Residents fight redevelopment plans

Residents at the Royal Flagstaff Apartments on LaTrobe St are standing united against redevelopment plans that would compromise their living standards.

Property owner Spacious Property Development Group plans to develop the next-door property at 488-494 LaTrobe St into a 64.9m residential tower, but residents have vowed to fight all the way to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

And it’s not the first time they have banded together to fight development of that site. Two years ago, Spacious attempted to develop a 100m tower but the residents objected and won at VCAT.

The September 20 Future Melbourne Committee heard that 34 objections to the new plan were received – mostly relating to height, amenity and overshadowing.

Nine Royal Flagstaff residents attended the meeting and spoke against the permit application.

Council officers had recommended granting Spacious its permit, subject to 25 conditions.  Councillors, however, were divided on the issue and ended up not making a decision.

Planning chair Ken Ong moved to accept the officers' recommendation. And Cr Rohan Leppert foreshadowed an alternative motion, refusing the permit.

But, before coming to a conclusion, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle successfully moved that a decision be deferred – effectively, leaving the decision to council officers.

After the council’s non-decision, CBD News contacted Royal Flagstaff residents about their ongoing plight.

“We have a very strong sense of community here,” began resident Simon Mitchell.

Residents are concerned with wind impacts. They say the height and structure of the proposed tower would funnel wind around to their shared outside area containing their playground and tennis court.

“A lot of people meet out here after work and play on the playground with their children, or use the barbecue area or the tennis courts. The wind impact would make it inappropriate to use,” he said.

“We couldn’t stand here and watch our kids play. The gusts of wind would be at an uncomfortable level.”

All surrounding buildings, including residential and educational, have been built to a 40m height restriction and a minimum of a six-metre set-back rule. Spacious’s plans for its site would not. It would be built right up to the boundary of the Royal Flagstaff Apartments and cast a shadow on several apartments from as early as 1pm.

“You’ll notice that all the buildings nearby don’t exceed 40m and they all have set-backs. What that does is create a sense of openness,” Mr Mitchell said. “This sense of openness, we think, is fundamentally a part of the character of the area.”

“When you put something right on our boundaries of that size, it becomes very imposing,” said resident Sharon Vladusic.

The sense of family within the Royal Flagstaff Apartments is undeniable, with many current residents opting to purchase three bedroom apartments to accommodate for their expanding families.

“I’m so excited and passionate about this building and its residents,” said resident Pranav Garg. “I bought a two-bedroom apartment when I first moved in here, but now my wife and I are thinking about starting a family. With that in mind we bought a three-bedroom apartment.”

“Having plans that size in place would probably repel families from living here,” Mr Garg said.

“We’re in a two-bedroom on the ground floor at the moment but have also recently bought a three-bedroom,” added Mr Mitchell.

“As soon as we can get rid of the pram we’ll be moving up to the three-bedroom. There are a lot of people here who own more than one apartment and the reason for that is the environment that’s been created,” he said.

Another resident said The Royal Flagstaff Apartments was the only complex with a playground for children within the CBD.

The residents of the Royal Flagstaff building expressed that they are not totally against development around their building, but rather just opposed to developments of that magnitude.

“We’ve got a big fight on our hands, but we’re passionate and we’re ready,” they said.

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