7 September 2014

A very disappointing Council meeting on Tuesday saw Council – with surprising support from Labor – make two planning decisions which directly contradicted the North Melbourne and Southbank structure plans. Both structure plans were the subject of extensive community consultation.

A planning application at 1 Shiel St in North Melbourne proposed a height at the Haines St edge of 17.8m. Council only last year endorsed the post-exhibition version of the Arden Macaulay Planning Scheme Amendment which proposed a mandatory control of 14m at the Haines St edge, with the built form significantly set back above that height, to prevent overshadowing of Gardiner’s Reserve and a built form which disrespects the pedestrian scale.

Whilst the planning scheme amendment is stalled at the independent panel due to the East West Link, the amendment and its mandatory 14m control remains the most recent decision of the Council as the planning authority for the area.

In the interests of transparent and consistent planning outcomes, the Greens Councillors were the only ones to vote for amendments to the planning application which would have resulted in the built form complying with the mandatory controls all Councillors voted for only last year.

Residents About Integrated Development 3051 have expressed their outrage at the inconsistency of Council at public rallies, in the press and at the Council meeting.

At the same Council meeting on Tuesday, a second planning application for a market at the ACCA forecourt in Southbank, strongly supported by the Residents Association, was defeated by Labor joining with the Liberal Councillors. The market is at the centre of two recently endorsed strategies, the Southbank Structure Plan and the Southbank Arts Precinct Blueprint, both of which call for a market to activate the area, and to provide new attractions in a perfectly positioned public space to draw greater attendance at arts organisations.

Council has now thrown out the proposal for a market at the site despite months of work and compromise from the operator, and despite a series of very tough conditions to ensure the maintenance of amenity for local residents. (The Age covers the story here.)

The refusal of the Southbank market was the first time that Council has gone against the advice of both its own planning department and the Residents Association.

Greens Councillors argued at the meeting that this complete lack of consistency in planning decisions is the chief cause of public distrust in both the Council and the Planning Minister.

It is extremely disappointing that Labor has joined with the Liberal Councillors to abandon Residents Associations in North Melbourne and Southbank and support outcomes which directly contradict the Structure Plans so closely worked on by the community.

The minutes and audio of the meeting, as well as the two relevant planning reports from officers, can be found here.