfortable with any of those approvals - although it would have been good for more of Dimmey's to be retained)

If they'd just listened to their Reference Group, who were generally anti-development but were reasonable enough to agree that there were a series of areas in the study area that would be better if developed and so were open to some slightly higher built forms in some locations and enacted a Structure Plan that guided development they might have been able to argue against the developments noted above - or at least got closer to what they wanted with 6 stories instead of 8-10-12.

once again I say we are arguing for the same thing. I'm just placing my emphasis on Council's failures in this area and you are emphasising developer's 'greed'.

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Bilby's picture

I'm not particularly saying anything about whether developers are 'greedy' or not, John, but I am saying that in general terms, they demonstrate little to no regard for the heritage of the places in which they build. Whether that is due to greed or just lack of education and / or lack of understanding and concern for culture, I can't be certain. I do agree with you that there are areas of Smith Street that can be adapted for higher buildings without causing major problems - I'm not sure where the areas of "single storey post war warehouses" are that the panel (i.e. the 'panel' of one) referred to, however. Perhaps some of the outlets down the Alexandra Pde end fall into this category - although 'post war' is a funny way of describing them - most of the single storey buildings there are 1980s and beyond (including the one recently demolished for Haus - and good riddance to it). There are some significant federation and interwar era warehouses down there, though - e.g. Officeworks, and the red brick factory outlets across the street (soon to be demolished for another multi-level development). Should these be destroyed (regardless of not being heritage listed)? I don't think so - they are just as much part of Collingwood and Fitzroy's heritage as the ornate Victorian shops. Could they sustain intense development above, set back from the street facades? Yes, absolutely. In this sense, I agree too - the council's attempt at getting that DDO up on Smith Street was ill-conceived, weakly planned and argued for. In short, in was a debacle, with little community input due to poor advertising and plenty of big developer (e.g. Sydney company Lahide Pty Ltd - owner of the Woolworths site) input and influence on the end result.

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johnproctor's picture

Completely agree re: those red brick factories opposite Officeworks. Shame they are likely to be demolished as part of that development. But again while if I was a developer I'd think that the bricks would add character to my building I'd probably also look at hte bottom line and note the savings are in the 6 or even 7 figures and be more than tempted to pocket that as profit.

Its the Council's fault for not protecting them adequately. Without a heritage overlay they can't even try to protect them. They could be demolished tomorrow without a permit.

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Bilby's picture

I can't quite see why there would be any additional profit in knocking over those particular building facades - you wouldn't lose much as setback, and any 'loss' in yield due to the setback could be compensated for with additional height to the rear. Apart from that, it's just some timber or steel props to hold the wall in place while construction goes on behind. I would think the added value for the buyers would more than make up for any cost of this nature.

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Riccardo's picture

These discussions bear no relation to reality.

I expect EIGHT MILLION PEOPLE in Melbourne sooner than you realise.

Where are they going to live? The 'badlands' as someone described them?

If you don't get the message that heritage is something we can't indulge, something Sydney could not afford, a lot of 'heritage' farmland is gonna be turned into 'substandard' housing. combined with Victorian's famous unwillingness to tackle the 'heritage' rail network and its 'heritage' industrial arrangements, the fate of a few old buildings in the inner city will be the very least of our concerns.

Get Melbourne big and high!

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Bilby's picture

Riccardo, the 8 million you expect are not arriving tomorrow - we have time to plan well ahead of their arrival. London has 8 million people now - however if you visit London, you will discover that (aside from the destruction caused during WWII), it has maintained much of its inner-city heritage whilst accommodating the masses. Same for Manhattan and Brooklyn (apart from the effects of the war, of course). We have literally tens of thousands of suitable infill sites within a 10km radius of the CBD that would not require the demolition of heritage built fabric - or at least not require wholesale demolition of heritage buildings. Your argument is specious - the growing population can be accommodated in well designed neighbourhoods that retain their heritage buildings for the purposes of culture and liveability. And in case you hadn't noticed, Melbourne is already high compared with other world cities. It's also pretty big compared with most cities in the world - surely you mean get Melbourne 'dense'? There are many ways to achieve this - and building energy intensive skyscrapers is among the worst ways to do it.

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Riccardo's picture

The best way is to restore meaning to the concept of private property rights to land. I own it, I'm gonna build it, I'm gonna knock it down. If the government wants these rights, it should acquire them with cash. Forcing taxpayers to choose how much heritage they are gonna pay with tax will make the argument much more rational.

It is quite bizarre you would think you could keep Fitzroy low rise in a city of 8 million. And how are 'tens of thousands' of sites gonna accommodate another four million people.

At an average of four people per 1/8 acre block, will need one million sites at least.

