Brunswick Residents Network newsletter, July 2015
Better Apartments survey
For the first time, there are more apartments than houses being built in Melbourne’s growth areas. But as new apartment complexes go up around the suburb, it’s clear that the quality of the building often leaves something to be desired. There’s a lot of evidence that the rush to increase housing stock is not matched by building quality and environmental sustainability. Just have a talk to some of the building workers - they shake their heads about the corners being cut as new apartments are thrown together!
Three-quarters of new one-bedroom apartments built across Victoria are 50 square metres or less. Only five per cent of units currently being constructed or marketed meet the needs of families with children, who often need more than two bedrooms. More importantly, there is concern that the focus on adding large numbers of one and two bedroom apartments in a building leads to smaller floor sizes, reduced access to natural light and less energy sustainability.
The State government has initiated a public consultation on the quality of new apartments, with Minister for Planning Dick Wynne releasing “Better Apartments: A Discussion Paper” last May. The purpose of the discussion paper is to discuss key issues of internal design, amenity and functionality of apartments and apartment buildings.
There are a number of weaknesses in the process, as the discussion paper is focused on the internal design issues to the neglect of broader context (e.g. Brunswick Residents Network has long argued that the number of apartment buildings being built in Brunswick East has significant impacts on open space and parklands, safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and pressure on community services like libraries, childcare and swimming pools).
The size and amenity of individual apartments is related to widespread developer opposition to social and environmental regulation for major, multi-apartment projects. Time and again, we’ve seen developers campaigning against Moreland Council policy on affordable housing, disability access or regulation of environmental standards (for example, the designers for the 600-apartment East Brunswick Village recently lobbied the Planning Panel considering amendment C134 to halve the proposed proportion of dwellings capable of being utilised by those with limited mobility, such as old people with walking frames or children in wheelchairs).
Some analysts have been critical of the Better Apartments consultation process, with urban analyst Alan Davies arguing in Crikey: “This discussion paper has the hallmarks of sham consultation; it only gives one side of the story. The absence of information and counter argument on the justification and implications of many of the issues it raises suggests it wasn’t conceived to promote critical dialogue with the public.”
We’d encourage residents, however, to make a contribution to the Community Survey – a quick and easy survey that sets out a limited range of options on how the internal design aspects of apartments in Victoria can meet the needs of people living in apartments into the future.
You can also make a submission directly from the department’s webpage - online submissions and survey responses are invited until 31 July 2015.
The Minister for Planning is hosting a forum for Mayors of metropolitan and regional city councils on 9 July, so send a quick message to Moreland Mayor Meagan Hopper on email@example.com
If you require further information, please contact the Victorian Government Contact Centre on 1300 366 356 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wilson Avenue - new open space
After a long community consultation and the development of a pop-up Park, residents are now enjoying the new public space at Wilson Avenue which was ready in time for the July school holidays.
The main contractor, Supergardens Pty, began construction of the new space in February 2015. Completed on 26 June, it includes a grassed mound, trees and greenery, with new bike racks and seats as well as a climbing wall (roughly 9 metres long and 3 metres high, and surrounded by soft fall).
Council will officially launch the new space, on Sydney Road near Jewell Station, on Sunday 2 August 2015
Council has recorded the history and details of the park including videos of the boulder wall construction.
WHAT: Official launch - Wilson Avenue New Public Space
WHERE: Wilson Avenue, between Sydney Road and Black Street, Brunswick
WHEN: Sunday 2 August 2015 (times to be confirmed).
Opening up Brunswick's factories
Pictured right: street art on factory wall, Sunshine Lane.
Moreland Council has begun a crucial review of its strategy for the use of industrial land over the next 15 years. While there are industrial sites across the municipality, the South ward hosts many old factories that are ripe for redevelopment. But who will decide the function and purpose of these transformed sites?
