The release of confidential reports in Victoria has shed some light on the planning process in Melbourne.

The revelation of the reports gave the public new insight into the planning process. Under the previous Labor government, the reports produced by the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure had remained unavailable to the public.

“The release of these reports show that the public service provides professional and objective advice and that the government takes this advice when approving new structures,” said Planning Minister Matthew Guy.

Cr Ken Ong, Chair of Planning, said the publication of the department’s advice would inform people of the planning process during a time of explosive growth in Melbourne.

“During this period of rapid growth, there has been a marked increase in the number of applications falling within the Minister’s responsibility,” he said. “Many of these developments are of major importance for the City and there is a wealth of information behind each decision.”

An analysis of the reports shows that:

  • More than two thirds of approved projects were approved by the City of Melbourne; the council supported 46 permits of 70 applications approved.
  • All of the permits approved in the central city area were also supported by the Department.
  • The Minister has refused permits that the Department recommended, but has not recommended approval of a permit that the Department rejected.

“The Minister is to be commended for making the planning process more open and transparent,” said Cr Stephen Mayne, Deputy Chair of the Planning Portfolio.

Mayne added that making the reports available to the public and enables “any interested person to obtain and scrutinise the expert advice from the Minister’s department.”

Guy noted that the unveiling of the information marked a high point in terms of keeping the public informed.

“No previous Minister or government has engaged in such a detailed level of planning transparency in our central city region,” he said. “The release of these reports builds on the Coalition’s record of operating a more open and transparent planning system than the one we inherited from the previous Labor government.”

Melbourne’s growth has led the nation and the city is on track to pass Sydney as the nation’s largest city. Population growth in the central business district has been pegged at 23 per cent. Following close behind are the Docklands and Southbank with growth rates of 15 per cent. Melbourne’s city-wide growth rate was a robust 10.5 per cent. According to the Bureau of Statistics, Melbourne will overtake Sydney by 2053 if present trends continue, reaching a population of 8 million.

That robust growth and explosion of high-rise buildings has garnered a fair share of criticism, too. Professor Andrew Saint, formerly of Cambridge University, gave the keynote address at the University of Melbourne’s urban heritage conference recently. He noted the lack of superior design, and said, “I don’t think I’ve seen a single one which I thought was an exceptional building. There are some adequate ones, but there’s a lot of very second-rate buildings going up.”

A report from the City of Melbourne also notes that apartment sizes have shrunk, with 40 per cent of new apartments ranking at 50 square metres or less. In contrast, Adelaide, London, and Sydney all require one-bedroom apartments to measure a minimum of 50 square metres.