Planned supermarket next to South Melbourne Market prompts concerns of “traffic chaos”

Planned supermarket next to South Melbourne Market prompts concerns of “traffic chaos”
Brendan Rees

A contentious proposal to build a supermarket as part of a massive commercial development next to the South Melbourne Market has been endorsed, despite a backlash from residents and businesses.

The City of Port Phillip gave the green light to amended plans which would see a 5368-square-metre super site bounded by Cecil, York, Northumberland, and Market streets developed across 15 parcels of land.

A permit was initially approved in 2019 by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for an eight-storey building, including offices, shops, and food outlets following an appeal by objectors.

But in amended plans presented to the council’s planning committee meeting on February 29, Melbourne-based developer GLG Management Pty Ltd proposed to add a supermarket, a commercial car park, an office floor expansion, and more retail shops on the ground floor, as well as increasing the building’s height to 10 storeys.

The supermarket would be located across the road from the iconic South Melbourne Market – with Woolworths, Coles and Aldi supermarkets also within just a stone’s throw away.

Under the amended plans, the property at 78 Cecil St contains a heritage hotel building, which  is proposed to be incorporated but adapted back to its historic use as a hotel.

The amended application also proposes to provide a range of public realm works to Cecil St, as well as within the Cecil and York streets’ nature reserves, including new seating areas.

But the fresh plans attracted 16 objections, including concerns that the changes would be “a transformation of the proposal”, and that a supermarket would have an adverse impact on the vitality of Clarendon St, along with non-compliance with the design and development overlay, impact on heritage, traffic impacts, car parking and the impact of loading on Northumberland St.

A council report noted that a consultation meeting was held on October 24 last year, which was attended by the Gateway Ward councillors, the applicant, objectors, and planning officers.

While the meeting resulted in “no formal changes” being made to the application, the applicant reviewed the proposed loading arrangement to the supermarket “which is now proposed to be changed so that loading vehicles would enter and exit the loading area in a forward direction”.

The report also said, “the massing of the building towards Market St protects the northern façade of the South Melbourne Market and adjoining public realm from overshadowing”.

Objecting to the plans was Jan Talacko, who has an office in Northumberland St. He said that while he supported development of the site, the plans were inappropriate and would cause “traffic chaos” around the market, among other issues.

“It’s inconceivable I think that the trucks which I think are 12-and-a-half metres long, will be able to neatly and efficiently enter Northumberland St and load the market, particularly if they’re prevented from doing so on market days,” he said in his address to the council meeting.

Samuel Hurst, who owns an office in Northumberland St, said he did “feel there’s an expectation from the community that the council also factors in common sense and also an eye to the future in their decision making”.

“If you go down and stand in Northumberland St and you try and imagine a stream of 12.5-metre trucks driving into Northumberland St without causing a whole lot of negative ramifications for the area in the street, I don’t think your common sense says yes to that.”

In response, the council’s Gateway Ward planning coordinator Scott Parkinson said the planning permit included conditions “for a loading management plan and it can operate during market hours”, which had to go through a planning process.

“There will be a planning compliance issued that are in breach of that planning permit,” he said.

Blair Parkinson of Woods Bagot architects said the development would add to their suite of “great city-defining projects”.

“We really do see it as a nexus between Melbourne city and with the historic South Melbourne and it is part of the expanding capital city growth,” he told the meeting.

Mr Parkinson said after revisiting the original permit, they went back to “square one and we’ve we put a strong focus on the ground plane and how this can really be part of that South Melbourne community”.

“And we do see a symbiotic relationship between our development and the market on the future direction of the market to really be something that will strengthen it.”

Gateway Ward councillor Marcus Pearl said the site in question was “pivotal for our community, and its development must enhance, not detract from, our community's fabric”.

But he added in reviewing the proposed amendments, he had aligned with the community's concerns saying the “proposed changes, including additional storeys and a new supermarket, bring to light issues that 'have not been sufficiently addressed,' particularly regarding the impact on local heritage and traffic”.

"Despite the strategic objectives to enhance South Melbourne's commercial and creative sectors, the community's apprehensions, particularly around 'the vitality of Clarendon St and traffic impacts,' cannot be overlooked,” he said.

"This decision reflects my commitment to ensuring that developments in our area meet and if possible exceed our standards for design, sustainability, and community benefit." •


Caption: An artist’s impression of the proposed development.

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