Over 100 residents attended a Socialist Party public meeting in Richmond last month to discuss a proposed development at the Channel 9 site. People were clearly angry at the fact that big developers seem to have free rein to build what they like in inner city Melbourne.
The developers have the full backing of the ALP State government who are encouraging apartment construction as part of their plan to squeeze more people into the inner suburbs.
New developments are mainly taking place on ex-industrial sites. The proposal for the Channel 9 site is possibly the biggest with 550 apartments in a series of towers. Some of the towers will be eight stories high!
The State government encourages this intensification as it’s cheaper for them to house people in areas which already have some existing facilities. Putting people in the outer suburbs may lead to pressure on them to build more infrastructure. What this means in the inner city however is extra pressure on already under-resourced public transport and community facilities such as child care.
The new developments also lead to extra traffic and parking problems on often narrow streets built 150 years ago. The drive for profit pushes up the height of new developments. For example, the development being proposed by Lend Lease on the Channel 9 site has numerous towers in what is now mainly a single storey residential area.
The Socialist Party is not against inner city living or the construction of new homes. However, we stand for planning for people not developers and their profits. This means that an increase in residents must be matched by an increase in public transport and community infrastructure to service the growing community.
All new developments should be mandated to include at least 25% low cost, public or social housing to ensure everyone has a chance to live in the inner city. These developments should be mandated to concur to the environmental standards both in terms of design and during the construction stage.
All developments must have car and bicycle parking on site. Developers want to squeeze in as many units as possible to maximise profits and thereby often try to make the new residents use local streets as a de facto car park.
At the moment Councils do not have the power to make these requirements mandatory under State planning laws, even if they had the inclination. This would require a change of policy at a State level.
In the upcoming Victorian State election, the Socialist Party is raising the call for a radical change to the way our communities are planned. We also need to extend public transport to all suburbs in Melbourne. This will ease the strain on the inner city and improve living and environmental standards in all parts of the state.
It is clear that both the ALP and Liberals are in bed with big developers. The Greens like to talk about appropriate development but last month voted with the ALP in the State parliament to support a planning amendment making it easier to build near ‘activity centres’.
As the State election gets closer it is clear that the only party that backs up its policies with action is the Socialist Party. Regardless of who wins on November 27 we will continue to organise and advocate for development that puts people’s needs before developer’s greed.
By SP reporters