The Matthew Guy-effect still haunts local residents

By Meg Hill 

A site that uncovered the dark repercussions of former planning decisions when its planning permit was approved last year is now up for sale, with work likely to start soon. 

Residents at 33 MacKenzie Street (33M), whose south-east side faces the development site at 58-66 LaTrobe, fear that a new 34-storey tower will enclose their building. 

The City of Melbourne unanimously approved the construction of the building in a Future Melbourne meeting on December 10 last year, although Cr Rohan Leppert said the plans were not adequate.

He said they were compatible with precedent set by former Planning Minister Matthew Guy and that the fringe pocket of the CBD, between Victoria Parade and LaTrobe St, was not included in subsequent controls in the CBD.

33M residents said the proximity of towers that had already been built around them caused a lack of privacy, sunlight and fresh air, and that the 58-66 LaTrobe St tower would block off another section. They also said construction noise had been a constant issue.

“The proposed building now is adjacent to 33M. If you approve this, then 33M is going to be constricted on all sides,” one resident told the December council meeting.

“I’ve lived on the eastern side of 33M on level six since it was built in 2012. It used to be a great place to live. The views and atmosphere of the surrounding neighbourhood were part of what I loved about being a resident.”

“However, this is all gone. 33M is surrounded by high-rise buildings.”

“We have no direct sunlight, no privacy, just noise. The lack of sunlight makes people feel depressed. Our rooms are cold at most times of the year. Clothes are all wet and smelly and furniture is also mouldy.”

The owner of a convenience store on the ground floor of 33M also spoke to the council meeting to oppose the development.

A 25-storey development north of 33M has also been approved.

Previous plans for 58-66 LaTrobe St had been rejected by the council, leading to the amended plans that were approved last December.

Cr Leppert said the area, north of LaTrobe St, was outside areas where controls had been set in place for mandatory separations and podium heights since Matthew Guy was Planning Minister.

“I have full sympathy with the objectors,” he said.

“Unfortunately, our job isn’t to decide whether or not the setbacks and tower separations are adequate, in my opinion they’re not, our job is to decide whether or not the application complies with the planning scheme in a very discretionary part of the city.”

“We’re going to disappoint a lot of people tonight, but that disappointment needs to go back to that un-named former planning minister who started setting the precedent with buildings like 33M.”

“If the controls in place had done a good job when these towers went up, we’d have far fewer problems than the problems we’re trying to solve now.”

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