Car-stacker inferno fears

City residents fear the collapse of a neighbouring proposed high-rise development if it is allowed to proceed because it will be built on the city’s biggest car-stacking system.

Residents at 99 Spring St point out that the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) earlier this year issued a safety guideline recommending banning LPG-fuelled vehicles from Automated Vehicle Parking Systems (AVPS).

“But there’s no way of stopping anyone parking any type of car in these systems – including LPG fuelled,” said owners corporation member George Beaumont.

The residents have been battling the construction of a Golden Age-owned tower at 85 Spring St.

At least the first five levels of the Little-Collins St side of the tower houses the proposed giant AVPS. Mr Beaumont said it was not unrealistic to imagine an inferno within the AVPS damaging the structural integrity of the proposed 39-level tower.

“The whole thing could collapse on our building,” he said.

Mr Beaumont said there were similarities between the emerging AVPS issue and the non-compliant flammable cladding problem facing the nation.

He said, because the systems were not illegal, there was no planning reason to refuse a permit.  Similarly, because they are not referenced in the building code, there was no reason not to issue a building permit.

“The Planning Ministry is telling us that safety is not a planning issue,” he said.

An MFB spokesperson said: “To date, MFB has not responded to any fires involving Automated Vehicle Parking Systems.”

“However, both MFB and manufacturing companies recommend that alternative fuel vehicles do not use these facilities as, in the event of a fire, these fuels may increase the severity. Designers should explore possible ways in which this restriction can be enforced, monitored and managed throughout the life of the building.”

Mr Beaumont said designers should not be responsible for a building's safety.

A spokesperson for Planning Minister Richard Wynne said: “All buildings in Victoria are constructed to national standards, including fire safety regulations. It’s the Government’s expectation that all approved permits adhere to those standards.”

Mr Beaumont said: "The Planning and Environment Act requires responsible authorities, in this case Mr Wynne, to provide a safe environment. Lack of legislation on AVPSs must put the responsibility on Minister Wynne."

When the development first came before the City of Melbourne in September, 2014, the council slammed it as a over-development.

A report to councillors said:  “The proposed development does not respond appropriately to relevant provisions of the Planning Scheme, including Clause 22.01 as well as provisions relating to heritage matters. This is largely as a result of inadequate setbacks from all boundaries and excessive height. This leads to the conclusion that the proposal represents an over-development of the site.”

“The application also raises traffic concerns in relation to matters including the potential for conflict between entering and exiting vehicles as well as the impact on access to the adjoining building at 27 Little Collins St.”

“The changes to the development required in order to render it consistent with requirements of the Melbourne Planning Scheme are so significant that they cannot be addressed by conditions.”

The Planning Minister refused a permit, but permission for a lower development was won by consent in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).  Earlier this year Golden Age bought the development from Grocon and is currently negotiating further changes with the Ministry for Planning.

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