Pending completion of the Government’s new urban strategy for Melbourne, the two major strategic planning documents that jointly guide the metropolitan area’s development – Melbourne 2030 and Melbourne @ 5 Million – are rich with rhetoric about the importance of directing development to established suburbs rather than the periphery. They also emphasise the desirability of concentrating that development around activity centres instead of dispersing it throughout the existing suburbs.
In a show of great political courage, Melbourne 2030 sought to limit the share of Melbourne’s population growth in peripheral Greenfield developments to just 38%. Virtually all the rest would be located within the established suburbs, of which 40% would be concentrated in activity centres.
However the supplementary strategy released six years later in 2008, Melbourne @ 5 Million, relaxed the target considerably. It was clever – it slackened the numerical target to 47% while simultaneously narrowing its geographical ambit to just the six Growth Area municipalities. These six cover an area much smaller than that implied by the term ‘greenfield’ used in Melbourne 2030.
This statistical report prepared by the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD), Housing Development Data 2004-2008, reveals that the new Melbourne @ 5 Million target wasn’t very demanding. It merely echoed the way the market had behaved over the preceding four years.
Over 2004-08, the Growth Area municipalities accounted for 44% of net new dwelling construction (after subtracting demolitions). Once the larger average household size of outer suburban households is taken into account, this is much the same as Melbourne @ 5 Million’s 47% population “target”. Rather than seek to change the market as its rhetoric suggests, Melbourne @ 5 Million was essentially business as usual.
In any event limiting the target to Growth Areas could be construed as misleading. They are not the same as the outer suburbs. There was considerable growth in other peripheral municipalities over 2004-08 e.g. Frankston, Nillumbik, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Ranges. When they are added to the Growth Area municipalities, the outer suburbs accounted for 54% of all new dwelling construction in the metropolitan area over 2004-08. In terms of the share of population growth, the number would be somewhat higher.
So Melbourne @ 5 Million essentially had no real ambition to drive significantly higher housing supply in the established suburbs. Despite what the text sought to imply, it settled for them absorbing just 46% of new dwellings.
Melbourne @ 5 Million also dropped any numerical targets for activity centres. Previously, Melbourne 2030 projected that 40% of the population growth within the established suburbs would be concentrated at relatively high densities, with the other 60% in small infill developments dispersed across the suburbs. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday I talked about what I thought the new Metropolitan Strategy for Melbourne should be. That was mostly ‘mothers milk’, so now I want to say something about the substance of the strategy – what it should do. I have (mostly) refrained from proposing specific policies or solutions, preferring instead to point out the key policy challenges or directions.
Among other things (this is not exhaustive) the new Metropolitan Strategy should:
Recognise that 90% of motorised travel in Melbourne is made by car and that there are myriad ways drivers and manufacturers are adapting to higher fuel prices. The great majority of travellers prefer to drive if they can despite the expense – they’re not going to give up driving for public transport unless they’re made to.
There are three key challenges in relation to cars. First, provide incentives to increase the speed of the transition to more fuel and emissions efficient vehicles. Second, make cars more civilised – make them slower and quieter and remove their priority over other carriageway users. Three, manage congestion so that gridlock is avoided and high value trips are given priority.
Recognise that public transport is only a substitute for cars in a limited number of situations. It has two key but growing roles. One is to transport large numbers of people to and from places with high trip densities, like the CBD, where the car is simply incapable of carrying so many people. The other is to provide mobility for those without access to a car.
The focus of public transport policy should be on these two roles. They mean a different approach to public transport from that implied by the popular idea that public transport must always be provided at a level which provides a “viable alternative” to car travel. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve previously pointed out some of the areas where I think Melbourne 2030 was found wanting, so I’ll offer some thoughts on what the new strategy should be and do, starting today with what it should be.
First, it should be a strategy for managing the growth of Melbourne. It can’t just be a land use plan, limited to the Planning Minister’s domain. It has to take a multi-portfolio view because planning is only one force shaping the way Melbourne will develop over the next 20, 30 or 40 years. In particular, it must recognise the intimate long-term, two-way relationship between land use and transport, both public and private.
Second, it should positively embrace so-called ‘soft’ policies like regulation, taxation and marketing. It must not limit its perspective solely to ‘hard’ initiatives like capital works and zoning regimes. These are important because they’re long term decisions, but how Melbourne develops in the future will be shaped as much by how behaviour is managed as by what projects are constructed. There are, for example, a host of regulatory and taxation policies – e.g. road pricing – that can potentially have a profound impact on shaping the way the city develops (and not all of them are as politically fraught as road pricing). Some can obviate the need for capital works.
