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Questions remain over sunlight

26 Feb 2020

Questions remain over sunlight Image

New legislation aimed at protecting inner-city parks from overshadowing has been amended to remove Docklands from its remit at the direction of the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne.

The proposed amendment to the Melbourne Planning Scheme outlines new controls to protect public parks from overshadowing in winter.

It specified that, as the CBD and Southbank are already under tighter controls, the amendment was aimed at parks in inner-city suburbs such as Docklands, Kensington and Carlton.

In those areas, the amendment would implement mandatory winter sun protection and increase the hours of protection from 11am to 2pm in spring and autumn, to 10am to 3pm in winter.

The policy was pushed for years by City of Melbourne Greens councillors Rohan Leppert and Cathy Oke. The pair first moved a motion proposing a review of the sunlight policy in 2015.

But when the amendment was released for public exhibition by the Planning Minister in August last year, Docklands had been carved out of the legislation.

Cr Leppert said he was disappointed by the exclusion.

“As our central city increases in density our green spaces will only become more critical to community health. That’s why Cr Oke and I commissioned these new planning controls, which included Docklands when they were drafted,” Cr Leppert said.

“Docklands’ planning controls are infamously opaque, with most development determined by confidential agreements between Development Victoria and developers, rather than by clear and publicly available controls in the planning scheme.”

“Removing the sunlight rules from Docklands just perpetuates the secret planning processes favoured by Development Victoria, keeping the public in the dark.”

The future of Ron Barassi Snr Park – which opened in 2015 and which residents describe as Docklands’ only real park – has been the focus of residents’ concern since learning of the exclusion.

The park is located next to one of few remaining undeveloped lots in the area, owned by developer MAB.

Local resident Adriana Brudan said it was “one step forward, two steps back”.

“Docklands doesn’t need more shadow, we hardly have any green space,” she said.

“There’s going to be a school nearby and it’s surrounded by buildings and roads. There’s nothing where those kids can go and play.”

“We were happy when we got the park because we basically didn’t have a park. But there are already issues with it. I take my children there and the children’s area is right under the highway, so it’s already in shade for half the day.”

“The other green areas I wouldn’t call parks. They’re tiny and often shaded.”

The amendment cited research into the impacts of sun deprivation on physical and mental health.

Local resident and chair of the Victoria Point owners’ corporation (OC) Dr Janette Corcoran said parkland was a necessity.

“Docklands residents and workers need a park for their health and wellbeing. So too will the school children attending Docklands’ new primary school next year,” Dr Corcoran said.

"We have a park; it just needs to be protected. Docklands is always excluded from sustainability and planning goals. The government could treat Docklands this way when no one lived or worked here – but they will find it a different story now.”

In response to questions about the justification for the exclusion of Docklands, a spokesperson for Minister for Planning Richard Wynne said the amendment would go to an independent planning panel for consideration.

“This amendment needs to go through an exhaustive public process by an independent panel so that all views can be heard,” the spokesperson said.

“Any development in this area needs to be in accordance with the Development Plan requirements.”

The panel is expected to begin in April and will review submissions received during public exhibition.

Submissions were made in support of the exclusion of Docklands by developer Lendlease, while the Property Council of Australia opposed the amendment citing its impact on future development.

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