“Chainsaw massacre”: residents condemn Vic Market tree removal

Tree Removal at Queen Victoria Market
Brendan Rees

Residents are up in arms over early works that have begun to remove a large roundabout with trees next to Queen Victoria Market as part of a plan to “unlock” a proposed $1.7 billion high-rise tower development.

The City of Melbourne has moved ahead in its plans to dig up the roundabout at Franklin and Queen streets as part of a transforming Franklin St project, with its first stage removing the roundabout and realigning Franklin St between Queen and William streets, which is expected to be completed by the middle of the year.   

But residents, who have long advocated to save the roundabout, which is a familiar landmark with its greenery and mature trees, expressed their angst and sadness after trees were cut down in what was labelled a “chainsaw massacre”.

“It’s devastating in terms of the greenery,” long-term resident Bob Evans said, noting he witnessed crews cut down at least six trees, believed to have been planted in the 1990s.

“It happened the very morning after two of us had presented to council [February 20 meeting] on the issue of maintaining the roundabout. We’ve lost an urban forest, and it will be replaced by a concrete jungle.”

The Franklin St project will create new open spaces, reducing traffic lanes, and new pedestrian crossings, with Lord Mayor Sally Capp saying it will also “pave the way” for a proposed new precinct at the southern end of the market.

The southern precinct development, which is a council partnership with developer Lendlease, includes a 49-level tower for student accommodation, a 46-level residential apartment block, a 28-level office building, and a public square to be known as Gurrowa Place.


Residents are angry after the council moved ahead to cut down trees at the Queen St and Franklin St roundabout. Photo: Hanna Komissarova.


But residents are also concerned that the proposed project would “dramatically affect” their neighbourhood amenity and “significantly impede vehicle access, causing traffic chaos”.

In a statement, the council said that to deliver a new public open space and wider footpaths under the Franklin St transformation project, some trees would be removed.

“However, there will be a significant net gain in canopy cover along Franklin St through new tree planting,” it said.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the council was currently making adjustments to improve traffic flow and deliver 1250 square metres of much-needed public open space, including a new park while increasing the canopy cover along Franklin St by around 40 per cent.


Council endorses Southern Precinct Development Plan

The City of Melbourne endorsed the Southern Precinct Development Plan at its Future Melbourne Committee meeting on February 20, after it was referred to the council for comment.

The development plan is a strategic planning framework separate to the three planning permit applications that relate to the precinct.

However, the council also endorsed a permit application for early works including the excavation and construction of a retention system for a multi-level basement for two of the proposed towers, and the partial demolition and dismantling of the canopy to the Franklin St stores.

The early works are being concurrently considered under a development plan. Heritage Victoria issued a permit last December for the early works to go ahead.

The Department of Transport and Planning said if the early works application was approved “works can proceed ahead of the other planning permits being determined”. 

The council’s heritage planning portfolio lead Rohan Leppert told the council meeting, that considering a development plan was “absolutely standard”.

“We’re playing this one with the straightest bat possible because the City of Melbourne is a referral authority informally and, of course, has an interest in the land,” he said.

Nick Bourns, representing NH Architecture, said the proposed development would be a unique and exciting project, and in keeping in the spirit of "Marvellous Melbourne".

“It’s a good opportunity for development, but it’s also a good opportunity for Melbourne to reconcile these places back together and indeed reconcile the heritage Franklin stores back to the market and create a great place people to live, work and sleep,” he said.


It’s about bringing the city into the market rather than a road system of car parks and roundabouts, all of which are a huge heat island problem and bringing the park in.


Acting Lord Mayor Nice Reece said the proposal was “a phenomenal vote of confidence” to the future of the city.

“Tonight, what we’re considering does not necessarily reflect the final design or detail of the Gurrowa development. We’ve still got further process to go there, but it does set the parameters for the project,” he said at the meeting.

“It will be one of the biggest in Melbourne’s history – you have to go back to I think the Crown entertainment complex in the 1990s to find a project of this size being undertaken.”
The Department said a statutory approval “cannot be granted for an activity unless there is an approved Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) as required under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006”.

“CHMP’s were provided for the Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal. The CHMP’s were approved by First Peoples – State Relations in the Department of Premier and Cabinet and developed in consultation with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.”

The proposed development plan and early works application will ultimately be decided by the state government for final approval.

Friends of Queen Victoria president Mary-Lou Howie, who has vehemently opposed the plans, said, “this is an Alice in Wonderland scenario where the planning authority is referring the matter to the organisation proposing the development”. •

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