Council to profit from amendment

The City of Melbourne has proposed changes to planning law which gives itself financial advantage as it redevelops the Queen Victoria Market.

On May 12 councillors unanimously voted to request permission from Planning Minister Richard Wynne to prepare and exhibit its proposed Planning Scheme Amendment C245, Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal.

The proposed amendment is largely consistent with existing planning requirements, with an increase in the allowable heights of buildings being the major notable change.

This would have the effect of increasing the value of council-owned land, including the 6500sqm Munro site which the council purchased last October.

At the time of the purchase, building heights on the land parcel were restricted to prevent any shadow falling onto the neighbouring car park between 11am and 2pm at any time of the year.

Under the proposed amendment, the council is suggesting that over-shadowing be allowed if the responsible authority considered the impact would not “significantly prejudice” the amenity of the new public open space.

The council itself is the responsible authority for buildings of less than 25,000sqm.

Cr Stephen Mayne said the council was “very public” in terms of the guidelines it released when it was bidding for the Munro site.

“This is a fully transparent process,” he said.

The council is proposing tougher development guidelines in relation to wind disturbance, tower separation and treatment of podiums and parapets.

The amendment defines how Franklin St will be realigned, public open space is created on the current car parking area and also defines planning controls for the Munro site and the mixed use development site at the south of the market precinct.

Under the amendment, the market as a whole will be rezoned from capital city zone to “public use” and the new public open space will become a “public park and recreation” zone.

Existing heritage-protection will be retained and strengthened when Planning Scheme Amendment C198 is gazette. As a heritage-listed building, the market redevelopment will need permits from Heritage Victoria.

Cr Rohan Leppert said that, while the council was uncapping the allowable heights of future developments, it was being done in a way which “created a whole lot more nuance at the podium level”.

“I’m not opposed to height per se, I’m just opposed the cheap density that can come with lifting heights without capturing an adequate amount of return to the community in terms of community infrastructure and good design, tower separation and adequate light and ventilation,” he said.

“We have tower separating stronger than anything we can see in the Hoddle Grid and Southbank so that, in itself, is leading by example.  In this instance, I absolutely support the uncapping of height.”

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle reacted angrily to suggestions from public presenters at the May 12 meeting who suggested the proposed amendment was rushed and ill-conceived, describing their comments as “nonsensical”.

“This is not rushed,” he said.  “We’ve had three years of public consultation.”

“To be told the Franklin St alignment won’t work when the benefit cost analysis shows it performing about eight times better than any road project being undertaken by state and federal governments is nonsensical and silly,” Cr Doyle said.

Cr Doyle said the council proposed to commit $130 million to the project and he predicted that it would become the city’s biggest economic driver for the next 10 years.

“If people are going to comment on it, we expect people to be up-to-date and accurate in what they say to us,” he said.

He said the project should not be subject to “half-informed sniping from the edges”.

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