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New Urban Design Provisions for Fishermans Bend

A draft new planning framework has been released for Fishermans Bend

This follows the introduction of interim controls in 2015 and 2016, and foreshadows new permanent controls expected to be introduced by mid 2018. The Framework outlines overarching strategies for the whole of Fishermans Bend, but its detailed proposals focus on the four Capital City Zoned precincts (excluding the Employment Precinct north of the West Gate Freeway): Montague, Lorimer, Sandridge and Wirraway.

The Framework envisages a total resident population of 80,000 in Fishermans Bend, matched by 80,000 jobs.  This new community is anticipated to be served by the extension of the tram network and a future rail line through Fishermans Bend.

The Framework is organised according to the Green Star – Communities framework of eight sustainability goals.  Urban design provisions within the Framework include:

  • New streets
  • New public open spaces
  • Density controls, including minimum employment floorspace requirements in certain areas
  • Building height controls
  • Building setback and separation controls
  • Overshadowing controls

A summary of the proposed built form and density provisions can be found here.

There are also proposed provisions in relation to:

  • Car parking rates
  • Dwelling and building type diversity
  • ESD

The proposed planning controls are said to have been released for consultation, although this does not appear to have occurred yet.

Street network

The Framework proposes an array of new streets, shown most clearly in the precinct infrastructure delivery plans (extracted below).  These are generally proposed to be 22m wide.







Public open space

A series of new public open spaces are proposed:

Land use

The Framework identifies ‘core’ areas (pink in the map below) where a minimum employment area is required in each development (see Density below).  It also defines areas where ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ active frontages are required.


The Framework proposes to introduce density controls in the form of a maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) ranging between 2.1:1 and 8.1:1.  In core areas (see map above), there is also a minimum density of commercial floorspace, ranging between 1.6:1 and 3.7:1.  However, importantly, additional commercial floorspace above the minimum density is not included within the overall maximum FAR calculation.

Provision is made for a Floor Area Uplift (FAU) in return for the incorporation of affordable housing, community infrastructure or public open space within developments.

The Framework does not define how the total floor area that forms part of the FAR calculation is measured, nor how the FAU is to be calculated, although the background Urban Design Report prepared by Hodyl + Co. ( suggests that it is intended to be the Gross Floor Area.  Given that some definitions of Gross Floor Area exclude balconies, external walls, vertical circulation areas and ‘back of house’ functions such as car parking and loading, the definition can make a huge difference to the allowable floorspace.

The density controls appear to be based on the 2050 population and jobs targets.  However, the basis for these targets is not made clear.  Nor is it explained why we need not be concerned with growth beyond that date.

building heights

A new maximum building height pattern is proposed as shown below.  This departs considerably from the current controls, being generally lower in Wirraway, Montague and part of Lorimer, and higher in Sandridge. 

However, the new height controls are proposed to be discretionary, except for the 4-storey maximum at the interface of Fishermans Bend and adjoining parts of Port Melbourne and South Melbourne, which is proposed to remain mandatory.

The height pattern (and the density pattern, which it correlates with) appears to respond to the envisaged public transport provision.  However, the extension of the tram network and the new rail line remain uncommitted, and the language in the Framework suggests they continue to have a speculative nature.  Given this, is it wise to fix the proposed density and height pattern so closely to them?


The Framework proposes to relate maximum street wall heights to street widths, as follows:

On streets 20m or more wide, buildings that do not exceed a total height of 10 storeys may have a street wall of 8 storeys.

Building Setbacks

Podiums up to 6 storeys can have a zero setback from side and rear boundaries where a blank party wall is provided.

Above the podium, the current mandatory 10m tower setback and 20m separation controls are proposed to be retained for towers of 20 storeys and higher.  However, up to 20 storeys there is proposed to be flexibility to reduce setbacks and separations as follows:

These setbacks may be reduced adjacent to the West Gate Freeway and existing tram corridors.


New controls are proposed to protect parks from shadowing between 11am and 2pm at the winter solstice for ‘precinct’ and ‘district’ parks, and the September equinox for other parks.

communal open space

In Wirraway and Sandridge, outside ‘core’ areas, the Framework proposes to require communal open space within developments equivalent to 30% of the site area.


The new Framework establishes a clear urban structure for Fishermans Bend, including a public transport and street network, public open spaces, and a corresponding pattern of development intensity.

However, the proposed density (and height) controls raise some key questions:

  • Is it appropriate to fix heights and densities so closely to a speculative public transport network?
  • How is the floor area component of the FAR control to be measured, noting that the inclusion or otherwise of basements, balconies, vertical circulation and ‘back of house’ areas (sometimes excluded from Gross Floor Area calculations) can make a big difference to the allowable floorspace?
  • What is the basis for the 2050 targets of 80,000 residents and 80,000 jobs, which the density controls seem to be driven by?  And why should we not be concerned about providing for growth beyond that date?

By Mark Sheppard, Principal, DLA Australia

planning, urban design, fishermans bend, melbourne

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