Six days a week, I can hear the pile drivers and earth-moving machinery readying another old factory site for an apartment block. There are three going up within earshot of our place, just east of Lygon St. Away from the main streets, the character of quiet streets like Laura St is under attack from multi-unit developments.
No wonder the residents don’t trust MPs and councillors to manage the changes that Brunswick is experiencing.
It is easy to blame Moreland council, but they have to follow rules set by the state government. Inaction by successive Labor and Liberal state Governments has failed to give residents clarity and certainty, and has left Brunswick a developers’ paradise.
The Brunswick Structure Plan is a good example. Also known as the Brunswick Activity Centre Amendment, it was developed by Moreland council over 10 years in consultation with residents who successfully argued for mandatory height limits. But this document then sat on the desks of successive state Governments without being approved.
Meanwhile Labor and Liberal governments have let developers take advantage of a lack of planning controls to rush through inappropriate developments. Both Liberal and Labor parties accept donations from developers, who must believe these donations are good investments.
It is the same story in quiet suburban streets. Planning Minister Matthew Guy has refused Moreland’s residential zone plan, which was submitted after months of community consultation. This plan would protect 61% of Moreland with the neighbourhood zone, limiting developments in streets like Laura St and protecting open space and canopy trees. Instead, Minister Guy has applied the default general residential zone across the city, leading to more crowded developments. Labor have rightly criticised this decision, but they need to tell residents whether they would approve Moreland’s plan.
So what can we do to protect Brunswick from more inappropriate development?
Firstly we can get behind groups like the residents of Laura St who are rallying to prevent the next block of undersized units. But we also need to fix the current planning system, which is stacked against them.
The Greens would also:
- Immediately approve the residential zone plan
- Work with Moreland Council so the Brunswick Activity Centre and the Moreland Apartment Design Code can be approved and give residents and developers certainty.
- Develop state-wide urban planning guidelines, including minimum percentages of affordable and social housing in new developments, and integrating land-use planning with transport planning
- Reduce the discretionary power of the planning Minister
- Reform VCAT so that it handles administrative appeals only
- Ban political parties from accepting donations from developers, and strengthening IBAC to investigate any breaches, bringing Victoria into line with NSW
Brunswick is a great place to live, and residents know we can retain its vibrant and historic character while sharing it with new residents. And we want to share it - there are many remaining opportunities for sensitively designed medium density development in Brunswick. But to do so, we need a plan that can be trusted to put the community first.