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Guy rules in favour of Southbank

13 Nov 2014

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By Sean Car

Many have been left stunned by Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s shock decision to reject a 300-metre high-rise proposal at 447 Collins St in the CBD.

Having received the support of Melbourne City councillors back in September, many had expected Minister Guy to give the development the green light ahead of the state election.

Despite approving changes to planning rules last year to allow overshadowing of the Yarra on a nearby Collins St site, the planning minister has denied developer Cbus a building permit, ruling in support of the overshadowing prohibition.

“There were considerable design issues associated with the 447 Collins St proposal, as well as over shadowing of the south bank of the Yarra,” a spokesperson from the Minister’s office said.

While the news comes as a boost to Southbank, ALP member for Albert Park Martin Foley said residents should be under no illusion that the decision was based on anything other than political motivations.

“Mr Guy and the Napthine Government have been forced to temporarily back off their support for mega towers,” he said. “This decision has more to do with the shadow of an election rather than support for the planning scheme to protect the Yarra.”

“Southbank residents should have no doubts the Liberals will continue to undermine its future with bad planning decisions.”

It comes after Melbourne City councillors went against the mandatory advice of its planning officers to support overshadowing Southbank, in return for open space in the CBD.

Under the deal, developer Cbus had agreed to provide the City of Melbourne with 1900sqm of public open space for a park, in a “trade-off” for council supporting increased height of its proposed tower.

Having been one of the six who voted in favour of the proposal, councillor Ken Ong said he was disappointed by the planning minister’s decision.

“It could be said that while the City of Melbourne had considered the trade-off between getting a single 3000-plus sqm open space in Collins St and some overshadowing of the Southbank promenade as a desirable outcome, the minister did not see it that way,” he said.

Cr Ong said he was unsure whether the developer would submit an alternative proposal, which he said wouldn’t come close to delivering the benefits put forward in the original application.

“Cbus may or may not put up the alternate proposal, which is two standard unremarkable towers and a much smaller open space of about 480 sqm,” he said.  

“The result would be no positive contribution to the Collins St streetscape and a small open space, which has limited use.”

Had it been approved, the tower would have cast a moving 25-metre shadow over the Southbank Promenade, Crown Casino and Freshwater Place during the deepest part of winter.

Freshwater Place Owners’ Corporation chair Peter Renner welcomed the Minister’s decision and said he hoped it drew a line in the sand for future development.

“We were pleased and surprised by the Minister’s decision,” he said. “It is the right decision in light of the Melbourne Planning Scheme statutes.”

“We at Freshwater Place have continuously and consistently argued with the City of Melbourne and the Minister for a faithful interpretation of their own planning statutes.”

“If they always observed these, developers would have certainty in what would be approved too, and may not pay speculative prices for land to build inappropriate developments.”

Southbank Residents Group president Tony Penna also welcomed the news and said he hoped it reflected the Liberals’ true stance on planning regulations.

“The residents of Southbank are happy that commonsense has prevailed,” he said.

“We only hope the decision was a true reflection on Minister Guys’ positioning of overshadowing and not just that of a looming election in a marginal seat.”

Mr Penna said he was equally happy with Labor’s commitment to preserve the planning overlay, should it be elected at the November election.

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