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Extra tower height approved despite local dissent

Extra tower height approved despite local dissent

By David Schout

A proposed 24-storey Southbank apartment tower has had an extra four levels approved by the City of Melbourne despite receiving a high number of objections.

The $43m development on the corner of Coventry and Dodds streets, initially approved as a 20-storey building in 2018, was given the green light to add an additional 13 metres by councillors last month.

This was despite the application receiving 66 objections, primarily related to the tower’s overall height, overshadowing and its appropriateness in the local area.

However, councillors argued at the July 20 Future Melbourne Committee meeting that their hands were tied because of a previous precedent set by the state government.

The area has a “discretionary” height limit of 60 metres, and two nearby towers — Kings Domain and The Evermore — were approved beyond that figure.

The council’s deputy planning chair Cr Rohan Leppert said while he understood the concerns of objectors, there was no grounds to deny the permit.

“When the [Planning] Minister, on the advice of the department, approves those towers at a set height, 72 metres, then that becomes the height at which we all have to play on an equitable playing field,” he said.

“So, I completely sympathise with objectors … I merely make the point that the design objectives in the overlay essentially are deemed to be met by a 72-metre tall building because that is the precedent that has been set. As ever, planning controls in Southbank are very, very difficult to take on face value because those discretionary controls are very hard to interpret. So, my sympathies with the objectors, but a permit should issue.”

The council’s planning chair Cr Nicholas Reece said while the application to amend the planning permit had attracted “quite a high level of local community interest”, the process was clear.

“The precedent there and the height limit set is pretty clear, meaning that if this was to be contested then I think it would be pretty clear that the discretionary height that’s been sought here of 73 metres would be supported,” he said.

Representing the applicant, SJB Planning senior associate Adam Haines said the proposal was “clearly supported by the Melbourne Planning Scheme” and was a timely project that would deliver a positive outcome for the local area.

“The importance of facilitating new development under the current economic and societal conditions is vitally important, particularly for proposals which demonstrate such a high level of compliance with the requirements of the planning scheme,” Mr Haines wrote.

“Our client is not a land investor and/or a speculator. They are a deliverer of projects (as is evidenced from a current project only two blocks to the south at 41-49 Bank St) and it remains their absolute and underlying intention to act upon and deliver this development proposal – with these design changes resulting from a genuine exercise of design refinement and design improvement ahead of delivering this project.”

The total number of apartments in the project would increase from 143 to 174 •

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