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Tram shame

Planning Minister stands firm on overshadowing

08 Apr 2016

Planning Minister stands firm on overshadowing Image

By Sean Car

In a decision that stunned many, Planning Minister Richard Wynne knocked back a $1 billion proposal for 447 Collins St in the CBD last month, ruling that it would have “overshadowed the south bank of the Yarra River”.

On April 5, Minister Wynne announced that a negotiated outcome had been reached with developer Cbus for a development 21.6 metres shorter than the 164-metre proposal he rejected in March.

Cbus will now submit amended plans, which do not breach overshadowing prohibitions, before a building permit is granted.

Mr Wynne said amenity shouldn’t be sacrificed for new developments and that the Government had helped deliver an outcome that contributed to the city while protecting the Yarra River.

“This project takes in an entire city block and we have taken the time to make sure we provide for a future landmark," he said.

While a negotiated outcome has now been reached, Mr Wynne’s decision left City of Melbourne councillors scathing last month, after they unanimously gave their approval to “minimalised overshadowing” last year in exchange for 2000 sqm of public space.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle came out publicly last month slamming the decision, while the City of Melbourne’s chair of planning Cr Ken Ong said “it sent a bad message to investment in our city”.

It marked the second time Cbus had plans rejected for the site after former planning minister Matthew Guy refused its original proposal in 2014 for a 300-metre tower that would have overshadowed Queensbridge Square.

After returning with plans for an eye-catching dual 47-storey tower, many had expected it to be a case of second time lucky for the developer, with its shorter proposal casting a shadow that would have just reached Southbank.

While the Melbourne Planning Scheme prohibits development casting a shadow over both the north and south banks between 11am and 2pm, councillors saw the proposal as a positive investment for a prominent city block.

Answering to the Lord Mayor’s claims that the site had now become a planning political pawn, Mr Wynne told ABC Radio last month that the reasoning for rejection was simple.

“It’s a building that was proposed at 164 metres which, in fact, overshadowed the south bank of the Yarra River,” he said.

“It’s in breach of the council’s own planning controls so if the Lord Mayor is not prepared to stand by his own planning controls I will.”

However, while the development was undoubtedly in breach of the north bank provisions, questions were raised regarding the minister’s defiance that it would have overshadowed Southbank between the stipulated hours.

In their report last year, council planning officers had determined that the shadow would have only touched the edge of the south bank at the 2pm cutoff, which was ruled as not breaching the Southbank prohibitions.

When contacted by Southbank Local News, the planning minister confirmed that the shadow would have only skimmed Southbank.

“We’re looking at an entire city block and a proposal, which would cast a shadow on the Northbank while skimming the Southbank,” he said.

“I have been unequivocal from the beginning of my time as Planning Minister that I will protect the Yarra River from shadowing.”

And, while the development would have been one of several others that already cast a shadow of the north bank, Mr Wynne said he didn’t believe a precedent should be set.

The decision frustrated Cr Ken Ong, who argued that the overshadowing prohibition was only “discretionary”.

“The proposal was judged against the original Melbourne Planning Scheme and it doesn’t overshadow Southbank,” he said.

“The new application had minimalised shadowing and we don’t just look at the height but how it will link people, movement and open space. The site had been misused for years and we thought this was a much better outcome.”

Since Mr Wynne introduced amendment C262 last year, which implemented new interim planning controls, Cr Ong stated that the decision marked the first time council had been kept out of the planning process.

“A positive aspect of C262 was the agreement between council and the State Government to correspond more closely, which has been the case until now,” he said.

“The minister has reached a point where he’s decided he can make a decision irrespective of what the City of Melbourne is recommending.”

“All I heard from my correspondence from the department was that it was likely to be rejected. I’m disappointed that this is the outcome as the department never came back to council about what could be done.”

While council was left outraged, Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna applauded the minister’s decision.

“From the beginning, we have fought hard to get this development to conform to the planning scheme to ensure the riverbank amenity is protected,” he said.

“It appears developers just don’t seem to care and expect that special consideration will be a given.”

“This sends a strong message to developers to ensure they do their due-diligence before purchasing development sites to ensure they are able to turn a profit based on the planning scheme and not ask for special consideration.”

Cbus was contacted by Southbank Local News for comment but did not respond.

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