Council delivers Macaulay Structure Plan

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Spencer Fowler Steen

After nearly a decade of frustration and difficulty, the City of Melbourne has released its highly anticipated Macaulay Structure Plan for a new urban renewal precinct in Kensington and North Melbourne.

The plan, which was endorsed by councillors at the Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting on November 9, outlines the council’s vision for the 90-hectare precinct, which will be home to more than 10,000 residents and 9500 workers by 2051.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the Macaulay Structure Plan 2021 created a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the City of Melbourne.

“We’re transforming Macaulay into a vibrant, bustling and sustainable new neighbourhood right on the doorstep of the CBD,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Our vision is for a mixed-use, mid-rise precinct within Kensington and North Melbourne that has lush green streets, world-class amenities, and superb cycling, walking and public transport connectivity.”

Unlike the recently-released Arden Structure Plan, which is being led by the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) in consultation with the CoM, Macaulay is being entirely spearheaded by the council with no involvement from the VPA.

As a mid-rise, mixed-use precinct straddling either side of the Moonee Ponds Creek, the area will include affordable housing, a mix of shops, offices and spaces for small- and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups.

Residents and visitors will be supported by new community services including two community hubs, a government secondary school in Macaulay and a government primary school in Arden.

According to the council, the plan provides a vision for a climate-ready neighbourhood that prioritises walking, cycling and public transport as well as the revitalisation of the Moonee Ponds Creek.

Environment portfolio lead Cr Rohan Leppert said a key component of the structure plan would deliver more green open spaces for residents.

“With backyards shrinking and our population growing, it’s never been more important for us to provide green open spaces for the community,” Cr Leppert said.

 

A key feature of the Macaulay Structure Plan includes future-proofing against the impacts of climate change. We’ve strived to create a climate-ready precinct and adaptable neighbourhood that prioritises accelerated emissions reduction actions and supports the transition to renewable energy.

 

Speaking on November 9, the council’s director of city strategy    Sophie Handley said that although there was widespread support for the draft Macaulay Structure Plan, there were several issues raised during the consultation process which the council had worked to address.

Some submissions raised concerns regarding density, built form controls at residential interfaces, greater protection of amenity, heritage and character, as well as floor area ratios and heights considered too low or prescriptive.

Kensington Association (KA) chair Simon Harvey said there was “a lot” in the plan that the association was “very happy” with, but raised three main concerns centred around Macaulay Station, population growth and the need for more public open space.

Mr Harvey said the frequency of train services along the Upfield line servicing Macaulay Station would need to increase, but that this would not be possible without a line upgrade.

“[Macaulay Station] will be a central hub, but very little attention seems to have been paid to that in the structural plan as we read it as to the way it will be developed to cope with the growth in population and activity,” he said.

Mr Harvey said that he also had “grave concerns” about what KA called the “Macaulay Rd dilemma”.

“This points to a very unique constrained quality of Macaulay Rd between two railway lines, and it feeds into the population issues and through-traffic issues along the road, which are of grave concern to us all in the area,” he said.

Mr Harvey said a KA member calculated that there were more than 2300 apartments in the current pipeline of approval and new planning applications for Macaulay.

He said based on this trend, there was “no way” under the present policy settings that the forecasted 10,000 population increase would not be exceeded.

Finally, Mr Harvey said he appreciated the council’s recent move to purchase a $5 million parcel of land in Chelmsford St for green space in Macaulay but urged it to sort out Moonee Ponds Creek.

“Moonee Ponds Creek is like a joke to us because it’s been going on for so long,” he said.

“We ask you to please sort out the governance, of course finances, and management issues of the creek and make the revitalisation of the creek happen.”

Cr Leppert said the Minister for Planning and the Treasurer were on record in Parliament saying they would entertain handing over committee of management status from VicTrack to the City of Melbourne so the council could “unlock” the creek.

Former Lord Mayor and president of the North and West Melbourne Association

(NWMA) Kevin Chamberlin said it was essential that the council and government provided “all-important” infrastructure in Macaulay to meet the growing population.

“It is important to remember that in many of these areas where the council and government have significant redevelopment plans, that they have already undergone significant population increases within the existing built form of the area,” he told North West City News.

“Even in parts of Kensington, the census between 2011 and 2016 tells us areas have increased substantially, and one as much as 40 per cent in population. So, it’s really important that council and government provide the all-important infrastructure and mobility capacity.”

“As we find, the schools are already full, there is insufficient open space, and other essential services and community facilities are at capacity or under stress. The government and council needs to keep in mind they’re not just there to approve developments, they’re there to approve sustainable communities.”

Cr Leppert also moved 14 sets of amendments to the Macaulay Structure Plan which were all supported by councillors at the November 9 FMC meeting.

The amendments addressed submissions and concern from the North Melbourne and Kensington communities and included the creation of a specific action plan for building two new crossings of the Moonee Ponds Creek, rather than leaving it to the state government.

Among Cr Leppert’s other sets of amendments was the clarification of proposed street wall and setback controls for the boundary of the precinct at Shiel St, ensuring that the massing of new building is focused towards Macaulay Rd, rather than Shiel St.

Cr Leppert also moved another significant amendment on public reporting to increase transparency around the structure plan.

It creates a new obligation to report publicly on the progress of the structure plan implementation, including the known and estimated number of actual and approved dwellings and overall residential job numbers.

Deputy Leader of the Victorian Greens and Member for Melbourne Ellen Sandell said although the process of planning for Macaulay had been “very frustrating” for members of the local community, she was pleased Cr Leppert was able to get support for his amendments.

“This is a huge new suburb in our area and governments really need to work with the community to get these right, so that we don’t end up with overly bulky and badly designed homes and workplaces,” Ms Sandell said.

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the Macaulay Structure Plan 2021 was an incredibly important document for the future of the city’s northern suburbs.

“In creating this structure plan we’ve looked carefully at some of the leading new urban development projects around the world – from Barcelona to Copenhagen and Manchester,” Cr Reece said.

“Macaulay will be the best new medium-rise suburb Melbourne has ever seen.” •

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