Sunshine National Employment and Innovation Cluster

Sunshine National Employment and Innovation Cluster

The Sunshine National Employment and Innovation Cluster (the ‘Sunshine Cluster’) is located about 14km west of Melbourne’s Central business district at the meeting point of several key transport routes. The Sunshine Cluster has strong connections to the Melbourne city centre, Tullamarine Airport, the Port of Melbourne and Melbourne’s booming western suburbs.

Sunshine is one of Victoria’s industrial heartlands. It has a range of thriving businesses to build upon, with well-developed service centres, a range of important regional institutions and a diverse local population. The Sunshine Cluster currently employs approximately 14,600 workers.

The Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) is working with the Brimbank City Council, state government agencies and stakeholders to deliver a range of actions that have been put forward in the Sunshine National Employment and Innovation Cluster Framework Plan.

The Sunshine Draft Framework Plan (PDF) will be a coordinating document to guide land use, development and infrastructure investment in accordance with Plan Melbourne, the Victorian Government’s metropolitan planning strategy.

Sunshine Employment Cluster Vision

The Sunshine National Employment and Innovation Cluster is proposed to become a major jobs centre of the west’s new economy. It can build on a substantial array of existing business services and large institutions to become a major provider of teaching, healthcare services, medical research, education, transport, business and retail services. Sitting at the junction of key rail and road networks, the Sunshine Cluster is highly accessible and is perfectly placed to provide major public service facilities for the growth areas of Melton, Sunbury and Wyndham, and beyond to the western region of Victoria.

Sunshine, St Albans and the emerging Sunshine Health, Wellbeing and Education Precinct will be the focus of the cluster, contributing to this vibrant and regional hub in the west.

Background information

A Framework Plan is a high-level and broad strategy that will:

  • Set out the future vision for the Cluster
  • Guide sustainable future growth and development over the next 30 years
  • Identify the steps needed to manage growth
  • Define key projects and infrastructure required to support growth
  • Provide an improved and more certain environment for making both public and private investment decisions.

The Framework Plan will be a high-level planning tool to coordinate, guide and inform the preparation and consideration of future, more detailed local plans and planning permit applications.

A key aim of this planning is to create diverse, compact and well-connected communities that are affordable and rich in local jobs, transport access, services and culture.

National Employment and Innovation Clusters (the clusters) are areas with concentrations of businesses and institutions that provide a diversity of employment opportunities, including knowledge-based jobs.

The Victorian Government’s strategic planning document, Plan Melbourne 2017-2050, has identified seven National Employment and Innovation Clusters. The clusters are located in areas that have specialised activities, typically centred around major universities and teaching hospitals. They make a significant contribution to innovation and the national economy and have the capacity to further enhance Melbourne’s competitive position within the global economy.

The seven clusters are geographically dispersed across Melbourne at Werribee, Sunshine, La Trobe (Bundoora/Heidelberg), Fishermans Bend, Monash, Parkville and Dandenong.

The proposals that lead to potential changes in land use will be implemented through an amendment to the planning scheme of the relevant council. This may follow directly off the back of the Framework Plan, or as part of a later Structure Plan.

Works that need funding, such as streetscape improvements, open space, community facilities and transport projects, will likely be funded via a range of mechanisms, including the relevant council’s budget, development contributions and / or state government.

The preparation of a strategic Framework Plan for Sunshine National Employment and Innovation Cluster is being led by the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA). This is being undertaken in partnership with Brimbank City Council as well as other key organisations that will influence the future employment ventures within the area.

The Sunshine National Employment and Innovation Cluster (NEIC) covers parts of Brimabnk City Council and is located about 14km west of Melbourne’s CBD. It includes business, commercial, industrial and employment areas within Sunshine and St Albans and has strong connections to Melbourne CBD, Tullamarine Airport and the Port of Melbourne.

The cluster is recognised for its specialised activities and leading education, health and research facilities and the proximity of major transport infrastructure (Sunshine train station is on the Sunbury line and the regional rail link to major western regional areas such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong).

While these existing strengths have helped establish the area as a cluster, they will also act as a catalyst for the still significant untapped potential of the area, while providing for future business, institutional and residential growth.

How will the community and local businesses be affected?

No, existing businesses will be able remain and operate as they do currently. The framework plan (and any future structure plans) will however, provide business with improved certainty and guidance should they choose to move and / or expand their operations within the Sunshine Cluster.

The employment areas are likely to transform in order to accommodate significant growth in the number of businesses and jobs, better transport and improved open spaces, upgraded services and facilities that reflect a 21st Century business destination.

