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What’s behind the lights?

Building boom brought into sharp focus for Montague residents

11 Nov 2020

Building boom brought into sharp focus for Montague residents Image

By Meg Hill

Residents of a Montague apartment building have complained about being encircled by construction sites without warning. They said incursions into their lives caused by the precinct’s construction boom were unacceptable.

Montague Towers, situated on top of a storage facility at the corner of Montague Street and Normanby Rd, is home to around 50 residents. It is surrounded by three live construction sites – the R Iconic, the Normanby and the Oakwood.

Residents told Southbank News construction was happening six days a week from 6am and causing their building to shake. They said trucks regularly blocked driveways and road access, and that the high concentration of workers in the area meant carparking was often entirely occupied.

“I’ve been here about 21 months now and when I moved here there was nothing in my conveyancer’s report about the volume of construction that was about to commence in this immediate vicinity,” said Montague Towers resident Helen Robertson.

“They’re working six days a week from 6am and we don’t know if they have permits for that because no one will tell us.”

“There’re tremours in the building, there’s traffic chaos that the tradespeople are causing by parking in all the side streets blocking our driveways.”

“This is going to go on for four or five years and when we started asking the [City of Port Phillip] council questions around what our rights are, they basically have no response – they say the construction has Ministerial approval, so it has nothing to do with them.”

Ms Robertson said when she wrote to the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne’s office, she was redirected back to the City of Port Phillip.

Southbank News has seen photos of cracks in one resident’s apartment, which the residents believe may have been caused by the construction activity.

The Montague Towers building is protected by a heritage overlay. It was formerly the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co building.

Another resident, Brian Kelly, said he was a Vietnam War veteran and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he said was triggered by the construction vibrations.

“It’s just ridiculous having to put up when you want a peaceful life and you have this going on every day and nobody cares about it,” he said.

Montague Community Alliance (MCA) convenor Trisha Avery said the area surrounding Montague Towers had become the newest “hot spot” for construction-related issues this year.

“The part of Montague that is east of Normanby Rd has had challenges for the past couple of years but this part, which is west, has only just started to develop,” she said.

“These kinds of problems for residents will occur at various pockets around Montague all the time – last year it was the Thistlethwaite and Ferrars [streets] area; previously it had been Gladstone St; now the hot spot has moved on to Montague St.”

As reported in the previous edition of Southbank News, the Montague precinct is entering a construction boom with dozens of big projects moving through the planning and construction process.

Ms Avery said this made a precinct-wide solution imperative. The MCA has been seeking “neighbourhood agreements” with developers to address the problems since 2013, but with only partial success.

“We feel strongly it has to be a precinct-wide solution, not just within the hot spots, and the solution really needs to be this neighbourhood agreement so that we always find a way of working with the developers or the builders that recognises the impact on the residents and works with them in a more amenity-minded way,” she said.

“It’s essentially that they don’t concrete-pour on Saturdays, they provide us with a schedule of work a week or two ahead so people affected can make other arrangements, they provide us with the name of a contact, they don’t park in resident parking zones or take away resident parking.”

Ms Avery said in return the MCA would promise not to stop builders from working, would not complain unduly, and would act as a conduit to ensure that they are treated respectfully by the rest of the community.

The City of Port Phillip CEO Peter Smith told Southbank News the council did support the idea of neighbourhood agreements but did not have an active role to play in them. He also said council would be meeting with the residents in coming weeks.

“While we support neighbourhood agreements, we do not have a role in preparing or enforcing these agreements. We encourage construction companies to provide newsletters and email updates detailing the construction process, and include notification of potential noise-intensive works to nearby residents and businesses,” he said.

“Prior to any major construction commencing in Port Phillip, we work closely with construction companies and council stakeholders to clarify council’s local laws, manage permitting expectations and encourage relationship building with nearby residents, businesses and other developers.”

“To ensure compliance throughout the development, the Local Laws Officer for the area proactively patrols these sites.”

The Fishermans Bend Development Board will also attend the meeting with council officers and residents. The board’s chair Meredith Sussex said it was important to work with developers to reduce disruption.

“Fishermans Bend was designated as an urban growth area and rezoned for new development in 2012,” she said.

“A lot of planning has happened since then and there has also been a lot of consultation about those plans. Development is now really taking off, particularly in Montague.”

“We know that construction can cause disruption for existing residents, and it is important that we work with developers to reduce that as much as possible,” Ms Sussex said.

“Development approvals in Fishermans Bend are decided by either the Minister for Planning or by the local council. Most construction related issues are managed through local laws which are the responsibility of the local council.” •

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