In 2004, Council adopted the Moreland Industrial Land Use Strategy (MILUS). This is now old being reviewed and Council staff have developed a new Draft Moreland Industrial Land Strategy 2015-2030 (MILS), which will guide planning decisions about Moreland’s industrial land for the next 15 years.
The draft MILS surveys all of Moreland’s industrial land, which has been included in one of three categories to guide its future use and development:
There are further proposals around planning and zoning laws which would define where each of these categories would apply.
- Category 1 – Core Industry and Employment Areas (Maintain for industry and employment uses, prohibit new residential uses).
- Category 2 – Employment Areas (Maintain for industry and employment uses and support a transition to a broader business base and employment opportunities).
- Category 3 – Transition-Residential Areas (facilitate a transition to quality medium density residential environments which contribute to Moreland’s housing supply).
The future of industrial land use is crucial in Brunswick:
Council will run a series of information sessions on the draft MILS in August. They will also set up a special website that will provide all relevant information on the draft MILS strategy, including the ability to search for a property address and find out the recommendations for that property.
- Will our suburb continue to provide manufacturing jobs, which have been a crucial part of its history?
- will new employment in the services sector replace these automotive and manufacturing jobs?
- Will developers be required to provide a mix of commercial, employment and residential opportunities as they redevelop old industrial sites, or will we just get more and more one and two bedroom apartments?
We will report more on this important review in next month’s newsletter.
Vote this week on Brunswick Structure Plan
This week’s meeting of Moreland Council will vote on a crucial amendment to the Moreland Planning Scheme, which will set the framework for the future of Brunswick.
The suburbs of Brunswick, Brunswick East and Brunswick West have been without proper planning controls since the last state government refused to update interim controls, while amendment C134 to the Moreland Planning Scheme wound its way through the planning system over the last decade.
This planning amendment, once adopted into law, will entrench the Brunswick Structure Plan (BSP) into the Moreland Planning Scheme. It will lock in an overarching strategy for the areas known as activity centres along Nicholson Street, Lygon Street and Sydney Road, as well as connected residential streets.
The BSP was first adopted by Council in 2010, then amended in 2012 and revised again as it was submitted as a planning amendment before an independent Planning Panel in 2014. The report of the Planning Panel was completed in May 2015 and has been presented to Council. An analysis of the panel’s report, with recommendations by Council staff, goes to Council meeting this Wednesday night.
The final step in the amendment process is for Council to determine the final format of the Amendment c134, adopt the Amendment (with changes) and lodge it with the Minister for Planning for final approval.
The Planning Panel report, while full of development jargon, gives some important insights into the attitude of developers towards regulation by state and local government, and the overarching priority shown by the planning community on inner-city “densification.”
Overall, the Planning Panel recommends increased densification of the Brunswick Activity Centre (BAC), noting:
“The Panel believes that the BAC, like all Activity Centres, is intended to provide for intensive redevelopment and significant population growth. It does not believe that the preservation of existing ‘character’ should be a ‘primary’ consideration in structure planning for the centre, although it should be one of many factors that are considered.”
In key findings:
• The Panel is generally satisfied that there is broad strategic justification for the key elements of the revised Amendment, including the proposed built form provisions.
• The Panel is satisfied that the Amendment (with recommended changes) will provide a sound planning framework for Council to manage the ongoing development of the Brunswick activity centre.
• The Panel has recommended that the exhibited mandatory built form provisions (e.g. building heights) be converted to discretionary built form provisions within each Design and Development Overlay, except for mandatory maximum and minimum street wall heights for buildings fronting Sydney Road “because of its consistent and significant heritage qualities”.
MANDATORY HEIGHTS: One of the long-standing debates over amendment C134 has been the introduction of mandatory rather than discretionary controls for building height and setbacks.
The Planning Panel report notes: “The Panel generally supports Council’s revised Design and Development Overlay schedules, but subject to various changes. Importantly, the Panel does not support the use of mandatory controls, except for street wall heights along Sydney Road.”
