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‘Some gargantuan number’: Councils count cost of open space shortfall

“So the competition, or the conflicting potential uses for those sites, really precludes being able to purchase a decent sized open space,” she said.

Ms Finlayson said the planning scheme should be amended to require open space contributions from all developments, including student housing and commercial buildings. Melbourne Council sets open space contributions at 5 per cent of the value of the land being developed, or 7.06 per cent in high-growth areas.

Yarra Council did put a figure on the shortfall of open space on its inner suburbs: $894 million.

The council’s executive manager of strategic projects, Michael Ballock, said residents in Yarra had a lower-than-average provision for open space compared to the rest of metro Melbourne.

“In effect, we need around 178 hectares of open space just to maintain the 2016 levels,” he said.

“At a really back-of-the-envelope calculation that’s probably around $894 million worth of investment – it’s a big number.”

Yarra City Council, which includes suburbs such as Collingwood, Fitzroy, Abbotsford and Richmond, is expected to grow by 64,000 people between 2016 and 2041.

Cambridge Street Reserve on Monday, one of the many “pocket parks” in Collingwood.

Cambridge Street Reserve on Monday, one of the many “pocket parks” in Collingwood.Credit:Eddie Jim

Collingwood, largely serviced by pocket parks, had just 0.34 hectares of open space in 2016.

City of Yarra proposes increasing the rate of its open space levy – currently set at 4.5 per cent but only applying to residential subdivisions and raising between $1 million and $3 million a year – to 10.1 per cent for all subdivisions. The council also plans to set a preference for land rather than payment for developer contributions.

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Monday’s hearing comes after residents in different pockets of Melbourne complained open space was not being properly planned for.

Last week, Port Phillip Council agreed to continue allowing students from the Albert Park College to use the Gasworks Park despite opposition from residents.

Claire Ulcoq, an open space planner at Port Phillip Council, said it was a good example of disputes in the council over open space.

“The challenge is, how do we provide the space for all these user groups and all these uses, and how do we prioritise these user groups ahead of each other? Or how do we plan so they can use the spaces at the same time?”

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Ms Ulcoq said sporting facilities required greater financial and policy support from the state government.

“I think it definitely requires an increased focus from all levels of government, both policy and financial,” she said.

Access to Port Phillip’s biggest park, Albert Park Reserve, is reduced for about three months of the year because of the Grand Prix. The park is managed by the state government.

Contests over green space intensified during Melbourne’s extended lockdown last year.

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Residents had come to depend on their local amenity more than ever, and local parks allowed for small groups to socially distance outdoors in the early stages out of lockdown.

The Victorian government has committed to creating more than 6500 hectares of parkland across Melbourne.

Councils told the inquiry they valued investment from the state government to create pocket and dog parks under the suburban parks program.

clarification

An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Albert Park Reserve is closed for three months of the year because of the Grand Prix. The reserve is shut for one week and public access is limited for three months.

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