Hobart Interim Planning Scheme 2015: Amendments to the height standards in the central business zone

General Manager
City of Hobart
GPO Box 503
Hobart 7001

Email: coh@hobartcity.com.au

31 August 2017


The Tasmanian Conservation Trust is pleased to submit the following representation in respect to the above amendment.

The amendment relates to clauses 22.1.3 Desired Future Character Statements and 22.4.1 Building Height in the Central Business Zone.

The amendment inserts a Desired Future Character Statement and performance criteria setting out the townscape and streetscape elements that would be considered in relation to proposed developments that do not meet the acceptable solutions in relation to height.

This representation specifically addresses the anomaly that exists with respect to building heights in the Central Business Zone.

Clause 22.4.1 Acceptable Solution A1 provides specific heights for buildings within the Central Business Core Area. Clause 22.4.1 Acceptable Solution A2 provides a specific building height of no more than 8.5 metres within 10 metres of a residential zone. Clause 22.4.1 Acceptable Solution A3 provides specific heights and maximum number of storeys for buildings within the Central Business Fringe Area. Clause 22.4.1 Acceptable Solution A4 provides specific heights and maximum number of storeys for developments on the same title as a place listed in the Historic Heritage Code, where the specific extent of the heritage place is specified in Table E13.1 and directly behind that place. Clause 22.4.1 Acceptable Solution A5 provides specific heights and number of storeys for developments within 15 metres of a frontage and not separated from a place listed in the Historic Heritage Code by another building, full lot (excluding right of ways and lots less than 5 metres width) or road.

In each of the five Acceptable Solutions shown above, the heights and number of storeys are extremely exact and detailed. Clearly considerable professional effort has gone into determining these figures.

In the face of these exact and detailed figures, we are being asked to consider Performance Criteria in relation to a proposed development that does not meet the Acceptable Solution. These Performance Criteria are an impenetrable collection of totally subjective statements that must be seen as a planning lawyers dream.

One can only begin to imagine architects and planners producing voluminous reports in architect/planners speak that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that in every case the specific heights and number of storeys provided for in the Acceptable Solution must be completely ignored. 

The question must be asked. Why has so much time and effort gone into the objective detail in the Acceptable Solution when it can simply be ignored by architects and planners convincing Council that their development is good for the city regardless of the fact that it does not meet the Acceptable Solution in relation to height? Why indeed have an Acceptable Solution?  

The final insult in this totally unacceptable solution is that there is no provision in the impenetrable collection of totally subjective statements that are the Performance Criteria for a maximum height. Is it 100 metres, 200 metres or 300 metres? Is it 40 storeys, 50 storeys or 60 storeys? Is there indeed any height limit or any limit on the number of storeys?

The height standards will have very limited benefit if they are implemented in the absence of maximum height limits. It will be very difficult to achieve the proposed new building height objective without maximum height limits. The outcomes in terms streetscape and townscape, view lines and residential amenity will be compromised. It is the TCT’s view that the public of Hobart want appropriate maximum height limits for the CBD and other areas and this was my clear impression of those who attended the HCC’s workshop on 15 August 2017.

The TCT recommends that the HCC revises the PSA-17-3 Amendments to the CBD zone to include maximum height limits and that the revised amendments be re-advertised for public comment. The maximum heights should be set cautiously low, until more detailed studies can be undertaken. The proposed maximum heights could be as low as the heights in the proposed acceptable solutions but no higher than the average for each part of the CBD.

We understand that the HCC intends to commission a consultant to provide detailed advice to guide it in establishing maximum height limits in the CBD, but this may take six months to complete. We further understand that the HCC wanted to progress the PSA-17-3 Amendment prior to developing maximum heights so that they will be in place prior to the commencement of, and will be translated into, the Statewide Planning Scheme.

The HCC needs to balance its interests, in having a consultant’s report to justify maximum height limits, with the problems created by not having them in place for six months or more. The HCC presumably wants strong arguments to put to the Tasmanian Planning Commission, but the counter to this argument is the very strong interest in the Hobart community to have height limits as soon as possible.

In the current investment environment, it is easy to image that some developers will take advantage of the complex and subjective nature of the proposed performance criteria and will seek to have very high buildings approved. While the Woolley report only makes a cursory mention of a 75 metre height maximum for the CBD, this height might be used by a developer as a bench mark in the absence of any formal maximum.

A delay in setting a maximum height limit may enable some very unsuitable high developments to be approved, potentially compromising the process of setting acceptable maximum height limits at a later stage.

If the HCC does not accept the TCT’s recommendation regarding revising PSA 17-3 to include maximum height limits, the next best solution would be for the HCC to establish these height limits separately to the PSA 17-3 Amendments and to commit to make every effort to incorporate them prior to the commencement of the Statewide Planning Scheme.

Thank you for the opportunity to make this representation.

Yours sincerely

Peter McGlone
0406 380 545