Monday, February 26, 2024

City of Melbourne considers sun protection for parks

City of Melbourne councillors will consider new laws to safeguard Melbourne’s winter sunlight, protecting more than 100 city parks from unreasonable overshadowing by new developments.

Councillors will consider the final version of the C278 Sunlight to Parks Planning Scheme Amendment at tonight’s Future Melbourne Committee meeting.

Deputy Lord Mayor, Nicholas Reece said Melbourne’s parks faced a significant threat from new developments keen to take advantage of the city’s world-class open spaces.

“Melbourne is renowned as a garden city, and we must keep it that way,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

“Protecting our parks against inappropriate development is a priority for the City of Melbourne as we build back better after COVID-19. 

“In the last year alone we’ve seen a three-fold increase in visitors to our parks, which have acted as a haven for locked down Melbournians to exercise, enjoy the outdoors and safely gather.

“If you watch people in parks during winter they follow a very distinct pattern, they all sit or congregate in areas where there is sun. Whether that is sitting on a park bench, throwing down a picnic rug or participating in a fitness class. We want to protect those precious spaces for people to soak up some winter rays and make the most of our parks all year round.” 

The proposed Sunlight to Parks planning scheme amendment includes:

  • Introducing winter sunlight access to all parks within the municipality based on the winter solstice instead of the spring equinox;
  • Increasing sunlight protection hours for the majority of parks from 10am to 3pm in winter;
  • Introducing ‘no additional overshadowing’ controls for parks in established low to mid rise areas like Powlett Reserve and J J Holland Park;
  • Introducing a limited amount of overshadowing of parks in urban renewal areas to future proof park amenity.

A panel report into the merits of the amendment found the proposal successfully balanced city growth with the protection of parks.

Laws to protect sunlight in Melbourne’s parks were introduced in 1999, when there were far fewer high-rise buildings in the city.

The Deputy Lord Mayor said the sunlight to parks amendment would elevate the importance of parks as community assets and give council a strong set of rules to follow when considering new development applications.

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve continued to see a steady stream of development applications submitted to council,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

“While there are existing planning controls to protect sunlight in the central city, no laws protect our suburbs, including the family-friendly havens of Kensington, North Melbourne and Carlton.

“The old laws were designed with the lunch breaks of city workers in mind and prioritised use of parks between 11am and 2pm. Parks are important to everyone and we need to update our planning codes to reflect this.

“This is the perfect time to consider these planning scheme amendments to future proof Melbourne’s parks.”

If approved by Council, the planning scheme amendment will be presented to the Minister for Planning for final approval. 

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