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Bilby's picture

Fitzroy is very small, Riccardo. In Tokyo, for instance, Yanaka, Sendagi and Nezu make up a small low-rise (and remarkable) heritage part of the city, in a place which barely had any heritage structures left after the war. They are now considered precious in a built up, high rise city, as a respite for office workers and residents as a place to go and enjoy a breather or visit a shrine after work and on weekends. We can afford to keep Fitzroy (and the other important and relatively intact inner-city heritage precincts) in a city the size of Melbourne! In Tokyo, they call it the "hard edges, soft centres" approach to urban design - in other words, build high around the "edges" of heritage precincts, while retaining the lower-rise form and liveability of the high use / high value, (and sunlit) areas within.

Secondly, how could 'tens of thousands' of non-heritage sensitive infill sites accommodate an additional 4 million? Easy: 20,000 sites x 100 apartments, each with 2 inhabitants = 4 million. Or 40,000 sites with 50 apartments ... you get the idea. Of course, I am assuming densities higher than your proposed (very suburban, I might add) 4 people per 500m2 block. Next question.

Lastly, to your initial point about "private property rights to land". I'm not sure what you are advocating here, but it sounds a bit like an anarchist perspective, to me. You seem to be proposing an unregulated form of property ownership without restrictions on use, built form, impacts on the neighbourhood or culture. I don't know of any society that has this form of "private property right", but it does't sound like a nice place to live. It's interesting that you oppose the imposition of restrictions on land uses, but are strongly in favour of imposing high taxes on those who wish to retain their low-rise heritage buildings - this seems like it might be a utilitarian argument, or perhaps a socialist argument for tighter central control of land use for the good of social equality / housing? I don't know, but what I will say is that a good society is made up of more than dollars, private property 'rights' and bricks and mortar, and should take into account the importance of culture, understanding of the past, sense of place, and yes, a variety of aesthetic experiences. What would be the point of accommodating all of those people if the city they lived in was devoid of any connection to its own history and sense of place and identity? What would New York be without the Chrysler building, the Woolworth Tower, Central Park and it's acres of brownstones? Not much, frankly - the coffee and food is, on the whole, terrible ...

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Aussie Steve's picture

Finally an excellent argument articulating what I think most of us would want. Thanks Bilby.

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Riccardo's picture

Bilby your barbs do not work on me. You were the one wanting suburban densities not me.

I place no weight on the idea of 'culture' just another means of social control, creating insiders and outsiders.

Why would people want to live in such places? Start at the bottom of Maslows pyramid, where most people actually are. A need for shelter. Let's solve that first before worrying about aesthetics for all. Those who own, and can afford, to concern themselves with beauty will do so.

I don't want to impose high taxes for heritage, quite the opposite if you read my post properly. I am saying that society's who want government to interfere in property decisions should be prepared to pay for it through taxes.

Confronted with such a reality, I suspect very few turkeys will vote for Christmas. Sure, they will pay the upkeep of buildings like Flinders St Station, but average joes terrace in carlton they may well think twice.

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Riccardo's picture

And if you advocate Tokyo style urban planning, you need to explain how you will pay, or rather, pursuade others to pay, for a rail network like this. Or even a quarter of it.

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Bilby's picture

Higher taxes.I'd be happy to pay 60-70c in the dollar for world-class education, health, planning, o/s aid and PT outcomes.

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Bilby's picture

Barbs? Not at all - I am simply expressing an argument, please don't regard my comments as personal in any way - I think it is great that you are passionate enough about planning to have this debate at all - many wouldn't be. I have never advocated for 'suburban densities', Riccardo - you said 4 people per 1/8 acre (or 500m2), not me. As regards culture - you say you place no weight on it, but what you are advocating for is also 'cultural' - it's not something that you either have or you don't - culture is part and parcel of the society we all create together, whether we call it that or not. So we just have different ideas about the sort of culture we each would like to see develop in Melbourne, that's all. I think it's worth paying for the retention and adaptive reuse of our cultural heritage, on a range of grounds, including aesthetic - you do not, if I have it right? I think what you present is a false dilemma - i.e. that we can have a pleasant, well planned city that substantively retains its heritage, or we can have a relatively affordable, high-rise city that provides housing for all, with good transport options. I am of the view that both outcomes are achievable. But perhaps you just don't like the look of historic buildings, Riccardo?

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Bilby's picture

Thanks, Aussie Steve. I spotted this article today that might be of interest, too:

http://www.dezeen.com/2014/10/04/moshe-safdie-lecture-skyscrapers-discon...

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Riccardo's picture

Bilby, I can see you will benefit from the following link

http://marketurbanism.com especially

http://marketurbanism.com/2014/09/04/historic-preservation-bad-for-neigh...

