Fishermans Bend – ‘Fish or Foul’?

One can understand the community concern about Fishermans Bend. The government’s strategy is for an expanded central city zone that has a potential for 220,000 new residents and 200,000 new workers. Most of this is centred on Fishermans Bend (80,000 new residents) and neighbouring Southbank (another 80,000 residents). In contrast Docklands has ‘only’ 15,000 residents.

Fishermans Bend has been rezoned as part of an expanded Capital City Zone. This means that the Planning Minister, not the Council, is the responsible authority for large-scale developments (buildings with a height of 4 storeys or more, or 60 or more dwellings or gross floor area over 10,000 square metres).

unChain said in our policy for the 2012 elections that the Southbank and Docklands precincts have not been satisfactory. We expect better for Fishermans Bend. But already we have seen a conga line of developers proposing towers in Fishermans Bend. If the Minister were to approve most of these, there would be massive community opposition. However if the community can see that lessons have been learnt from Southbank and Docklands, then there should be a significant level of support for a new Fishermans Bend. We do indeed have a wonderful urban renewal opportunity at Fishermans Bend.

In our June Quarterly newsletter, unChain said that we are:

‘cautiously optimistic that a satisfactory master Plan will be developed and that the lessons from Docklands and Southbank have been learned. Places Victoria is coordinating the planning for the area and there is a Project Control Group with input from the City of Port Phillip and the City of Melbourne.

unChain attended Council meetings in the June quarter and asked for an update on the Master Plan. We have been informed that the development is going satisfactorily and that the expertise of the City of Port Phillip has been very influential in the development of the Master Plan. We asked Council for public consultation on the draft Master Plan as soon as possible. We anticipate that this will be released in the next month.

It may be useful to summarise some of the Council’s earlier work. In September 2012 the Council adopted a Master Plan for the Montague precinct, which is one of the precincts in Fishermans Bend. This is an excellent plan.

Some features of this detailed plan for the Montague Precinct were:

Accommodating up to 25,000 residents and 14,000 workers in Montague.

  • Providing a mix of open space, different housing types, job opportunities, community facilities, and a retail and restaurant cluster
  • Building a new primary school
  • Providing a new community hub with library, maternal and health care and meeting spaces
  • A series of parks in each neighbourhood
  • Providing a range of housing with at least 20% of new houses to be ‘affordable’
  • Providing sensible height controls, with one zone along City Rd having a five storey limit, the second south of the 109 light rail with an eight storey limit and a strip north of the light rail with a 26 storey limit.
  • Detailed design controls aimed at ensuring a human scale and an active street-level life
  • Providing green buildings and sustainable infrastructure such as integrated water and distributed energy systems
  • New light rail and bus routes
  • Integrated bike riding and pedestrian routes
  • A ‘High Line’ park like that in New York: an elevated light rail link linking Southbank and the foreshore where people can walk, bike or just sit.
  • Retaining the character of Montague with its heritage buildings and its pattern of lanes and small streets
  • Facilitating a cluster of small businesses and creative industries

The Council’s plan for Montague says:

Cities such as Barcelona with 200 persons per hectare, and more recently Malmo Bo01 in Sweden (through highly sustainable buildings of two-five storeys) with a density of 120 persons per hectare dispel the myth that high density requires high rise. There are many other examples from around the world of dense cities that ‘score’ highly for liveability, sustainability, prosperity and cultural vitality where the dominant building typology is mid-rise. A compact, walkable and liveable environment can be achieved through mid-rise developments of six to eight storeys, and still deliver significant density … Lessons from earlier developments in the Southbank renewal area (with attempts to now rectify) need to be heeded. As identified in the Southbank Structure Plan 2010 “the evidence of the developments done to date is that these building heights, paired with the delivery of podiums dominated by car parking, are creating streets that are dark, windy, unwelcoming and unattractive.” Built form is a major determinant of public domain amenity. Montague’s future built form must be about how the place feels and functions at street level – a pleasing eye-level experience for people on the streets is critical.

The Council’s Montague Precinct plan promised an urban renewal that would have the ‘heart and soul’ so lacking in Docklands and Southbank. We are optimistic that this thinking has a significant influence in the State government’s draft Master Plan for the whole of Fishermans Bend. This will soon be released. The Council’s Montague Precinct plan will provide a good benchmark to assess the state government’s Master Plan. There must also be a meaningful opportunity for people to have their say on the draft Master plan.

~ Peter Holland
President, unChain Inc

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