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Southbank has its say on C270

08 Sep 2016

Southbank has its say on C270 Image

Major Southbank community stakeholders made submissions to the State Government’s appointed panel on proposed changes to planning controls for the central city last month.

With the new guidelines due to be formally legislated in September, the Melbourne Planning Scheme Amendment C270 panel sat from July 12 until the end of August to consult with the community on the proposed amendments.

The new C270 planning controls, outlined in the Central City Built Form Review, have proposed changes to areas such as plot-ratio, setbacks, overshadowing and developer contributions for developments in the CBD and Southbank.

Appearing before the panel on August 24, Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) president Tony Penna made a submission on behalf of the association, while renowned town planning expert and 10 Consulting Group director Robert Milner presented on behalf of the Southbank Owners’ Corporation Network.

Freshwater Place owners’ corporation (OC) chair Peter Renner also provided a written submission on behalf of owners.

The panel, which consisted of planning, architectural and legal experts Brett Davis (chair), Jenny Moles, Katherine Navarro and Jim Holdsworth, first heard from Mr Penna who provided an insight into the experience of local residents.  

He said while SRA welcomed the changes being proposed through C270, he said residents still had “questions over the true desire” of the new controls.

Taking the panel on “a walk through Southbank”, Mr Penna stated that density was occurring at the cost of liveability.

“It’s important that you understand the experience of the residents that are trying to live in Southbank,” he said.  

“If you’re not in the river environs then you are going to feel like you are in a dark, cold, barren wasteland of cement and asphalt.”

“There is very little street level activation and, moreover, through the current experience at street level there is very little or no desire for people to want to be on the street.”

Mr Penna said he held concerns as to whether the new controls would adequately address the future needs of residents.

One of the more controversial changes being put forward is the government’s floor area “uplift” proposal under which developers can exchange extra area in return for providing “public benefit”.

While some of the optional public benefits include open space and affordable housing, questions have been raised over other “benefits” such as commercial office space and aesthetical tower design.

While welcoming C270’s proposition to enforce mandatory height controls in special areas, Mr Penna said Southbank’s low-rise community was currently fighting against poor planning.

“It is imperative that this panel pays particular attention to the Sturt St spine and that greater certainty with height controls is necessary. Without clarity, it is undermining the vision for the precinct,” he said.  

“The most recent example is an application for a 135m development on Sturt St, which we are hopeful the minister will reject.”

“But of course, even if he does reject it, then there are the concerns that it may end up at a VCAT compulsory conference where some other outcome is decided on as we’ve just experienced with 250 Sturt St.”

Speaking on behalf of 16 Southbank owners’ corporations, Robert Milner told the panel that he felt “troubled by the key message” of C270, stating that the vision and controls didn’t tie up together.

He said the floor space to public benefit proposal was a “great idea poorly executed” and suggested that panelists recommend a plan based on what community infrastructure was actually needed rather giving the option to developers.

Mr Milner also raised questions over the proposed changes to setback protocols as well as the government’s desire to enforce strict height controls.

“What is the point of a height limit other than a trigger for a permit? It’s treated for the most part as an administrative tool,” he said.  “Nominate a height and stick to it otherwise don’t have it at all.”

Permanent controls are due to be implemented into the Melbourne Planning Scheme this month.

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