$1.7b Queen Vic Market tower proposal referred for federal heritage review

$1.7b Queen Vic Market tower proposal referred for federal heritage review
Brendan Rees

A federal heritage review is under way for a controversial $1.7 billion development to transform the southern site of Queen Victoria Market.

The proposed project by developer Lendlease is to build a 49-level student accommodation tower, a 46-level residential apartment block and a 28-level office building, as well as an underground car park, and a public park at the site of the open-air car park.

The development, which received state government approval in March, as well as the green light from Heritage Victoria late last year, would be the largest urban renewal project undertaken by the City of Melbourne, which owns the market.

A spokesperson from the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water said the department was currently considering a referral from Lendlease for the Queen Victoria Market southern development project.

“Any action that is likely to have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance, such as National Heritage places, must be assessed and approved under national environment law before it can proceed,” the spokesperson said.

The Queen Victoria Market is a National Heritage place and is protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. Protections under national environment law are a separate consideration to any obligations or approvals under state legislation.

Lendlease executive director of development Daniel Dugina said the development, known as Gurrowa Place, represented a “a significant urban renewal opportunity” for the site.

“Following planning and heritage approval received earlier this year, we have voluntarily referred the development to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water to demonstrate that the design of Gurrowa Place respects and protects the heritage value of this landmark site,” he said.

Mr Dugina said the development would “revitalise this much-loved precinct with new public space, retail, office and housing while generating benefit for the community, city and project partners”.

The report on the review and whether “the action needs formal assessment and approval under the EPBC Act” is expected to be made on June 21.

“A decision on whether an action referred under the EPBC Act requires assessment is usually made within 20 business days of referral, if the developer has provided enough information to make that decision,” the department said.

The federal review has been welcomed by market supporters who hope the proposed development, bordered by Franklin, Queen and Peel streets, would be potentially reconsidered, saying it was a step in the right direction towards preserving the historical integrity of the market.

Friends of the Queen Victoria Market president Mary-Lou Howie said, “let’s hope we can rely on the rigour of our federal laws for heritage protection”.

“The City of Melbourne is betraying the people of Melbourne by trading the livelihoods of Vic Market traders and the survival of our nationally significant market for a huge development,” she said.

“It is seizing one third of the Vic Market, the market car park, as an event space and forecourt for the Lendlease high-rise towers.”

“Friends of Queen Victoria Market are delighted by the phenomenal response by the public and traders to the federal government referral process.”

The referral was published on the department’s website on May 23, with public comments open until June 7. •

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