It's tag line is very apt. Introducing capitalism to urbanists, introducing urbanism to capitalists. Cities and free markets are not incompatible, rather the opposite, the left getting carried away with reaching into other people's pockets all the time is what then arouses Tea Partyists and other nutters against cities.

Government has a role in planning cities, but only in the ways a market cannot. And that does not include basic land use decisions, rates of return etc.

If the left want to stand for something, basic human rights, the capacity of all to earn a decent living without fear or discrimination, they should stop abetting the rich and powerful who benefit from locking up prime inner blocks for themselves and their ilk.

And prserve the revenue raising power of government for those things that really matter. You could afford that rail system if government was not so heavily bogged down in stuff that shouldn't be its concern.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

So are waste dumps ok in residential areas if the property owner thinks its a maximum return on investment Riccardo?
The question is where we draw the line between private decisions and public accountability/planning and how the heritage and culture of the community (multiple individuals) as a whole fits into that, there has to be a delicate mix of capitalism and state control for us to thrive in more than a base way, with things that are important taking precedence over blind profit and property rights. If ownership of property is all that decides how our society looks and thinks, it will always be the rich and powerful in complete control, be it through locking up land or destruction/unbridled and unplanned development at either end of the scale

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Bilby's picture

You know, your comment about the rich 'locking up prime inner blocks' makes some sense, Riccardo, but the link to the (interesting) article about heritage preservation causing high rents doesn't stack up. Yes, Greenwich Village is expensive, but it hasn't always been that way. In the '50s it was dirt cheap - as was nearby SOHO with all its cast-iron loft buildings. New York is now so expensive because it is so liveable and yes, also because it is home to so many wealthy people. The various neighbourhoods in New York are not priced according to the scarcity of housing stock or the fact that they have landmark designation, though. Take West Harlem as a prime example - it's been designated as a landmark district for years, but it's only now starting to become in any way desirable as a residential area for wealthy individuals - likewise most of Brooklyn. And if Greenwich Village were allowed to build high and flatten its stock of federal townhouses tomorrow, would it become less expensive or more? All the recent multi-storey condo building in the LES would seem to suggest that more rich people would come to purchase, not fewer. Take a look at once 'gritty' Willamsburg these days - you'll see what I mean.

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Riccardo's picture

I love it. Good to get a bit of heat in the reply.

Do you think a toxic waste dump generates unpriced costs or externalities? If so, then of course government has a role.

I love responding to misguided leftists who want to blame the rich and powerful. Give you a little secret...it's all the laws and regulations that make, and keep, the rich rich and the powerful powerful.

Why bother earning an honest living if I can afford lawyers, accountants and lobbyists to game and manipulate the political system to make me richer. There would be no property lobbying if there was little to lobby about.

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Riccardo's picture

Why would I be worried if Manhattan is full of rich people? In a world, and for a species, that has spent most of its existence on the edge of starvation and even when civilised on the edge of poverty, surely that so many people have grown wealthy is a sign of success?

Curious outlook. Anyway rich people, if they pine for the symbols of old, will happily pay the extra cost of heritage as they enjoy the benefits themselves.

Heritage does the following wrong things:

-incentivises lack of maintenance, in the hope a building beyond repair can be demolished
-privatises, by force, the social costs of retaining heritage. The opposite of the waste dump issue, instead of forcing society to bear a private individuals costs, we force a private individual to bear society's costs
-forces people out a long way from the historic centres if cities, raising everyone's costs
-results in too many buildings being kept, failing to realise environmental benefits like greater energy efficiency in new buildings

I would argue if there was any classic streetscapes, like Paris Haussmann districts or whatever, why did earlier Victorian governments pay them so little regard. Suck it up and tell people that if they want new development, the 1950s and 60s skyscraper boom, then build your La Defense or whatever. In
Sunshine. But no, clearly Victorians, hypocrites all, happily accommodate some quite incompatible buildings in classic streetscapes, but complain when the damage is done and too far gone to fix.

So no, I believe heritage is just crocodile tears from the advantaged few.