The plan will complement the work council is doing to ensure there is a good supply of housing close to jobs. These changes will also be supported by upgraded transport infrastructure and public realm enhancements as well as improved connectivity within and outside the Sunshine Cluster.

To support the growth in the Sunshine Employment Cluster, the following road and public transport improvements are being planned:

  • Level crossings at St Albans and Ginifer have been removed.
  • Widening of the M80 Western Ring Road between Sunshine Avenue and the Calder Freeway, including the EJ Whitten Bridge.
  • Bus service improvements, such as real-time timetabling, on-road bus priority arrangements and more articulated buses, to make it easier to travel to and within the area.
  • Improved walking paths and cycle lanes throughout the Sunshine Cluster.
  • Implementation of a boulevard strategy for Ballarat Road, McIntyre Road, Furlong Road and St Albans Road.

Delivering a quality public realm will be important to ensuring growth and development in the precinct delivers high amenity for existing and new residents and workers. The framework plan will provide broad direction for improvement to open space, key streets and trails, including identification of gaps and missing links between key destinations. It will also guide appropriate provision of new parks at larger strategic sites as they are redeveloped.

Future plans will provide more detailed solutions for local areas in consultation with local communities.

What is a Framework Plan?

A Structure Plan  differs from a Framework Plan as it contains more detail guiding decision making at a localised level. It covers a smaller geographic area such as an activity centre.

The purpose of preparing a structure plan for urban renewal areas is to manage growth and facilitate change in an established area to leverage existing infrastructure and accommodate housing and employment growth.

Planning for urban renewal areas is linked to intensification and planned upgrades in infrastructure (such as transport, community infrastructure and public realm) that deliver community benefits. The precinct structure plan should provide:

  • Greater certainty for all stakeholders
  • A framework for transition of the precinct to higher intensity of activity
  • A coordinated approach to delivery of infrastructure
  • Clear guidance for future land use and built form to support streamlined and timely decision making

Together with the framework planning, structure planning is an important part of the State Government’s strategy to address population growth as well as the resulting housing and employment demands.

Yes, a number ‘Precincts’ have been provisionally identified for more detailed planning. These Precincts have (or are planned to have) distinct roles and functions within the Cluster that requires more specific strategic direction.

Precincts identified within the Sunshine Cluster include the:

  • Sunshine Metropolitan Activity Centre (MAC, including Victoria University, Sunshine Campus)
  • Sunshine Health, Wellbeing and Education Precinct (Sunshine Hospital area)
  • St Albans Activity Centre (including Victoria University, St Albans Campus)
  • Solomon Heights Precinct

There are various ways that this more detailed planning could take place, but a common approach will be to undertake an individual Comprehensive Development Plan or Structure Plan for each Precinct. Precinct planning work is well advanced for the Sunshine MAC and St Albans AC, but not as progressed in the other areas.

An alternative to a structure plan is a Comprehensive Development Plan. To ensure the future development of strategic sites is undertaken in a coordinated way, the preparation of a Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) will be required prior to any land rezoning. The plan will address land use, built form, landscaping, transport and access, drainage and other infrastructure requirements to support the delivery of staged development. A CDP is incorporated in the Planning Scheme through the application of a Comprehensive Development Zone (CDZ). CDPs and the CDZ are most commonly applied to large or complex developments. This differs from a structure plan which generally applies a range of planning controls including a mix of zones and overlays.

Why is this work happening?

Melbourne’s population is booming, and it is important there are a wealth of employment opportunities in the city’s suburbs, close to where people live.

As one of Victoria’s former industrial heartlands, Sunshine has a range of thriving businesses to build upon, with well-developed service centres, a range of important regional institutions, and a diverse population. There are currently around 2,800 businesses located in the Sunshine Cluster, employing around 14,600 workers.

With well over $2 billion of committed funding for new infrastructure projects, the cluster is poised to be a major focus for jobs in Victoria’s new economy.

The key principles to guide planning for the Sunshine Cluster are:

  • Increase employment in the Sunshine Cluster
  • Use strategic redevelopment sites to expand the rand of businesses and business services to improve worker amenity
  • Stronger transport connections that link workers with jobs more quickly and efficiently
  • Improve the physical appearance of the Sunshine Cluster
  • Provide a greater range of housing stock and new accommodation in locations that are well-served by transport and services.

More information in regard to these principles can be found in the Sunshine National Employment and Innovation Cluster Framework Plan (available for download

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