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Council stands firm on new development

15 Jul 2014

By Sean Rogasch

The City of Melbourne (CoM) has stood firm on a new development in the Freshwater precinct and hopes the Planning Minister will listen to its concerns.

Singaporean company M & L owns the site and the development was designed by Metier. It’s at 21-35 Power St and 27-48 Freshwater Place.

The council objected to a new proposal after the Planning Minister asked for its consideration.

The Future Melbourne Committee meeting on July 1 included a passionate debate from councillors and speakers for and against the development.

Councillors who spoke were at pains to explain that height was not the issue with this development but, as a report prepared by council officers pointed out, setbacks and safety were the major concerns.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said he’d never before seen a report that described two design features as being unsafe.

“It is not appropriate simply to say we have a difference in interpretation around issues like safety. That’s clearly on the table from our officers and, like it or not, you have to meet their requirements to recommend to us that it’s at least safe,” Cr Doyle said.

“It’s not the height that I object to here. It’s what happens as the building approaches the footpath and that’s what our officers have clearly said before us and those challenges have not been met in this interpretation.”

Cr Stephan Mayne echoed the Lord Mayor and hoped the council’s message would resonate.

“It’s (the report) a very emphatic recommendation … I certainly hope the Minister takes our concerns very seriously, unlike last time, when we sent a delegates report to him on this site,” Cr Mayne said.

Speaking in favour of the design, M & L’s Sarah Phillipson said the $400 million investment into this site was the company’s most significant investment to date.

“We feel that the Southbank district is strategically suited to both the corporate and leisure market,” Ms Phillipson said.

“The site certainly presents some design challenges due to easements, setbacks, dense context and the current poor street condition of Power St. Previous decisions have treated Power St as the back door to Freshwater Place, but our premium hotel and residences will have a front door to Power St.”

“It will also provide a 24-hour public laneway connection to the balance of the Freshwater site,” Ms Phillipson added.

Freshwater Place owners’ corporation chairperson, Peter Renner argued the building wasn’t suitable for the site and also questioned the process of approvals.

“I urge the council not just to object to this development on the basis of the report, but to talk to the department about a better way, so that you can all sit down together and have a concerted professional view on what happens in Melbourne,” Mr Renner said.

“If this continues, we’re not talking about planning, we’re just talking about development,” he added.

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