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Lord Mayor slams ‘terrible proposal’

12 Feb 2015

Lord Mayor slams ‘terrible proposal’ Image

By Sean Car

City of Melbourne councillors have unanimously voted against a proposal for a 57-storey tower at 334-344 City Rd in Southbank.

The planning referral went before council at the first Future Melbourne Committee meeting of 2015 on February 3, with Lord Mayor Robert Doyle condemning what he called a “terrible proposal”.

The city’s planning officers highlighted a number of key objections to the tower in its planning report, stating that the building’s height would “overwhelm and the dominate” its surrounds.

At 190-metres, officers stated that the proposal failed to adhere to local urban design policy, which provides a 100-metre discretionary height control and 10-metre setbacks from all boundaries.

Cr Doyle slammed the proposal for ignoring the guidelines set out in the planning scheme.

“This is a terrible proposal,” he said. “You have a 100-metre discretionary height that seems to me to be an appropriate height for this area.”

“For something to be proposed that is nearly double that height just thumbs its nose at every planning stricture that we have.”

While the final decision will ultimately rest with new Planning Minister Richard Wynne, it looms as an early test for the new Andrews government to end, what it labeled in opposition, its predecessors “rubber-stamp” policy for Southbank.

Mr Wynne will return to work this month after suffering a heart attack in December.

Cr Stephen Mayne said he hoped the change in government would see a change in what he described as the “anything goes” approach of former planning minister Matthew Guy.

“I think that sort of attitude has partly led to where we are – where an expectation was created, where many of the discretionary height limits were sort of written in pencil, which could be easily rubbed out,” he said

“I certainly hope that with new applications such as these, a message will be sent very quickly and that is that the anything-goes approach that we’ve seen in recent times is over and it will be a more considered regime going forward.”

The developer responsible for the proposal, Calgem, bought the City Rd site in 1999 for $4.5 million and only last year applied to build an 80-storey tower on the site.

Calgem Pty Ltd could not be contacted by Southbank Local News.

If approved, the tower would incorporate more than 400 apartments and see the existing Eve nightclub and Urban Central backpackers demolished.

As well as height and setback concerns, planning officers raised issues in its report relating to the tower’s articulation as well as wind and traffic impacts.

Stephen Ballengee, a committee-member of Clarendon Towers, told councillors the building would directly impact the amenity of residents in the immediate precinct.

“The general scale and bulk of the building at 57 floors dwarfs any of the other existing buildings. It’s just out of all proportion with the character of other buildings in our immediate precinct,” Mr Ballengee said.

“The height and the setback is grossly out of compliance with the applicable design and development overlay.”

Southbank Residents Group president Tony Penna also spoke against the proposal, demanding that a full traffic analysis be carried out before any development was approved in whatever capacity.

“I essentially concur with everything Steven has said, Southbank Residents Group cannot support this application and I also concur with the council officers recommendations,” he said.

“We’re not opposing the development of the site but merely that it needs to be done in accordance with the guidelines.”

Melbourne City councillors were also expected to object to a 50-storey tower at 54-68 Kavanagh St in Southbank, however the matter was deferred because the developer allegedly wasn’t notified that the referral was being heard.

City of Melbourne councillors are expected to be unable to make a decision on this application because a majority of them received campaign funding from the developer Central Equity before the 2012 election.

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