Built form controls proposed for Swan Street Activity Centre

April 2019

Image source: Swan Street Activity Centre Built Form Framework (Tract 2017)

The highly anticipated built form controls for the Swan Street Activity Centre have recently been exhibited by the City of Yarra following extensive strategic planning work undertaken by Council.

The built form controls are intended to be applied through a suite of new planning controls and policies introduced by Amendment C191. The Amendment applies to the land along both sides of Swan Street from Punt Road to Burnley Park, and will introduce new mandatory building height controls, updated heritage controls and some additional built form controls, as well as a new local planning policy for the Swan Street activity centre. 

The new heritage controls have already been introduced on an interim basis. This is intended to prevent the loss or alteration of potential heritage sites whilst more detailed consideration is being given to the reach and format of longer term heritage protection. 

More broadly, though, the Amendment is designed to implement the recommendations of the Council’s recent strategic planning work embodied in the Swan Street Activity Centre Structure Plan (2014) and the Swan Street Activity Centre Built Form Framework (2017).  In a general sense, the new planning policy defines the boundaries of the centre and identifies four separate precincts within the study area, each with a preferred future character statement intended to guide future planning outcomes. 

  • Precinct 1, between Punt Road and the railway bridge, is focussed on Richmond Station and is to be a vibrant entertainment and visitor destination with a more defined ‘entry’ from the west, enhanced station connections and an improved pedestrian environment under the railway bridge.
  • Precinct 2, between the rail bridge and Church Street, will remain the major focus for shopping and entertainment uses, including night time activities. There is an emphasis on protecting its ‘fine grain’ built form and heritage character. A new open space area is foreshadowed in the car park adjoining Richmond East Station. However, the Amendment stops short of a rezoning to Public Open Space for this initiative.
  • Precinct 3, between Church Street and Burnley Street, is identified as having potential for more intensive development, particularly on the south side of Swan Street where the railway separates the centre from more sensitive residential areas. Mid-rise development of 6 to 12 storeys is envisaged here, with the higher development opportunities towards the eastern end of the precinct, closest to Burnley Street.
  • Precinct 4, includes the area east of Burnley Street around Burnley Station, including the commercial area around the Burnley Street-Swan Street intersection. Again, more intensive development is encouraged here, particularly on the south side of Swan Street where a new development of 10-12 storeys has recently been approved by VCAT on the land immediately north of Burnley Station.

Image source: Study Area and Built Form Precincts (Swan Street Built Form Framework (Tract 2017))

Land currently zoned Commercial 2, mainly between Church Street and the eastern end of the activity centre, is to be rezoned to Commercial 1, allowing a wider range of retail and residential uses.

Interestingly, Ryans Reserve is to remain largely in a Public Park and Recreation Zone. This is in line with the Government’s recent decision to abandon plans to use this land for public housing as part of a ‘land swap’ involving other public land to the north of the Richmond civic precinct. That land is now part of the new Richmond Secondary College.

The Amendment follows the trend of applying mandatory height controls where the Council considers this is justified. In general, this is within the identified heritage areas of Precincts 2, 3 and 4 and the parts of the centre that adjoin low scale residential areas. Discretionary height limits are proposed in other parts of the centre, in particular in Precinct 1 and along the railway interface of the other three precincts.

While mandatory controls can provide more certainty for land owners and other stakeholders, it is sure to attract scrutiny, as there will always be arguments that the inflexible nature of such controls can unreasonably prevent the consideration of alternative design responses that otherwise might have the potential to deliver superior planning outcomes.

Another key aspect of the Amendment is the introduction of Environmental Audit Overlay (EAO) controls, over sites that are known to have an industrial history and are now proposed to be included in zones where residential and other sensitive land uses are permissible. These sites are mainly along both sides of Swan Street between Mary Street and Burnley Park.

The Amendment comprises a very detailed set of policies and controls that are supported by extensive strategic planning work. Public exhibition concludes on 15 April and the Council has scheduled three public information sessions. Property owners and other stakeholders should carefully review the proposed amendment and make a submission if they believe their interests warrant it. A Panel will be appointed to consider the Amendment, and any submissions, and this is currently expected to take place later this year (around November).

For more information or advice on how Amendment C191 may impact current or future planning permit applications, please contact Elle Harrington or your existing SJB Planning contact.

Contact us

E: eharrington@sjbplanning.com.au 
T: +613 8648 3500

Image source: Swan Street Activity Centre Built Form Framework (Tract 2017)

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