“In relation to the Lygon Street corridor, while the Panel accepts the proposed heights as presented in the revised Amendment, it is of the view that these should be monitored carefully given the rate of change that is being experienced in this location. If heights are consistently being approved which exceed those nominated in DDO19, then further analysis is likely to be required.”
This is a crucial comment because nearly all of the major apartment buildings along Lygon Street have breached the height levels set out in the 2010 Brunswick Structure Plan. Despite this, the Planning Panel largely gives up trying to set maximum heights, noting: “the changes in built form and character that have occurred over the past decade, and continue to occur, is a reason for preferring discretionary rather than mandatory controls” (P160).
Moreland Council’s economic development staff have long opposed mandatory controls, but councillors endorsed them in 2014. Council staff seem to have run dead on the issue before the panel, with the final report noting:
“The Panel agrees with Mr Montebello’s assessment that the issue of mandatory height controls was the single most important issue for parties presenting at the Hearing. Council’s concession to not pursue mandatory height controls within the Panel forum took the steam out of many submissions.”
“While the Panel understands that there is general concern within the community and
Council in relation to how discretionary controls operate at the permit stage, it agrees with Mr Montebello that this is not the forum for a discussion of the functionality of Victoria’s planning system , which is based on the use of discretionary controls in the vast majority of cases.”
TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT: Once again, the report recognises the interconnection between increased densification, access to public transport and better traffic management: “The Panel agrees that the transport implications of development within the BAC are important considerations and will impact on the liveability of the centre. These issues will remain, whether or not Amendment C134 proceeds.” (p107)
NOTIFICATION AND REVIEW RIGHTS: Another long battle has been to maintain community rights to notification, review and third party appeal. The Planning Panel, supported by Council officers, recommends against maintaining these rights:
“The Panel supports the inclusion of notification and third party appeal exemptions that are linked to the default or preferred provisions in the Design and Development Overlay schedules. Council adopted this approach in its original Amendment, but removed the exemptions in its revised Amendment, largely in response to community submissions. The Panel is satisfied that the exemptions are warranted and should be reinstated.”
REZONING: In many cases, the panel has dodged specific concerns raised during submissions about re-zoning, especially zoning that will affect residential pockets within the activity centres or would restrict individual developers from transforming old factories into residential properties. As the report notes:
“Many of the zoning issues raised in submissions will be addressed in the review of the Moreland Industrial Land Use Strategy currently being undertaken by Council. The Panel supports Council’s approach to this review and concluded that it would be premature to support various rezonings sought in submissions until this review is completed. However, the Panel has recommended that some proposed rezonings be deleted from the Amendment and be the subject of further analysis by Council.”
UPFIELD SHARED PATHWAY: With Plan Melbourne identifying the Brunswick to Batman Station corridor as an “urban renewal opportunity”, there is increased pressure on the Upfield shared pathway currently used by cyclists and pedestrians. One positive in the report is the need for a gap between the shared pathway and new buildings proposed for the Upfield corridor:
“The Panel agrees with Council that a separation distance is required to improve the safety and amenity along this narrow shared path, and supports the nomination of a minimum 1 metre width in DDO18. This discretionary provision would be a useful and justified starting point for developing appropriate design responses to this issue as part of the planning permit process.” (P 52)
URGENT ACTION REQUIRED
The report from Moreland staff to Council this week recommends adopting most of the panel’s recommendations, including the adoption of discretionary rather than mandatory controls. Recognising strong community support for mandatory controls, however, staff include an alternative resolution, noting: “Council may seek to resolve to adopt the Amendment with mandatory building height provisions, consistent with its adopted position on mandatory building heights on 10 September, 2014 (DED75/14). Alternative recommendation 2(B) has been provided to facilitate this outcome should it be the preferred approach of Council.”
Brunswick Residents Network (BRN) encourages you to urgently contact Moreland councillors, asking them to vote for the alternative recommendation and include policy on mandatory building height provisions. It is important for Council to argue the case for increased regulation with State Planning Minister Richard Wynne and local Brunswick MP (and government Minister) Jane Garrett.