Third, it should focus single-mindedly on what can be done most efficiently and effectively through a growth management strategy. It should resist the temptation to ‘solve’ every economic, social and environmental issue confronting Melbourne. Sometimes what are seen as urban issues are more the symptom of other processes rather than the underlying cause – I’ve previously suggested that diversity is one such issue. It’s important that the strategy understands how it impacts on, or even exacerbates, variables like diversity, but close attention should be given to whether or not it is the appropriate vehicle to achieve change. Read the rest of this entry »
Many readers will have seen this now-ubiquitous chart before – it’s from Melbourne 2030 and has been republished countless times. It shows the proportion of metropolitan jobs accessible within 40 minutes travelling time from different parts of Melbourne by car and by public transport.
I’ve never been happy with this chart because its simplicity is deceptive – I don’t accept the implicit premise that public transport should be judged on the same basis as cars. I’ll come to that shortly, but first there are some technical shortcomings that need to be addressed.
One is that the chart doesn’t say how the data range intervals are determined – are they equal counts? Are they based on a ‘natural break’ in the way the data is distributed? It’s not possible to be confident that they portray the situation with either public transport or cars in as objective a way as possible.
Another shortcoming is that a mere three categories is very limiting. If you live in Sunbury (say), the chart says you can drive to between 3% and 25% of metropolitan jobs within 40 minutes. That’s an enormous range – a factor of more than eight between the lowest and highest values. It’s essentially a useless piece of information. And the maps give a misleading impression of how many Melburnians live in areas with the poorest accessibility. There are very large areas on the fringe that have a tiny population e.g. there is a 9 km wide greenbelt between Melton and Caroline Springs. Much of the outer north east is a catchment area.
Yet even with these technical flaws, there is some intriguing information. For example, the majority of the population can access no more than 2% of metropolitan jobs within 40 minutes travel by public transport. Read the rest of this entry »
A new research paper suggests that many of Melbourne 2030’s key ambitions in relation to housing have come to nought.
The paper, Planning and the characteristics of housing supply in Melbourne, was written by Dr Robin Goodman and a team of fellow academics from the RMIT Research Centre and published by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).
The first part of the project analysed a number of data bases on land transactions over the period from 1990 to 2007.
Contrary to the aspiration of Melbourne 2030, the researchers found that the proportion of new housing located within one kilometre of an activity centre did not increase following the promulgation of the Strategy.
In fact activity centres are not generally a favoured location for new housing. Of the 115 studied, just four account for almost a third of all housing built within one kilometre. Those four are all very close to the city centre – South Melbourne, Melbourne (CBD), Port Melbourne (Bay St) and Carlton (Lygon St). The ten with the highest proportion of new housing were either close to the CBD or in new parts of Growth Areas where developable land was still available close to activity centres.
When the radius is extended to two kilometres, the researchers found that the proportion of new housing actually declined since Melbourne 2030 was released.
They found a similar pattern with rail stations – the proportion of dwellings built within a one kilometre radius of a train station declined after Melbourne 2030 came into effect.
In addition, the delay between acquisition of property by a developer and completion of construction is more protracted on parcels that are closer to activity centres. Read the rest of this entry »
The Age editorialises (21/11/10) that Melbourne 2030 is effectively dead and I agree. The latest nail in the coffin in The Age’s opinion is the apparently burgeoning growth of housing in townships and hamlets located in the peri urban area outside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).
I’ve argued before that this sort of “decentralisation” is poor policy (e.g. here and here). But I also think The Age has tended to ‘catastrophise’ the scale of the problem, especially with its highly misleading contention that Melbourne has “sprawled 50% beyond the official growth boundary, spanning 150 kilometres from east to west”.
However what interests me at the moment is why Melbourne 2030 failed. The key reason in my view is that it blithely assumed that enough affordable dwellings – mostly town houses and apartments – could be provided within the established urban areas to avoid the need for the UGB to be extended.
This objective was never realistic for a number of reasons. Read the rest of this entry »
I think some aspects of the Victorian Opposition’s clumsily titled Plan for Planning are doubtful, especially their proposal for ensuring 25 years land supply within Growth Areas and their intention of levying the Growth Areas Infrastructure Charge at the time of development.
But there are also some good ideas that I want to discuss, notably the proposal for a new strategic plan for Melbourne and another for an audit of the infrastructure capacity of the entire metropolitan area.
A new plan for Melbourne would be timely because Melbourne 2030 is misguided, old and tired. It’s been more than ten years since the process of preparing the metropolitan strategy began and eight years since it was published.
A key problem with Melbourne 2030 is that it was misconceived from the get-go. It never worked properly and simply hasn’t delivered on its lofty ambitions.
