In brief: The Victorian Government has released new vision plans for the Suburban Rail Loop East project which propose a series of strategic planning changes to support the addition of over 70,000 new homes and 230,000 jobs to the neighbourhoods along the eastern rail corridor by the 2050s.

Background

The Suburban Rail Loop (SRL) East project forms part of the Victorian Government plan to manage growth across the state, alongside Victoria’s Housing Statement. The purpose of the SRL East project is to develop upon existing neighbourhoods along the eastern rail corridor and provide a series of activity centres within 1.6km of each proposed station.
 
In 2023, the state government released a series of six Draft Precinct Visions for public consultation. After receiving feedback calling for greater housing supply closer to employment centres, the government has recently released a series of key directions and associated maps for public consultation with the intention of refining each proposed precinct vision. Notably, the government purports to create more than 70,000 additional homes and 230,000 permanent jobs across the six SRL East precincts by the 2050s. However, these directions and maps only provide an illustrative guide to how the Victorian Government might seek to implement this significant housing goal. We have provided a summary of some of the proposed built form changes below.

Key directions

Given each precinct has unique characteristics and associated challenges to be considered, the proposed key directions and maps contemplate the needs of each community. These are proposed to eventually form the basis of a draft structure plan and planning scheme amendments to implement changes in each precinct.
 
In Monash, the directions focus on strengthening innovation sectors to attract new businesses to the area. In Clayton, the plan seeks to grow the health precinct and provide community infrastructure to support the resident and worker populations. While in Glen Waverley and Box Hill, plans are being made to channel significant employment growth into the areas by encouraging the construction of retail and commercial office spaces. However, to achieve these objectives will require significant changes to land use, built form, transport and community infrastructure, and public spaces to be implemented.
 
Accordingly, the maps provided as part of the directions propose significant increases in housing density in the immediate surroundings of each new station. It is proposed that the government will support the construction of high-rise office and apartment buildings of up to 40 storeys in the precinct core of Box Hill, down to 18 storeys in Cheltenham. Meanwhile, in areas of existing homes and neighbourhoods surrounding the new stations, the maps depict a vision of townhouses and mid-rise apartments of between 4 and 7 storeys, which will taper off in height further from each station. The proposed built form changes for each of the six draft precincts can be viewed here. These include Box Hill, Burwood, Clayton, Cheltenham, Glen Waverley, and Monash.

What's next?

While these maps model a future for these eastern precincts to solve the challenges Melbourne faces with its growing population, the project remains in its embryonic stages.
 
The structure planning process is currently in its second consultation phase. During this period, Suburban Rail Loop Authority (SRLA) will gather community feedback and use it to develop a final draft structure plan and draft planning scheme amendments. It is expected that the structure plan will give greater insight into how the project will be delivered in reality. The draft structure plan and amendments are due to be put on exhibition in late 2024 to early 2025, where they will be available to the public to make submissions to the SRLA about the proposal. These submissions will be considered by an independent advisory committee, which will either make a recommendation to adopt, abandon or adopt the proposed amendments with changes. If adopted, SRLA will submit the draft plan and amendments to the Minister for Planning for approval and gazettal. Accordingly, it is predicted that this process will take several years.
 
However, this announcement demonstrates the possible opportunity for developers in the forthcoming decade. At this stage, while these preliminary directions and maps identify the development potential for each precinct, they only scratch the surface of what will be required to implement such a significant project. We note that the project has a long way to go before it is approved and implemented and the later stages of the amendment process will be crucial in extrapolating the finer details of how the project will unfold.
 
As the state government continues to employ further community feedback on the directions, we will continue to explore the benefits and impacts of this project on the strategic planning for metropolitan Melbourne. If your land is affected by these proposed changes or you're seeking consultation regarding the development potential of these area, please contact our office for assistance.
 
Community consultation for this project and the directions announced over the weekend is open until 30 June 2024.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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