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Bilby's picture

So, your concern is with rich people having to pay more than they otherwise would to maintain the heritage buildings that they themselves made the decision to buy? Hmm, crocodile tears, indeed, Riccardo! This is beginning to read like a passage from 'Atlas Shrugged'. In any case, it's a little unfair to call people hypocrites when they wish to retain the remaining heritage buildings in their city - I was born post-demolition of the Federal Coffee Palace, but I don't see how that means I am a hypocrite because I would like to see what remnants of the streetscape that still exist retained - I don't regard them as 'incompatible' at all. Something about this discussion seems a little odd to me, though. You seem to believe that some of the values you espouse (e.g. proximity to the heart of the 'historic centre' of the city) are objective, and yet where heritage values are concerned, you claim that they are props for the wealthy to maintain their dominant position. What makes proximity (which is in itself a function of history, as you say - a kind of spatial nostalgia, perhaps?) an absolute value and cultural heritage merely a foil for the exercise of power? I'm just not convinced that the argument is as neutral as you make out - indeed, why couldn't we build our 'La Defense' in Docklands, Fisherman's Bend or wherever, and leave the 'historic heart' alone as regards certain towers and block-busting developments like Melbourne Central or QV? Would it really have been such a loss to have to build new quality transport infrastructure to these inner-city zones, whilst retaining the qualities that Melbourne had before the CBD apartment boom? We could have had high-end infill and rooftop additions, whilst building high and dense next to the city on land not already occupied by the heritage city, but instead, we've collectively made the decision to cook the golden goose.

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squat-thrust's picture

That you would compare NYC's boroughs to Fitzroy is hilarious. I love Melbourne but it is not an architectural gemstone. Important laneways? *cackling*

Bless this mess

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Bilby's picture

The comparison between NY and Fitzroy was not intended to be on architectural merit, Squat-Thrust - rather on the value of heritage to New York City versus the value of heritage in a city like Melbourne. In terms of liveability and cultural heritage, it is comparably important. My point was that without its heritage, New York would be just as impoverished as any city not recognised as internationally outstanding in this area. Now, as to whether Fitzroy is an "architectural gemstone" - that depends on whether you think Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side or parts of Brooklyn qualify for this title. I think they do - but then the quality and intactness of Fitzroy's colonial architecture rivals that of Greenwich Village, and is significantly older than almost all of the built heritage in the Lower East Side, East Village and the rest of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, for that matter. Apart from Greenwich Village, name me some areas of New York City that have a significant number of buildings that date from the pre-Civil War period, and the 1850s, '60s and '70s? Maybe a few streets in SOHO like Charlton, King and Vandam? And yes, there are a few elsewhere, but the vast majority of New York's famous Brownstones and historic commercial buildings date from the early 1900s onwards. On the other hand, in terms of 1850s, '60s and 70s buildings - Fitzroy (and other areas like Richmond and Carlton, has them in spades. In addition, how many cities in the world are you aware of with large swathes of intact, small scale Victorian colonial housing? Not New York, that's for sure - almost all of their buildings pre-Civil War were demolished decades ago. And finally, as to Melbourne's important lane ways ... that you would compare them to New York's is actually hilarious. How many can you spot in Manhattan? Give us a few street and cross street references from Google maps for comparison against the heritage qualities of our intact CBD laneways. I'll bet that you'll barely find any at all above Lower Manhattan. Here are a few starters, though: http://forgotten-ny.com/2007/10/creaky-alleys-a-new-look-at-lower-manhat...

Most hardly qualify as laneways at all in the Melbourne sense, and those that do are hardly intact heritage streetscapes compared with ours, are they?

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Development & Planning

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 12:00
The swirl of development activity in Footscray has found another gear as new projects are submitted for approval, or are on the verge of beginning construction. Two separate planning applications have been advertised by Maribyrnong City Council; their subsequent addition to the Urban Melbourne Project Database has seen the overall number of apartment developments within Footscray in development swell to 40.

Policy, Culture & Opinion

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 12:00
The marriage of old and new can be a difficult process, particularly when the existing structure has intrinsic heritage value. In previous times Fitzroy's 237 Napier Street served as the home of furniture manufacturer C.F. Rojo and Sons. Taking root during 1887, Christobel Rojo oversaw operations though over time the site would become home to furniture manufacturer Thonet.

Visual Melbourne

Friday, August 25, 2017 - 07:00
The former site of John Batman's home, Batman's Hill is entering the final stages of its redevelopment. Collins Square's final tower has begun its skyward ascent, as has Lendlease's Melbourne Quarter Commercial and Residential precinct already. Melbourne Quarter's first stage is at construction and involves a new 12-storey home for consultancy firm Arup along with a skypark.

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Transport & Design

Friday, December 15, 2017 - 11:00
Infrastructure Victoria unveiled a new round of research into its larger programme of work dealing with managing transport demand. The authority contracted Arup and KPMG to produce the Melbourne Activity Based Model (MABM) and while it is new, it is considered fit for purpose in the strategic context.

Sustainability & Environment

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:00
Cbus Property's office development for Medibank at 720 Bourke Street in Docklands recently became the first Australian existing property to receive a WELL Certification, Gold Shell and Core rating. The WELL rating goes beyond sustainable building features with a greater focus on the health and well-being of a building's occupants.