Route 96 terminus completed
Working day and night last weekend, Public Transport Victoria (PTV), VicRoads and Yarra Trams completed the new tram terminus for the Route 96 tram at the intersection of Blyth and Nicholson Streets. This is a major step in a new roll-out on Route 96, including the delivery of new high capacity trams and improvements to track and stop infrastructure.
Route 96 has some of the highest patronage figures in the tram network. The terminus extension north of Blyth Street is designed so that any future plans to extend the tram route further north can be easily accommodated.
At the Council meeting in May, Moreland Council resolved to implement a 2 hour parking area near the new tram terminus for those affected by the loss of parking. Council also resolved to waive permit fees for a period of one year for all eligible residential dwellings within the parking area.
There is further work to come in the future, with new tram super stops to be introduced in the section of Nicholson Street, Brunswick East, between Blyth Street and Brunswick Road.
Routes 1, 8 and 55: have your say on changes
Give your feedback to PTV on proposed route changes to Lygon St (Nos 1 and 8), and No 55 (West Brunswick) trams.
It's proposed that No 6, which will run down Lygon Street, from East Coburg to High Street Glen Iris. The No 1, to South Melbourne also via Lygon Street, will start from Moreland rather than from East Coburg.
West Brunswick's No 55 will continue past Domain interchange along the current No 8 route (Toorak Rd). It will be renamed No 58. Lucky West Brunswick - you can tram direct to the movies at the Como!
You can also talk to Yarra Trams staff at as “Meet the Managers” sessions:
WHAT: talk to Yarra trams staff about the future of route 8
WHEN: Wed 22 July 10am to 12pm
WHERE: Flinders St Station/Federation Square (Flinders St & Swanston St)
WHAT: talk to Yarra trams staff about the future of routes 1, 8, 19
WHEN: Tues 11 August 8am to 9.30am
WHERE: Stop 112 Lygon St & Elgin St
Read our newsletter - or walk the dog!
The Brunswick Residents Network (BRN) conducted an online survey in May and June 2015. We were interested in clarifying how residents receive information about local affairs, and to get feedback on our own communications. We've posted all the results, and a more detailed summary, on our website. Over a hundred Brunswick residents responded. Check out:
When asked to tick their sources of news and information about Brunswick, “Friends and neighbours” rated highest, followed by Moreland Leader (despite its delivery problems noted below). Next came BRN’s newsletter. Council 's mailouts were seen by more people than viewed their website.
For the MOST useful source of news and information about Brunswick, this newsletter rated highly, even given the obvious bias of soliciting responses by the newsletter and Facebook. 60% of those who see the newsletter, rate it as their most useful source of information.
One in five respondents report never receiving the Leader newspaper. Those who receive it occasionally (44%) outnumber those who receive it regularly (36%) although delivery is far better in East Brunswick.
In relation to newsletter content, news on building and planning projects were most highly rated, followed by news about Moreland Council, and about traffic and planning issues. Readers overwhelmingly approved the length of items in the newsletter, with zero (0%) support for making them shorter. This completely contradicts the popular idea that people want short grabs of information.
Implications for Council
Recurrent themes among the 40 written suggestions for Council to improve communications included:
- The Leader is delivered regularly to a minority of homes, so it can’t be relied on to deliver the messages the Council pays for.
- Only around 44% report getting information from Council mail-outs, and only 3% rate these as their most valued source of information.
The most unexpected response: several mentions of dog walking as a major source of community news!
