Michael Buxton on Proposed Vic Planning Zones 4 – Commercial Zones

Michael Buxton is a well published expert on Planning.

Search for him On the web and you will find a wealth of content, these excerpts are his review on the new proposed Victorian Planning revamp – and they are significant and in some cases scary. some topics you will have heard, but the extent of impact is Huge. We will break his report into several sections dealing with each Zone.  Section 4

Issues:  Commercial zone Impacts on activity centres

The substitution of the two new commercial zones for the existing four business zones will affect strip retail centres (activity centres) in two ways: it will undermine their function as retail centres by creating dispersed (“out-of-centre”) retail areas, and it will lead to the demolition of historic strip centres particularly in the inner and middle ring suburbs.

These zones will disperse a wide range of commercial uses but will lead to further intensification of mixed commercial/accommodation/residential uses in centres. Both these impacts will change fundamentally the current functions of strip retail centres.

Out-of-centre uses:  The new commercial zones broaden the range of allowable uses and these uses in the Commercial 2 (C2) zone will compete with and further undermine the functioning of existing strip centres.

Land currently zoned Business 3 and 4 (B3, B4) will be rezoned Commercial 2. These areas are generally located in out-of-centre locations away from public transport and are extensive on a metropolitan scale. In the current B4 zone, a shop is prohibited but converted to Commercial 2 (C2) zone will allow a supermarket up to 2000 sq mt without a permit and additional shops up to 500 sq mt in total floor area, with greater floor areas subject to permit.  Commercial 2 zone allows cinema, food and drink premises, restricted retail premises (ie, discount store), shop, office and small supermarkets as-of-right. The zone removes the ability to restrict the maximum floor area for an office, restricted retail premises or lighting shop.

Similarly, the translation of B1,2 and 5 to C1 will lead to other difficulties. In B5 zone, a shop is prohibited but in the C1 zone retail premises are as-of-right. This means that many B5 areas outside existing commercial centres will be become used for retail purposes in inappropriate locations instead of for offices. The widening of C1 as-of-right commercial uses will often not be appropriate in smaller shopping centres. The C1 zone removes floor area restrictions. It also removes the requirement in the B1 zone that any office frontage at ground floor level must not exceed 2 metres and for most uses access must not be shared with a dwelling. This restriction on street frontages for offices is aimed at retaining active street frontages from shops and to locate offices above shops.

A striking feature of the new commercial zones is their similarity including retail, supermarkets, office and accommodation uses. One result is that no possibility exists for a hierarchy of activity centres under the two new commercial zones. Many areas currently zoned B3, 4 and 5 would not have been included in business zones if retailing had been allowable. However, they will now be converted to commercial uses competing with town centres. This will substantially reduce the allowable differences between large and small retail centres and limit the designation of non-retail commercial areas. Another impact will be the trend by councils to the use of the Activity Centre zone with its own range of allowable uses.

Importantly, C2 zone also allows accommodation subject to permit except for a dwelling, so allowing a wide range of accommodation options to locate away from public transport and facilities.

This undermining of existing retail centres will be accelerated by changes to the industrial zones. Amendment VC88 in January 2012 greatly widened the scope for allowable goods to be sold in the industrial zones under the definition of restricted retail, and removed floor space restrictions. In Industrial 3 zone, for example, supermarkets up to 2000 sq mt and shops up to 500 sq mt may be developed. These impacts could be multiplied within an industrial precinct. This will encourage large retail chains to locate their major premises in such locations. None of these uses will require notification. These commercial developments will also reduce the availability of industrial land for industry over time.

Demolition of strip centres:  The use of the C1 zone will encourage the use of new medium rise buildings in strip centres for accommodation and office use with few  restrictions. Dwellings will be allowed only restricted at ground floor level by a requirement not to exceed a 2 metre frontage.

The broader range of allowable uses in the C1 zone will tend to turn existing strip centres into a mixture of retail, office, accommodation, residential and other uses. This broader range of uses will encourage medium rise mixed use development behind facades leading to the destruction of the Victorian heritage of large numbers of strip retail centres. Coupled with competition from out-of-centre retailing, the C1 zone will over time lead to a major reduction in retailing in already stressed centres.

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