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Fishermans freeze

08 Mar 2018

Fishermans freeze Image

By Sean Car

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne’s decision to “call in” all live development applications in Fishermans Bend has been widely applauded in the local community.

However, Mr Wynne is now facing potential legal backlash from developers over his decision to put a freeze on 26 applications, with the Property Council of Australia calling for immediate industry consultation.

The Minister for Planning made his announcement on February 22, as his appointed Fishermans Bend Planning Review Panel commenced public hearings into the Government’s urban renewal plans on March 1.

The panel is scheduled to hear more than 100 submissions from interested parties over a three-month period. The list includes a number of landowners and developers affected by the freeze.

Interim planning controls have been in place in Fishermans Bend since 2015 – a direct response to former Minister for Planning Matthew Guy’s rezoning of the precinct to capital city, which saw land values skyrocket.

In late 2016, Richard Wynne had stated the interim controls would be mandatory and applied to every existing development application that was under assessment – a statement that developers are now claiming as contradictory.

Property Council of Australia’s deputy executive director Matthew Kandelaars said it was time for the government to “draw a line in the sand” and provide developers and the community alike with certainty.

“Fishermans Bend has enormous potential. The Minister has his reasons for this announcement but, sadly, a continuing policy pendulum means that after years of talk we appear no closer than ever to achieving serious progress,” he said.

“The private sector needs certainty and confidence to invest and to risk its own capital to develop a world-class precinct. Instead, we are at serious risk of missing the opportunity to finally see the project advance.”

While the State Government released its draft Fishermans Bend Framework in October last year, questions still remain over key issues of public transport, governance and funding.

The 26 live applications, which amount to more than $4.5 billion worth of development, will now be referred to an independent advisory committee for thorough analysis. The committee will assess the 26 applications against the new planning controls once they are implemented in the planning scheme.

With the new controls to be implemented later this year, it is unlikely that developers subject to the freeze will be issued with new permits prior to the State Election in November.

“We make no apology for calling time on a developer’s free-for-all,” Richard Wynne said. “We know that this will be a temporary inconvenience for developers, but we’re fixing up Matthew Guy’s mess for the future community of Fishermans Bend.”

Currently, 11 of the 26 applications are before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Mr Wynne used his powers under the VCAT Act (1998) to call in the applications.

While a judicial review may be possible, a spokesperson for the Minister for Planning said given the current controls were interim in nature, developers would be aware that the planning controls in place were subject to change.

City of Port Phillip Mayor Bernadene Voss said council welcomed the Minister’s decision to put a halt on development.

“We all want Fishermans Bend to live up to its potential as a sustainable, world class urban renewal area which contributes to greater Melbourne’s ongoing reputation as the world’s most liveable city,” she said.

“It has been challenging for council to provide input about applications made under the current interim planning controls when we knew the “playing field” would later change.”

The Montague Precinct was hardest hit by Matthew Guy’s rezoning of Fishermans Bend and was ultimately subject to an overnight flurry of development applications following his decision.

Montague Community Alliance convener Trisha Avery said while she supported the minister’s freeze, the community still wanted more certainty into the status of all inappropriate development both proposed and approved for Montague.

“The thing we’re most happy about is that action was taken because so often with the capital city zone there’s very little done to support the community,” she said.

“It goes some way to us knowing that somebody in authority is paying attention to the area and the existing community in the area – residents and businesses.”

“What we don’t know is what has happened to the ones that have been approved. We still need more clarity with what is happening with some of the existing inappropriate permits that were issued by the previous government.”

For more information on the Planning Review Panel for Fishermans Bend visit:

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