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What’s behind the lights?

Residents unite to stop high-rise

11 Aug 2016

Residents unite to stop high-rise Image

By Sean Car

Locals from Southbank’s low-rise community are voicing their outrage over a proposal to build a 21-storey tower at 135 Sturt St.

Residents from neighbouring low-rise apartments on Dodds St have expressed strong opposition to architecture practice Hayball Pty Ltd’s proposal to redevelop its Sturt St offices into a high-rise complex.

In what was originally a 42-level proposal, Hayball is now proposing a building at half the height, which would comprise 240 dwellings, 199 parking spaces, 177 bicycle spaces and ground floor retail space.

However, at 67-metres, the building would comfortably exceed the area’s 40-metre discretionary height limit and residents argue that the proposal is out of character in what is a low-rise community.

Southbank Local News understands that the developer has compromised height but wants to build to the boundary and would be given more leeway to do so under previous planning rules.

The land in question takes in Hayball’s offices as well as the current headquarters of Cystic Fibrosis Victoria, which fronts onto Dodds St. A mandatory requirement is in place on Dodds St, which prevents development exceeding 14-metres, within 30-metres from the street frontage.

The application was submitted prior to the introduction of Mr Wynne’s C262 interim planning controls and will, therefore, be assessed under the old rules.

At 31,000 sqm, the final decision ultimately rests with Planning Minister Richard Wynne.

The City of Melbourne had scheduled to consider the application at its Future Melbourne Committee meeting on August 16, but informed residents on August 8 that it would now be deferred until November.

The deferral is welcome news to residents who are busy rallying local support to prevent the development from going ahead and now have more time to fully discuss the issue with the community.

Dodds St resident Alan Potter said the proposal was a gross overdevelopment and visually out of character with the area.  

“This is a low-rise precinct and this building is completely out of character for the area,” he said. “You only have to look at the artist impression of the building to see what an eyesore it is.”

Mr Potter said residents also held concerns about overshadowing, loss of privacy and the pressure the proposal would create for on-street car parking and traffic in the area.

Mr Potter’s neighbour Laura and her mother Eileen have initiated a Facebook page titled Save Dodds Street in an effort to encourage locals to object to the proposal through council and local member Martin Foley.

“The low-rise apartment buildings along Dodds St give the area a special charm and character,” Laura said. “The proposed high-rise tower of glass will overwhelm the dynamic creative arts hub and the quiet residential street.”

“We urge all local residents to reflect on the considerable effects of this development and send in objection letters to council and relevant local politicians.”

Speaking on behalf of 174 lots at Southbank Royale, owners’ corporation (OC) chair Steve Miller said residents were concerned by the lack of community consultation.

“Prior council correspondence on plans for the Arts Precinct has strongly supported low-rise development, which has the support of current owners and residents,” he said.

“A development of this scale places pressure on traffic and the proposal does not provide sufficient parking for the proposed number of apartments and on-street parking in the area has been scarce for many years.”

The City of Melbourne’s deputy chair of planning, Cr Rohan Leppert, said he was unable to formally comment on the application until it went before council.

Hayball also declined the opportunity to comment until after council had considered the proposal.

Cystic Fibrosis Victoria (CFV) CEO Karin Knoester said it had held discussions with Hayball but any firm decisions about the future relocation of its offices were still “some way off”.

In the past, the Southbank Residents Group was successful in lobbying governments to introduce a number of mandatory height controls for large parts of Southbank’s low-rise area.

However, as a main street, frontage height controls along Sturt St are discretionary and the area is still subject to “Capital City” zoning.

Southbank Residents Association (SRA) president Tony Penna said he had been corresponding directly with local residents affected by the development.

He said he hoped council had learned its lesson from its lack of communication over developer Hudson Conway’s recent VCAT victory for a 16-storey development at nearby 250 Sturt St.

“The character of this Southbank precinct needs to be preserved, particularly when it comes to height controls,” he said.

“After the sneaky dealings with 250 Sturt St, I am somewhat fearful this developer might also try to sneak a development through council without the residents knowing what is being proposed exactly.”

“As a result, we need to keep a close eye on the process with the application for 135 Sturt St and the community needs to ensure its voice is heard this time.”

“Let’s hope council has learned a valuable lesson from the bungled process for 250 Sturt St and recognises that residents need to be heard.”

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