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Locals rally for low-rise

10 Nov 2016

Locals rally for low-rise Image

More than 60 passionate locals crammed into a packed Boyd Assembly Hall on October 19 to join the fight against high-rise development in Southbank’s low-rise neighbourhood.

The community meeting, initiated by local lobby group Save Dodds St, was organised in an effort to rally support and educate residents on the planning laws surrounding developer Hayball’s 21-storey proposal for 135 Sturt St.

In attendance was shadow Minister for Planning David Davis, RMIT planning professor Michael Buxton, City of Melbourne (then) chair of planning Cr Ken Ong and Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) president Tony Penna.

Residents gathered to seek advice from experts on what action could be taken to prevent the development from going ahead and protect the low-rise precinct from any future overdevelopment.

The area many know as “Southbank Village” is regarded as a special character zone under local and state planning regimes and locals argue that Hayball’s 67-metre proposal is out of place.

While mandatory height restrictions protect much of Southbank’s low-rise community between Grant and Coventry streets, the bordering Sturt St site sits in an area with a discretionary 40-metre control.

Prof Buxton told the meeting that if the character of the area was to have any chance of being preserved planning laws had to change.

“While there are a series of discretionary controls you’re always going to be battling against the almost insuperable problem because discretionary controls will repeat exactly what’s happening here and the developer will take no notice of it,” he said.

Prof Buxton said he was hopeful that the State Government’s current C270 planning scheme amendments, scheduled for release in December, would enforce mandatory controls for the whole precinct.  

Former councillor Ken Ong provided the meeting with an insightful background into the planning history of the area and said council had previously pushed for mandatory controls.

He said the former State Government’s planning scheme amendment C171, which was introduced in 2010 as part of the Southbank Structure Plan, changed what were formerly mandatory controls for the whole area.

“We, as a council, were not successful to get mandatory height limits and the result of C171 was discretionary,” Mr Ong said.

“When there are these interface issues it is good planning to say you respect the lower areas and the interface should not be a straight wall up.”

Many residents questioned what powers, if any, they had left to fight Hayball’s proposal at local and state government level.

With the application submitted under current planning rules, Mr Ong said council had to make sure that it built a strong case in the likely event that the matter ended up at VCAT.

SRA president Tony Penna encouraged residents to lobby council and the State Government by making individual submissions.

“We have to protect the character of that area. There’s no easy way to say it but it has to be protected.”

“It’s in the negotiation phase at the moment and it’s expected to come before council in November. I always encourage people to make their written submission for the public record but to also speak on that submission.”

While member for Albert Park Martin Foley was unable to attend, he provided the meeting with copies of a letter he wrote to Minister for Planning urging him to reject the proposal.

Third party rights were another issue discussed at the meeting. Being located with a capital city zone, current planning rules mean Southbank residents do not get notified of development applications in their neighbourhood.

Asked whether his government would commit to reintroducing third party rights if reelected, David Davis told the meeting he would make announcements closer to the election.

“I am sympathetic and I’m listening very closely to everyone here tonight about third party appeal rights,” he said. “I believe we need to protect those rights and we will expand them where we can.”

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