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Same old story for Southbank

06 Oct 2016

Same old story for Southbank Image

City of Melbourne councillors were once again unable to have their say on two separate Southbank planning applications last month because too many of them had accepted donations from the developer.

At both the September 6 and September 20 Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meetings, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and councillors Ken Ong, Susan Riley, Arron Wood, Beverley Pinder-Mortimer and Kevin Louey all declared a conflict of interest having each accepted donations from developer Central Equity.

While it is far from the first time that the prominent Southbank developer has caused a quorum to be lost, it marks two occasions in a month where Southbank was once again left without a voice on council.

And while council’s planning officers supported Central Equity’s September 6 proposal for 268-274 City Rd, its September 20 application was considered to be far more controversial.

Council officers slammed the developer’s $200 million proposal for a 50-storey tower at 71-87 City Rd which, if approved by the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne, would compromise 592 dwellings.

One of the four sites included in the proposal is a three-storey heritage building, which was constructed in 1890 and the developer has sought to incorporate the building into the podium.

Planning officers said in their report that the proposal represented an overdevelopment of the site because of height and reduced setbacks.

However, planning officers endorsed Central Equity’s $120 million proposal for a 55-storey tower at 268-274 City Rd, which went before council on September 6.

One of the three sites included in the proposal is the heritage building at 272 City Rd, which is currently home to the Fabrique nightclub.

The developer has proposed retaining the facade of the building, while demolishing the surrounding two buildings to make way for a 187-metre tower comprising 475 dwellings.

Current laws in Victoria, as stated under section 62 of the Local Government Act 1989, only require councillors to declare donations 30 days after an election.

Councillors Stephen Mayne and Jackie Watts have lead a crusade in recent months for the City of Melbourne to take a lead in transparently declaring all electoral donations prior to and following the October 22 election.

Councillors unanimously supported a motion moved by Cr Mayne at the September 20 FMC meeting, which will see all councillors and candidates voluntarily declare all donations ($500 or more) on an online register hosted on The Age’s website.

The register will be published initially, and then updated during the election campaign. It will be updated a final time after the election is over.

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