High quality pedestrian networks, site layouts and plazas which are attractive and support street and laneway characteristics and building masses which respond to the surrounding context are set to be prioritised under a new strategy as endorsed by Melbourne City.

In a Council meeting held on Tuesday November 19, the Future Melbourne Committee recommended that Melbourne City Council adopt a new planning amendment, a new design guide for Central Melbourne and a new strategy for excellence in design.

Set to respond to the city’s rapid development, Amendment C308 applies to the Central City area which falls within the Hoddle Street Grid, Southbank and North Wharf.

It seeks to consolidate many of the urban design policies which currently apply to the Central City and Southbank areas within the current Melbourne Planning Scheme into a singular Design and Development Overlay.

The new design guide, meanwhile, sets out principles which aim to guide the city’s future development.

Its objectives include:

  • Walkable precincts which are safe, accessible and which complete connections and laneways
  • Ground level spaces whose configuration contributes to the use, safety and character of streets and laneways
  • Building masses which respond to the surrounding context and pedestrian experience
  • A building program which accommodates a range of building uses and tenancy sizes, activates the public realm, is adaptable over time and minimises impacts of building service and care parking on the public realm, and
  • Design details in respect to elevations and building interfaces which are visually interesting and respond to surrounding characteristics.

The guide provides examples of where things have not gone well.

On ground level spaces, for example, it points to one space where large blank walls along a public connection reduce the safety and usability of the space.

In another example, it shows how an entrance to the Tivoli Arcade is difficult to distinguish from adjoining tenancies, reducing the legibility and likelihood of the public using the arcade.

Meanwhile, the Committee also recommended the Council endorse for consultation a new strategy to promote excellence in design within the City’s borders.

Key aspects of the strategy include:

  • Establishment of a new design excellence committee to advocate for design within industry, academia and public organisations
  • Promote design excellence though a new City of Melbourne urban design aware and greater engagement with industry award programs
  • Establishment of an independent design review panel to review projects of local significance
  • Preparation of a competitive design policy for voluntary competitions; and
  • Exploration of pathways to integrate mandatory design competitions for strategic sites.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the new amendment represented the city’s first comprehensive re-write of its urban design policy framework since the 1990s.

“This means concealing ugly services infrastructure and parking at a street level and focusing greater attention on creating spaces that add to the vibrancy of our community and economy,” Capp said.

“Melbourne is well regarded for streets that have bustling cafes and welcoming open spaces so we want to avoid creating wind tunnels.

“It’s about setting in place processes and expectations to shape Melbourne’s streets, buildings and skyline for years to come.”