- Communicate more
- Be positive and use communications to build community
- Offer regular email newsletters (maybe targeted to particular areas)
- Update Facebook with stories
- Respond to email queries
- Listen to residents, be responsive
- Remember renters
- Be open and transparent
- Don’t use jargon and spin
Meeting Jane Garrett
Brunswick Residents Network hosted local MP Jane Garrett (now a Minister in the Victorian Government) to meet residents at a public meeting on Tuesday 16 June. Around 40 residents attended. Jane spent most of her time taking questions. Some positive outcomes were:
Jane agreed with speakers who raised:
- Regarding Moreland's disappointment with its newly-gazetted neighbourhood zones - in relation to the high number of dwellings allowed per block - Jane and her staff told the meeting that further discussions will take place with Planning Minister Richard Wynne, and that amendments could yet be made.
- A review is taking place of the Brusnwick Terminal Station process
- Consultation was taking place on the route of the Hope Street bus which will be reinstated (after being cut by the previous government).
- Jane noted the need for safe cycling, and for education of drivers and cyclists, while noting the different interests involved in discussions over Sydney Road.
Jane took on notice:
- Excessive traffic and congestion in back streets
- The need for revision of legislation on owner corporations
- The lack or regulation of noise from car stackers which are becoming a feature of new developments
- The need for east-west transport links to be improved
Draft divestment strategy
At its meeting in June, Moreland Council endorsed the Draft Moreland City Council Fossil Fuel Divestment Strategy, “to improve the sustainability performance of its operations including reducing carbon emissions associated with its own operations and using its influence to encourage others to take action.”
The strategy has gone out for public consultation and submissions close next Monday 13 July at 5 PM.
Coming up in Brunswick
Meet the Mayor
Mayor Meagan Hopper, who is one of three elected councillors for the South ward that covers Brunswick, Brunswick East and Brunswick West, will be available to discuss your ideas and concerns this Friday 10 July.
WHAT: Meet the Mayor
WHEN: Friday 10 July, 10-11:30 AM.
WHERE: Thangs café, 502 Lygon Street, Brunswick East (just south of Albion Street)
White ribbon night
Every week, one Australian woman is killed by a current or former partner. One in three Australian women over the age of 15 report physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives.
White Ribbon is an organisation that works to prevent male violence against women and will hold the next White Ribbon Night on Friday 31 July 2015. White Ribbon seeks to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to and perpetuate violence against women. Men can help bring an end to violence against women by having a night in to get the word out.
WHAT: White Ribbon night against violence against women
WHERE: anywhere! Organise a meeting in your home, workplace or sporting club
WHEN: Friday 31 July 2015
DETAILS: See Council website
If you missed the Council's Safer Cycling forum:
We've written a report of what we heard and discussed, here, from the Council forum on 23 May: brunswickresidents.wordpress.com.
Next Moreland Council meetings
All Council meetings - held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month- and Urban Planning Committee meetings - held on the 4th Wednesday of each month - are now held at: Council Chamber, Moreland Civic Centre, 90 Bell Street, Coburg. Council meetings are on:
The next Urban Planning Committee meeting is on Wednesday 22 July at 6.30 pm.
- Wednesday 8 July 2015 - 7 pm
- Wednesday 12 August 2015 at 7 pm
- Wednesday 9 September 2015 at 7 pm
- Monday 21 September 2015 at 6 pm (to consider draft Annual Report)
Check for all meeting details at the Council website. Council meetings can now be watched online, either live, or later - you can find details here along with the agenda for this week's Council meeting.
- Hint: If you go to an evening meeting at 90 Bell Street and find the doors locked, you can probably get in through the back door via Urquhart Street.
MAILING LIST AND FURTHER INFORMATION
Welcom to new readers! Please forward this e-letter to other Moreland neighbours who’d like a say in the way their community is changing. It's easy to sign on, or edit your details to include your interests - just go to http://eepurl.com/VX4a9.
We love feedback! Make sure you take our survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/brunswicknews
To contact organisers of the Brunswick Residents’ Network, or to offer help with future activities, please email email@example.com. For meeting details, survey and newsletter archives, go to: http://brunswickresidents.wordpress.com
Check out our Facebook page: Brunswick Residents Network. Help us reach more people by liking our page, commenting, sharing news and this newsletter.