Enhancing Sunlight Access to Central Melbourne Parks


Sunlight To Public Open Spaces Strategy




City of Melbourne


The Sunlight to Public Open Space Strategy was endorsed by the City of Melbourne in May, 2018. This report supports Planning Scheme Amendment C278 which will be open for public comment in 2019.

Sunshine is fundamental to people’s health, wellbeing, comfort and enjoyment of public space. Insufficient access to sunlight can result in detrimental impacts on physical and mental health, and research demonstrates that over 50% of Victorians are Vitamin D deficient in winter. Protecting access to sunlight has been a key tenet of planning practice since increasingly taller buildings began to overshadow parks and streets. As growth has intensified in central Melbourne, sunlight protection controls have focused on protecting sunlight to public open space during Spring and Autumn, not necessarily when people needed and wanted to access sunlight. The existing policy also prioritised protection for larger parks, not recognising that the most important park for residents is often the one closest to them.

Children playing in the dappled sunshine at Carlton Gardens.

The Work We Did

Our brief was to review modelling work undertaken to assess current sunlight access and to synthesise this analysis with a review of the existing sunlight protection controls that apply across central Melbourne (excluding the Hoddle Grid and Southbank). We assessed the cumulative impact of overshadowing, identified best-practice approaches to sunlight policy internationally, and made recommendations for a consistent and equitable policy approach based on the physical and mental health of people.

A key challenge was advocating for maximum sunlight access to parks while allowing for reasonable development intensification in an inner city environment to support compact city planning.

The risk of parks being overshadowed has increased as development has intensified in Melbourne. At the same time, increased development densities and apartment living means more people will want to spend time in their local park.

The report recommends introducing an equitable ‘flat’ protection policy for all public parks, based on findings that the most important park is the one closest to where you live or work. The evidence highlighted the significance of proximity and the value of sunshine within neighbourhood parks. The report also recommends protecting solar access in the winter months between 10am and 3pm to protect equitable access to sunlight when it is most needed.

The report recommended protecting solar access in the winter months to protect access to sunlight when it is most needed. These diagrams demonstrate the different shadow lengths cast by a 20m high building between 9am and 4pm for the summer solstice, equinox and winter solstice.

As a Result of Our Work

Our report provides the evidence-base to introduce a transformative, progressive approach to planning for a healthy city. It advocates for equitable solar access to parks in winter when people need it the most, while supporting inner city development.