What is Council’s role in the planning process? And what is the State Government’s?

Darebin City Council was removed by the State Government as the planning authority for the Preston Market precinct more than two years ago.

Council has no power to change the planning controls at this site, that decision is in the hands of a State Government body, the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA).

Council has a role advocating for the best community-led outcome for the market and surrounding site, and will ask the state government and developer to commit to the objectives and key elements endorsed by Council at the 19 August Planning Committee meeting.

What is Council doing to call for what’s important?

Council will ask for commitments from the State Government and developer to incorporate these elements into any relevant plans, planning controls, management plans, design and construction. It’s also seeking community support for this call to ensure we have a strong, collective voice.

Some of the things Council is calling for are beyond the scope of planning controls alone, however the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) has acknowledged that they will work with Council in discussions with the developer to seek additional important community benefits that relate to supporting the existing traders and the unique identity of the market.

Council will also comment on the state government’s draft plan later in 2019 and take part in formal exhibition and any independent planning panel review as part of advocating for what’s important to the community.

What are the current planning controls on height for the Preston Market Precinct? And when will any new height control decision be made?

The Minister for Planning has placed an interim height control over the current market footprint. This means that no buildings or structures greater than 9 metres can be constructed within that footprint. Council called for this to be extended so it would be in place throughout the review of planning controls.  The state government has now done and this control is set to expire in December 2020.

For the rest of the site, there are currently no mandatory height controls. The existing Incorporated Plan (2007) sets 10 storeys as a preferred height limit. The Planning Scheme controls (used to assess applications) state that an application can still be submitted, and a permit may be granted for development which is greater than the 10 storey preferred height limit.  Any proposed application greater than 10 storeys in height would have to be advertised to the local community and be subject to third party appeal rights.

Council has not lost its opportunity to advocate on important matters like height and market location. These matters will be considered at a future meeting when all the information needed to consider pros and cons is available.

What does the community think about the market and precinct development?

We have heard from the community during multiple stages of engagement. Throughout all phases of engagement, the findings highlight that the community agree that it is important to:

-        safeguard the market’s unique, welcoming, affordable and multicultural character

-        have green, open and pedestrian friendly spaces

-        include exemplary environmentally sustainable design elements

The community expressed a range of views around:

-        car parking - some want less parking to help adapt to a less car dependent future, others want more parking to accommodate the new demand

-        building heights - some expressed comfort with tall buildings, others not at all. The most consistent concern was in relation to overshadowing caused by buildings.

Some community groups have special points of interest and difference, with some important stakeholder groups and individuals expressing strong views that the market shouldn’t move, and more from the broader community expressing that they see benefits to it moving. Themajority of respondents in the most recent phase of engagement did not have strong views about market location and saw the benefits of a variety of scenarios. The importance of retaining market identity and character was one of the most important issues expressed by the community.

 A variety of ideas on community benefits were also provided, ranging from childcare centres and Council service centres, through entertainment options such as art and culture facilities, cinemas and youth-friendly spaces, to providing diverse housing options and community gardens.

A report from the most recent round of community engagement can be viewed here

What are the next steps for the Preston Market Precinct?

The state government has advised that it will release a draft framework plan later in 2019.  After that there would be several more steps in 2020 including formal exhibition of proposed planning controls and an independent planning panel review, before a decision is made by the Minister for Planning.

Council will advocate at all stages for what’s important to the community.

Why does the market have to change at all? Why can’t you just keep it as it is?

The same way that if you own a house, you have a right to choose to renovate it or change it, the owner of the market site also has this right.

Darebin City Council does not own the market or surrounding site and does not get to make the decision about whether the site gets developed.

 Darebin is calling on the state government and the developer to commit to safeguarding what’s important and it will do this at each step of the state government’s work in the next 12 months to review the planning controls, as well as on management issues that are in the control of the developer or Market manager.

Getting the planning controls right is important because it will set the framework for future development at Preston Market and on the site. If the owner applies for a planning permit for development in future, their proposal must demonstrate how it meets the requirements of the planning controls.

Why is a Structure Plan for the precinct needed?