Its relevance took a serious hit when the projections of future population growth that underpinned its policies were revised upwards. Further, one of its main directions – the primacy of the CBD – was weakened in 2008 when the Government decided to establish six new CBD-type Central Activities Districts in the suburbs.
The objective of locating nearly 70% of all dwelling commencements out to 2030 within the existing suburbs – rising to almost 80% by 2030 – was also abandoned in 2008 and replaced with the much less challenging target of just 53%.
And of course the much vaunted Urban Growth Boundary lasted only a few years before it was breached. The supply of well-located affordable housing that the plan was intended to foster dried up and neither jobs nor housing gravitated to suburban centres on anything like the scale originally envisaged.
The problem with Melbourne 2030 is that it was driven from the outset by ideological posturing rather than logic. Too many of its key directions weren’t supported by data or analysis and the consultation process was largely a sham. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been thinking for some time that I should set down what I see as the key high-level actions that need to be taken to ensure Melbourne can remain liveable well into the future. Given that the State election is about six weeks away, this seems like a good time.
I’m only going to look at the supply side. I’ll leave the topic of demand for another day. For the moment, I’ll assume that Melbourne really will grow to 7 million around 2050.
The actions I propose are not confined to the predominantly physical measures we’re used to seeing in traditional strategic plans like Melbourne 2030 and Melbourne @ 5 Million. Cities can’t be managed effectively without taking a holistic view – that’s because many of the apparent “planning” problems have deeper causes.
I start with the same overall goals as plans like Melbourne 2030 espouse – greater environment sustainability, equity and economic efficiency – but the route I propose for getting there is very different and, I think, much more likely to work.
I’m more concerned here with getting the policy right than I am with short-term political feasibility, so I don’t expect either side is going to pick up these ideas and run with them in the election. That’ll take time.
So, the key high-level actions I propose are: Read the rest of this entry »
I noted yesterday that Melbourne @ 5 Million envisages just over half of all new dwellings constructed between now and 2030 – about 16,000 per year – will be located within the built-up area. The rest will be built in the fringe Growth Areas.
This is a significant reduction compared to the 69% share Melbourne 2030 envisaged would be built within established areas over 2001 to 2030.
But I think home buyers’ preference for the outer suburbs is also commonly exaggerated. I expect many fringe settlers would prefer a location closer to the centre if only the market could deliver a better space/price compromise.
I think one of the reasons they can’t find that compromise could be the Government’s policy of prioritising redevelopment to strategic locations, like activity centres and along main transport routes. Read the rest of this entry »
The Victorian Government set a target in its 2002 strategic plan, Melbourne 2030, that only 31% of new dwellings constructed between 2001 and 2030 would be located on outer suburban greenfield sites.
In fact, it envisaged that by 2030, the proportion would have fallen to just 22%.
This ambitious target reflected the conviction at the time that continued outward growth was unsustainable. The firm view was that a much higher proportion of growth would need to be accommodated within the existing built-up area.
The subsequent update released in 2008, Melbourne @ 5 Million, significantly downgraded the target.
Melbourne @ 5 Million “anticipated” that 47% of all new dwellings constructed over the next 20 years would be located in the fringe Growth Areas.
The new target simply reflected what the market was actually doing. There would be little danger now of getting caught out by a politically ambitious “stretch target”.
The most recent edition of the Government’s Residential Land Bulletin (March Qtr, 2010) indicates how prescient the authors of Melbourne @ 5 Million were. It shows that exactly 47% of dwelling approvals in the preceding twelve months were located in the Growth Areas.
But if you think we need less development in the outer suburbs and more in the inner and middle ring suburbs, it gets worse. Read the rest of this entry »
In fact it has been so successful that I wonder what the implications are for office space markets in the rest of Melbourne, not just in the CBD and near-CBD markets, but in particular in the six major suburban activity centres envisaged in Melbourne @ 5 Million i.e. Footscray, Broadmeadows, Box Hill, Ringwood, Dandenong and Frankston.
The recent announcement that the headquarters of the National Broadband Network Company would be located in Docklands merely continues the momentum already established in the area in and around the old docks. Current tenants of this end of town include the National Australia Bank, ANZ, Myer, National Foods, CSC, Fairfax Media, Customs, Channel 7, AFL and the Australian Tax Office.
Other organisations planning to move to the area include Melbourne Water, BP, Channel Nine and Chartis Australia. Even the Demons have been mooted as prospective tenants of a new training park (or stadium) proposed for the precinct. Read the rest of this entry »
One argument against suburban sprawl is that it sterilises agricultural land. A particular variation on this contention is that land should be preserved for agriculture so that carbon emissions in transporting food from farm gate to plate – “food kilometres” – can be minimised.
