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Name it Domain!

Southbank Residents Association

09 Feb 2017

A big welcome to everyone for 2017.

I am optimistic that 2017 will see the start of some great projects for Southbank, albeit probably in the latter part of 2017.

City Rd upgrade and the transformation of Southbank Boulevard have all had their community consultation and even considered within the council’s budget, so hopefully these will start this year.

While we are not sure of the progress with Boyd Park, we would like to hope that 2017 will bring some certainty there and maybe even the start of the long-awaited park, albeit on part of the block.

It seems like it was only yesterday that we were celebrating the Boyd Christmas family day. Thank you to all those who popped by our stand and bought a raffle ticket. A big thank you goes to Carpe Librum and Winehouse for their wonderful prizes that they so kindly donated.

As you may recall, the big item for 2016 was the Planning Minister’s C270 built form review. SRA hired the services of a consultant to assist us with making a significant submission to this review which subsequently got SRA a panel hearing – the only community group that was invited.

One of the significant concerns we identified in the proposed C270 review was the plot ratio formula for determining height. A ratio of 18:1 was chosen by the Minister, which was a reduction on the 24:1 in the C262 interim controls, which is still one of the most generous throughout the world.

Sydney has 8:1, New York 10:1, Hong Kong 12:1 and Chicago 16:1. While the minister allowed Melbourne to be one of the most liberal in the world he also allowed this to be increased should a developer provide some “public benefit”.

In principle, public benefit should already be included to allow a developer to max out at 18:1 but this is not the case. I am therefore somewhat sceptical with how the public benefit will be evaluated.

For example, commercial space is considered to be a public benefit offset. In our submission to the minister and, as explained to the panel, we felt that the public benefit should be pre-determined and developers should contribute financially to that benefit pool.

When a piecemeal approach is adopted then the public are destined to probably never receive any real tangible public benefit for the broader community.

SRA felt that commercial space provided little, if no public benefit and was just an easy solution for developers to justify a bigger development.

And, sure enough, we have now seen exactly this. This week’s Future Melbourne Committee will be considering an application to develop the site at 51-65 Clarke St. The plot ratio the developer is asking for is 30:1, or 233 metres which is 70 levels.

This is being assessed under the interim controls of C262 which have a ratio of 24:1 which were in play at the time the developer submitted the application.

The developer has proposed 653sqm of commercial space. While there are other “public benefits” included with this proposal, my point is that in my opinion commercial space is hardly providing any tangible public benefit.

It was our concern to the panel that commercial space will become the norm at the expense of tangible public space benefits for the whole community.

This is the first application to be assessed in Southbank since the interim planning control, C262, and subsequent C270 controls, were introduced.

In principle, there is no reason why this application will not proceed and the community will receive 653sqm of public benefit by way of commercial space.

Let’s hope this does not become the norm as we predicted.

Tony Penna

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