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Southbank let down by council once again

14 May 2015

Southbank let down by council once again Image

City of Melbourne councillors were once again unable to consider a Southbank planning application this month because too many of them had received election campaign contributions from the developer.

On May 5, the Future Melbourne Committee was left without a quorum and was, therefore, unable to consider a Kavanagh St planning application relating to developer Central Equity.

It is the second time in six months where council was left without a quorum, following the Future Melbourne Committee meeting on November 11 last year, when councillors walked out on a Central Equity proposal at 199 City Rd.

The Kavanagh St application had been deferred at a meeting on February 3 because the applicant had not been notified of the meeting date by the City of Melbourne.

Five of the nine sitting councillors declaring a conflict were Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, Cr Ken Ong, Cr Susan Riley, Cr Beverley Pinder-Mortimer and Cr Arron Wood.

Cr Kevin Louey, who was absent on the night, was also forced to declare a conflict at November’s council meeting.

Council had been expected to vote with the recommendation of its planning officers, which was to oppose the application based on the development’s height and lack of setback.

At 160m, the 50-storey development would exceed the area’s 100m discretionary height limit.

However, due to the fact there was no quorum, City of Melbourne Planning Director Geoff Lawler stated that the recommendation that was before the committee would be enacted by administration under existing delegated powers.

Southbank Residents’ Group President Tony Penna described council’s conduct on the matter as “disgraceful.”

“Those councillors who had to declare a conflict of interest at the Future Melbourne Committee meeting and leave the room should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.

“So the quorum was lost, which means council never actually got to discuss and debate the proposal.”

“Councillors are there to represent the community and not abandon us over absolutely critical decisions in the planning of our neighbourhood. Disgraceful.”

Councillor Rohan Leppert, one of only four councillors left sitting at the meeting, said Southbank residents had every right to feel hard done by.

“The conflicted councillors haven’t done anything wrong in law, but we’ve lost quorum so many times now that it’s clearly the law that has to change,” he said.

“With the lack of notice and objection rights in the Capital City zone, public Council meetings are often the only opportunity residents have to have their say, so Southbank residents should rightly feel ripped off that decisions aren’t being made by their elected representatives in public.”

“It’s way past time we banned developer donations to State and Local election candidates in Victoria. If New South Wales can do it, we can too.”

Of the four affected councillors from November’s ruling, Cr Susan Riley had told Southbank Local News that councillors never anticipated the consequences of accepting donations.

“I think at the time we were, I won’t say misinformed, but I think we were unaware of the consequences of the team taking donations,” Cr Riley said.

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