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A six pack of significant planning decisions

Recent weeks have yielded some significant planning outcomes for a host of inner city projects.

Whilst 447 Collins Street has justifiably garnered the lion's share of media attention, other projects of note such as 248 Sturt Street have also received the green light. Of the six projects outlined three have a planning permit in place with 447 Collins Street a fait accompli, whilst another has faltered at VCAT and another on tenterhooks following City of Melbourne's dissatisfaction.

An overview of each project is provided below:

248 Sturt Street, Southbank

Southbank success. Planning image: Elenberg Fraser

The sleek 248 Sturt Street won approval last month, two years after being submitted. Initially rejected by Planning Minister Richard Wynne, the project has since been granted a permit via VCAT.

Seen above in its initial version is the Elenberg Fraser-designed building which at 123 metres could accommodate in excess of 300 dwellings for long time Melbourne developer Hudson Conway. Finishes for the tower include stainless steel, silver and ceramic frit glazing along with perforated mesh.

9-27 Downie Street, Melbourne

Various incarnations of 9-27 Downie Street. Planning image: Peddle Thorp

After receiving two 'haircuts' in which the height of 9-27 Downie Street was reduced by approximately one third to 106 metres, the tower has received approval during February. Now at 33 levels (seen above right), the reshaped Peddle Thorp creation is approved to include 100 x 1 bedroom, 173 x 2 bedroom and 2 x 3 bedroom apartments.

66 car parking spaces, two retail tenancies and various amenities are included within the project which is under the control of development entity Einwood Pty Ltd.

140 King Street, Melbourne

Street level perspectives. Planning image: ROTHELOWMAN

Whilst not a final decision, City of Melbourne have indicated their displeasure with Besgate's 140-146 King Street. The slim 187 metre tower designed by RotheLowman has undergone slight design refinements since appearing on Urban Melbourne during 2015.

With 271 apartments included, the tower has fallen foul of City of Melbourne planners with key issues cited including excessive height and inadequate setbacks, the project's impact on the public realm, wind impacts and internal amenity concerns.

The Planning Minister will have the final say as to whether or not the project receives the green light.

447 Collins Street, Melbourne

Third time's a charm. Image: Cbus Property

You may well have been on the moon if not aware of the compromised design outcome between Victoria's Planning Minister and Cbus Property. A degree of discretion was exercised by Minister Wynne in effectively approving the project which will bring a heightened level of design merit and public benefit to Collins Street.

It's been reported the project will commence during September which in all actuality involves demolition of the remainder of the existing structure before any ground works can begin in earnest.

109-111 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

The site in question. Image: Google Maps

AFR reported last week that Brady Group's intentions of creating a second Brady Hotel-badged tower have been rejected by VCAT. Following in the footsteps of 30 Little Latrobe Street, the proposed building at 109-111 Little Lonsdale Street was to have been 21 storeys and dedicated solely toward hotel use.

Lodged with City of Melbourne during March 2015 the proposal was initially rejected by Council during October 2015 and subsequently once more at the hands of VCAT.

The rejection raises the prospect of Brady Group retaining a hotel component within 380 Lonsdale Street, an approved large-scale project in which Brady recently relieved Singaporean developer Hiap Hoe of their half share in order to gain full control of the site.

65-71 Haig Street, Southbank

Southbank continues to expand. Planning image: Fender Katsalidis

March also saw the approval of Sunvale Development's Southbank residential tower, with the initial version seen above.

Down from initially loftier intentions, the approved Fender Katsalidis scheme will be capped at 125 metres and will further fill Haig Street which hes been subject to measured apartment development over the past decade.

65-71 Haig Street's journey through planning spanned near on 17 months.

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7 comments

3000's picture

My understanding was that 248 Sturt got knocked back for having terrible apartment designs. Good to know you can still build poor quality so long as you kick up a fuss at VCAT

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Adam Ford's picture

Yes. It's A REALLY GREAT thing for democracy and the prospects of doing anything proactive within the public policy realm, when an unlelected body can overrule the elected and representative Minister. Strurt street also significanlty violated the discretionary height limit.

There should be no higher planning authority than the Minister, nor a quorate decision of any democratically constituted Council. Full stop. Because democracy.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

^ I do agree Adam, but then couldnt you then say that regular law courts shouldn't be higher than the current elected government?

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Bilby's picture

Also, it is the government who sets the ground rules and reference planning decisions and documentation for VCAT.

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theboynoodle's picture

^ I do agree Adam, but then couldnt you then say that regular law courts shouldn't be higher than the current elected government?

In both cases it's not about the institutions, it's about the law and whether it is properly applied.

The elected government can set the law, and where it does so that law, so long as it is properly enacted, is the highest authority.

However, a decision by an elected official is not law - which is why other bodies can be empowered to step in an overrule those decisions. So (as Bilby is, I think, alluding to) it's entirely democratic for a tribunal to override a minister when operating within the parameters that elected governments have set it.

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Bilby's picture

Yep. As much as I believe VCAT's decisions often seem odd when balanced against the planning priorities they have to weigh up ... to say the least.

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johnproctor's picture

One only needs to look at planning over the last 5 years and two planning ministers to see the influence the Minister for Planning wields both in the decisions they directly make, the planning rules they implement and the way those rules are considered by VCAT.

While some here may be unhappy with the way VCAT interprets the planning scheme they are experts in the field - I would expect 248 Sturt was probably heard by 2 members perhaps a planner and a lawyer. The planning scheme (even Wynne's planning scheme) does allow significant discretion. Often advocates (even educated ones) and laymen misinterpret discretion as a minimum requirement.

Taking heritage as an example all a heritage overlay requires is that heritage is considered as part of the application - it doesn't guarantee building/facade retention (unless the Council has put in a particularly strictly worded overlay) - Often the Heritage overlay is used to bring in a demolition requirement to the scheme (if you have no heritage overlay and are outside the CBD you can generally demolish buildings without planning consent). Technically no heritage overlay means any arguments based on heritage are completely irrelevant. The "consideration" of heritage also does not mean it is the most important consideration only another one of the many factors that must be weighed up in making a decision.

When I have attended VCAT in the past this is a point often overlooked by RAG's. They spend their time and money making emotional arguments about 'this beautiful heritage house being demolished' or 'that tree being removed' or 'the commercial use of the building' when their is no heritage overlay, or no significant tree designation or the use is as of right... The panel member has stated in their opening remarks 'these are the matters at hand - x,y,z' and heritage/trees/use or whatever are not amongst them.

What I'm saying is - don't shoot the messenger. More often than anything I blame Council's for not doing more to implement appropriate or strict enough heritage controls (if that is the example). In any situation where controls are to be put in place the onus is on Council's to have an honest conversation about what can and cannot be achieved - normally that is the issue of height. Yarra Council is a shocker - they shy away from putting in any controls because they believe their residents are very anti-iheight and they know the state government would require some reasonable redevelopment opportunities through the area. As a result there are generally no controls in the scheme on height for Council's MAC's but a lot of structure plans with no standing in the scheme on Council's websites. A very confusing situation for laymen residents and a reasonably easy situation for developers to pick gaps in to get taller developments approved.

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