A frequently cited estimate is that food in the US travels on average 2,400 km from where it is produced to where it sold to consumers. We should therefore seek to grow as wide a range of food as possible as close to Melbourne as possible.
All things being equal that makes sense. But of course it’s never that simple. Here are some pertinent issues to consider.
First, transport is not a major component of the total carbon emissions from agriculture. These researchers estimate that on-farm production accounts for 83% of the average US household’s carbon emissions from food whereas delivery from producer to retail outlets accounts for just 4%.
Second, most food can’t be grown locally without resorting to potentially environmentally damaging practices like excessive application of fertiliser, irrigation or artificial heating of greenhouses. This article cites a British study which found that because British tomatoes are grown in heated greenhouses, they emit 2.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide per ton grown whereas Spanish tomatoes emit 0.6 tons. Further:
Another study found that cold storage of British apples produced more carbon dioxide than shipping New Zealand apples by sea to London. In addition, U.K. dairy farmers use twice as much energy to produce a metric ton of milk solids than do New Zealand farmers. Read the rest of this entry »
We know that most jobs in Melbourne are now in the suburbs. There’s also an increasing understanding that large metropolitan areas are now generally polycentric rather than monocentric in form i.e. there are significant activity centres outside the CBD with large numbers of jobs. The strategic planning update to Melbourne 2030, Melbourne @ 5 Million, released in October 2008, explicitly acknowledged this reality.
It is clear that firms can increasingly obtain the benefits of density, such as face-to-face contact, in both inner city and suburban centres where they don’t have to carry the extra costs in rent and congestion imposed by the very high density of the CBD. The CBD’s share of metropolitan jobs has consequently fallen significantly over the last 30-40 years (it has staged a small revival since 1996, showing significant jobs growth in absolute terms, but its share of metropolitan jobs has not increased).
Yet many studies in many countries have found that while the number of suburban and inner city activity centres is increasing, the proportion of jobs located within them is falling. In fact, around a half to two thirds of employment in US cities is scattered across the metropolitan area at relatively low densities. Inter-city and cross-country comparisons are difficult, but the evidence suggests that suburban jobs are even more scattered in Melbourne.
It seems that firms can increasingly achieve the benefits of agglomeration at a larger geographical scale than that of the CBD or suburban activity centres. The advantages of physical proximity have apparently declined to such an extent that the costs of aggregation now exceed the benefits at ever lower levels of density.
But why are firms increasingly spurning density? Read the rest of this entry »
The proportion of new dwelling commencements planned for the outer suburban growth areas increased sharply between the release of Melbourne 2030 in 2003 and the release of the revised strategy, Melbourne @ 5 Million, in October 2008.
Melbourne 2030 envisaged 31% of dwelling starts would be located in the growth areas over the period to 2030 (page 30). It expected virtually all the rest would be located within the established suburbs, either clustered around major activity centres or dispersed across the suburbs.
The subsequent update, Melbourne @ 5 Million, made a dramatic change. It increased the proportion of dwellings expected to be constructed in outer suburban growth areas to 47% – half as much again as envisaged by Melbourne 2030 (page 3).
This change was consistent with the reality of what was happening in the market.
The authors of Melbourne 2030 probably felt at the time that 31% was a reasonable “stretch” target. Over the four years from 96/97 to 00/01, only 38% of new commencements were in the growth areas.
However four years is a short period to use as a basis for policy. As it happened this was a relatively quiet period compared to the boom that followed. Read the rest of this entry »
I was leafing through Challenge Melbourne, the discussion paper released in 2001 as part of the Melbourne 2030 process, the other day. This very interesting but apparently long-forgotten factoid caught my attention:
“Capacity for an estimated 65,000 dwellings on large sites such as old factories has been identified in the established suburbs”.
Given that the number of households in Melbourne is projected in Victoria in Future to grow by 825,000 between 2006 and 2036, it seems the potential contribution from “brownfields” sites – mainly large disused industrial and public sector sites – will be modest.
Melbourne @ 5 Million envisages that 53% of the required new dwellings will be located within the established suburbs. If the 65,000 figure is even broadly close to the mark, it seems that the great bulk of this new housing will have to come from redevelopment of small sites, most of which are presumably residential and likely to generate significant opposition from neighbours.
The key issue this raises is whether or not the anticipated level of redevelopment in established suburbs is achievable. Brownfields sites have made a significant contribution over the last 20 years to construction of multi unit housing but apparently will make a relatively small contribution in the future. Read the rest of this entry »