  • Melbourne’s major planning strategy, Plan Melbourne, designates Preston as a Major Activity Centre, which means that it has to continue to grow and evolve to accommodate increasing demands for housing and jobs in this area. Preston, like other inner suburbs across Melbourne, is growing at a very fast rate and planning controls help to ensure new homes, shops and businesses are accommodated in a liveable and sustainable way.
  • The Preston Market is a strategic development site due to its close proximity to public transport, the High Street shops, services, employment opportunities and Preston Oval. The structure plan will provide increased certainty around the development of this important area.
  • The plan will also provide increased certainty about the ongoing operation of the market, the quality of development, environmental outcomes, a range of housing types, including housing for people on low and moderate incomes, community facilities and accessible open spaces.
  • A Structure Plan will also support better planning of infrastructure, such as transport and community assets, to support the increasing population in the local area.

What development will be allowed in the precinct under the Structure Plan?

In addition to having a fresh food market, the precinct will also allow for commercial and retail buildings, housing, including affordable housing, entertainment, open space and community uses. Improved pedestrian and cyclist access to the site and better connections to local roads and the High Street shops will also be determined under the Structure Plan.

What benefits will the development of the precinct provide to the community?

The development of the precinct will deliver a number of benefits to the local community. This includes a better range of housing choices, new jobs, offices and shops, and new community facilities and spaces. Some community benefits, such as community facilities, may be funded through the development of the precinct but delivered in other parts of the local area. We will be engaging with the community about what benefits are of most importance to them so that we get them right.

How will the Structure Plan improve access from Preston railway station to the centre of Preston?

  • The Structure Plan will detail how pedestrians, bikes, cars, and trucks access and get around different sections of the Preston Market precinct and how the precinct will be connected to other parts of the local area. Separating people from cars and trucks will help to improve access and safety for commuters and pedestrians to the High Street shops. 

  • We will be working closely with the Level Crossing Removal Project to ensure that these projects are integrated.

Will the precinct provide affordable housing?

Yes, the Structure Plan will encourage a broad range of housing in the precinct, including a requirement that some is affordable to those on low and moderate incomes. The type and quantity of affordable housing is still being determined.

How will the Structure Plan support local jobs and business opportunities?

The Structure Plan will identify the parts of the precinct that will allow for commercial developments, such as office spaces. The precinct will be designed to provide opportunities for a range of businesses to operate, including small businesses.

Is the precinct privately owned?

Yes, the land within the Preston Market Precinct, and the market itself, are privately owned.

What does being within a major activity centre mean for the Precinct?

Darebin is experiencing significant population growth and it is vital we plan for new jobs, homes and infrastructure in the area to allow people to work locally and live sustainably. The precinct’s close proximity to public transport, size and location make it well suited to accommodate this growth. 

Why didn’t the report make recommendations on building heights or market location?

Its correct that Council hasn’t yet considered its view about this.  We will definitely consider these things, but at the next stage when all the information is available to fully understand the pros and cons. 

There are several more steps to go and council expects to fully consider these elements once we have all the information we need, at a future Council Meeting.  What we’ve done right now is pull together a list of what’s most important to safeguard Preston Market and to create a liveable, safe, sustainable precinct.  This list includes things that both the state government and developer would have to do and we’ll be asking them to commit to just that.

Council will make a decision on these matters – when it has all the information.  It will also comment on the state government’s draft plan later in 2019 and take part in formal exhibition and any independent planning panel review as part of advocating for what’s important to the community. 

Council hasn’t missed its opportunity to advocate on these important matters – it knows how important they are and that’s why making sure there is good information to make a decision on is critical.

What is allowed to happen in the precinct now?

There is currently planning approval for two 10 storey buildings and one 14-storey building to be constructed along the Murray Road edge of the precinct. Temporary planning controls currently restrict building height over the existing market footprint. These restrictions will be lifted once the VPA process has been completed. 

Is the market currently protected by the planning controls?

No, planning controls are unable to force the owners of the land to operate a market or specify how the market is operated. The future controls will set objectives around the redevelopment and operation of the market into the future.

Who will approve development applications in the precinct?

Darebin City Council is responsible for assessing development applications within the municipality, including applications for developments within the precinct. Once development plans are received, Council has the task of assessing whether they meet the objectives and requirements that are set out in the Planning Controls, including the structure plan.

When will development of the precinct under the Structure Plan commence?

The Structure Plan will guide the development that can take place within the precinct for many years to come. At this stage, we do not expect the plan to come into effect before the end of 2020. Any development applications that are lodged after that time will need to go through an assessment process, which may also take some time. The preparing of development plans and the timing of their lodgement will be determined by the landowner.