In the recent decision of Marne Development Pty Ltd v Monash City Council  VCAT 581, the Tribunal found that while a reduction in the car parking requirement to zero, and the reliance on off-site car parking may be acceptable in suburban locations, it was not appropriate for a proposal to rely entirely on off-site car parking which was not within the control of a permit holder and not physically suitable for the proposed use.
The decision is significant as it provides guidance as to the provision off-site parking, and in particular whether it is appropriate to rely on parking in the locality in the absence of any on-site car parking.
In this case the permit applicant sought a planning permit for a childcare centre accommodating 92 children on a former milk bar site. the proposal did not provide any car parking of its own, and sought a reduction in the car parking requirement to zero, and proposed rely on off-street car parking in a Council Reserve and associated with a local tennis club.
The key issue in dispute was whether the proposal was required to provide for some or all of its own car parking needs or whether it was appropriate to rely on parking in the locality.
The permit applicant argued that there was ample off-street car parking available in the locality and that it is consistent with proper and orderly planning outcomes to share an underutilised public resource.
Council argued that the car park within the Council Reserve was not provided for a commercial operator to use and it was not suitable to serve the use. Council further argued that it would not be appropriate for the proposed use to rely solely on on-street car parking.
When is a reliance on off-street car parking acceptable?
The Tribunal found that planning is slowly changing its relationship with car parking in response to concerns about the environment, and these changes include a move towards encouraging alternative transport, as well as, less and more efficient provision of car parking.
The Tribunal noted that a shared arrangement for public parking is common in activity centres where a centre based approach to car parking is warranted insofar as the importance of promoting a vibrant commercial activity centre outweighs the disbenefits of the failure to provide off-street car parking.
Further, the Tribunal found that there are efficiencies to be gained from the consolidation of shared car spaces even in suburban locations.
However, the Tribunal found that in this case, while the reserve car park may have capacity to accommodate the current demand, this may not always be the case, and it will depend on what Council’s plan for the site is over time. In particular, the Tribunal held that it is not improbable that the use of the Council reserve would change over time, potentially with the car park being removed, relocated or altered.
In addition, the Tribunal was not persuaded that the car park was physically suitable for the proposed used in its current form given the lack of appropriate lighting, access and disabled car spaces.
Implications of the decision
The implication of this decision is that the Tribunal may be willing to consider an application that relies entirely on shared off-site car parking in a suburban context, however it needs to be established that the car parking will be available in the long term and will be physically suitable for the shared uses.
How can we help you?
HWL Ebsworth Lawyers has advised extensively and represented parties in a number of applications which have required an assessment of the car parking requirements. We are able to advise on individual matters or provide general guidance to both councils and landowners. Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss the implications of this decision for your matter.
This article was written by David Vorchheimer, Partner and Disha Kamal, Solicitor.