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Council sides against market majority

19 Sep 2014

Council sides against market majority Image

A packed City of Melbourne Future Melbourne Committee meeting was left stunned on September 2, as councillors voted to reject a planning permit for the new designer ‘UpMarket’ in Southbank.

After voting 6-3 against the proposal, the decision marks the first time in which the current council has dismissed the advice of their own planning officers and a local residents group.

Had it been approved, the market would have operated 9am until 4pm every Saturday at the forecourt of Australian Centre for Contemporary Arts (ACCA), on Grant St.

Having been expected to approve a permit at August’s meeting, the council elected to delay its decision until September in wake of strong opposition from residents of the Melburnian and the Sovereign apartment complexes.

Residents lined up again to express their fury at the prospect of having their Saturday’s ruined by noise and traffic, with owners corporation chair at the Sovereign Ross Passalaqua even suggesting market goers would urinate on his fence.

Despite the market’s management team presenting 546 support letters to council, addressed by members of the community and residents of both buildings, council still proceeded to deny organisers a permit.

Cr Beverley Pinder-Mortimer was one of the six councillors to sympathise with the small number of opposing residents, arguing that the market would affect  traffic and the safety of pets and children.

“I actually live in a street that gets blocked off every year for the Grand Prix five days of the year,” she said.  “If there were a further 47 days where it was blocked off, I don’t know what I’d do.”

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle surprised many by also voting against the market, arguing that it lacked merit as a “design-hub”.

“The argument has been put before us is that it’s a design hub, not just a market, but a design hub. Yet I have not heard a single argument about anything about design,”
he said

“When that question was asked, the response was about food and the quality of food produce. That’s not the same thing.”

Cr Rohan Leppert, one of the three councillors to vote in favour of the UpMarket, was quick to slam his fellow councillors for basing their vote on “indulgence” rather than principle.  

“It was an atrocious decision,” he said. “Council has the duty to apply the planning scheme, but I think that too many of the councillors who voted against the market did so for reasons beyond our remit.”

“It’s decisions like these, which contradict the planning scheme and adopted strategies for Southbank, which frustrate local communities and erode the trust in government.”

Unlike August, September’s meeting heard submissions from a number of community members, including Sovereign resident Paul Doyle, who spoke in “enthusiastic support” of the market.

Former president of the Southbank Residents Group, Joe Bagnara, also spoke in favour, arguing the market was exactly what Southbank needed to find its soul.

“You’ve spent over a million dollars developing that beautiful park area, but it’s sterile,” he said. “We want to get people out of their little boxes.”

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