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Residents fight Crown approval

09 Mar 2017

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By Sean Car

The Southbank community, led by the Freshwater Place Owner’s Corporation (OC), is demanding that the State Government’s approval of Crown’s 90-storey tower be reviewed under the normal planning process.

The OCs of neighbouring Freshwater Place and Prima Pearl, along with the Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) and Southbank OC Network (SOCN) have expressed their outrage over the approval.

The joint project for One Queensbridge St between Crown and Schiavello Group was exempted from the normal planning process with Premier Daniel Andrews issuing a press release stating that it was of “true state significance”.

Having had multiple applications knocked back by consecutive governments, the developers gained approval via an amendment (C310) to the Melbourne Planning Scheme.

While Freshwater Place OC chairman Peter Renner stressed he was not against the development, he said a hotel apartment building did not qualify as state significant.  

“It’s absolute folly and a joke,” he said. “It’s just done in a way and means of avoiding the normal planning process.”

“This term is used for public property we’re not talking about apartment buildings and hotels. If we were, everyone that’s built in Melbourne should just go through on the basis of state significance.”

The Freshwater Place OC has pleaded with the developers over a number of years to respect the wishes of its future neighbours for minimum setbacks, tower separation, privacy and access to sunlight. The OC has also commissioned an independent report, which illustrates that the tower will also overshadow the Shrine of Remembrance.

Approved at 323-metres, One Queensbridge will become Australia’s tallest tower and include 708 apartments and feature a new 6-star hotel comprising 388 rooms.

The controversial sky-bridge link over Queensbridge St has also been approved as part of the development. In opposition, local member for Albert Park Martin Foley had referred to it as “a bridge too far”.

His colleague, Minister for Planning Richard Wynne spruiked the approval as a “jobs announcement”, which he claimed would deliver 4000 jobs, $21 billion in economic benefits to the state and $100 million as part of a ‘community benefits package’.

Crown will provide $25 million to upgrade Queensbridge Square, $15 million for the Sandridge Rail Bridge and $25 million for landscaping and public realm works along Queensbridge St, Southbank Promenade and Southbank Boulevard.

Not included in the amendment nor the government’s press release was $35 million for a public sky deck on the building’s top floor and residents have questioned the benefit to the community.

And with a plot ratio of 57:1, the development far exceeds the planning minister’s new C270 planning controls approved in December, which stipulates a maximum plot-ratio of 18:1.

Under C270, developer contributions are calculated under a floor area uplift scheme defined by plot ratio. 57:1 would suggest that the required uplift would far exceed $100 million, which Peter Renner described as a “free kick” for Crown.

SRA president Tony Penna said he was “absolutely disgusted” by the secrecy of the State Government.

“There is a mechanism for the community and the City of Melbourne to have a say for applications where the Minister is the responsible authority,” he said. “We were robbed of this opportunity through this surprise announcement.”

“Were they afraid of what feedback us stakeholders might have offered? The so-called community benefit trade-offs will benefit only one player in our community and that is Crown.”

With the application still required to pass through the Legislative Council in State Parliament, Mr Renner told Southbank Local News he had met with opposition planning minister David Davis to encourage his party to reject the amendment.

With Labor only holding 14 seats in the upper house of 40, there are enough non-government numbers to dismiss the application and send it to a planning tribunal for review.

Mr Renner said the Freshwater OC was considering all options to fight the proposal, including legal avenues.

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