Thursday, 31 August 2017
Cr Leppert writes —
This has been a big week in the life of Melbourne’s treasured Queen Victoria Market.
Today, the Planning Minister gazetted new planning controls for the market and precinct. These controls include mandatory height and density controls on development sites on the periphery of the market, the rezoning of the carpark to Public Park and Recreation Zone to facilitate new public open space, and a Development Plan Overlay to guide development consistent with the Council’s endorsed QVM Precinct Renewal master plan and implementation framework. There are various differences between the Council-adopted version and the Minister-approved version of the planning controls, however the land use and development plan principles are the same. You can find the gazetted new planning controls here.
Yesterday, the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) announced its support for QVM Renewal plans. The media release (here) supports the proposition that renewal is necessary to ensure the long-term security of the market, and outlines the Trust’s expectation that the open character of the market sheds will be maintained, and the market will remain affordable, with its heritage values respected. We agree that there is a lot of work to do to ensure that these challenges are met.
These two significant announcements came after a Council meeting on Tuesday evening 29 August (agenda and papers here) which included multiple Queen Victoria Market matters. Consistent with our actions throughout the QVM Renewal planning process, we used this opportunity to improve the plans and reinforce the Council’s expectations of QVM management in line with community sentiment.
Underground services beneath A-D sheds
Possibly the most controversial aspect of QVM Renewal, and certainly the most challenging for us, the proposal to build under sheds A-D (and H&I) with new vehicular access was one that we were not prepared to support when the Implementation Plan was considered by Council last year. Instead, we moved (and it was agreed by Council) that the decisions around vehicular access to underground services areas return to Council as a standalone decision. This allowed heritage, traffic and trader disruption considerations to be properly analysed.
As a result of this analysis, and ongoing pressure to minimise trader disruption and heritage impacts, plans for underground services have resulted in a proposal with a greatly reduced footprint. No longer will all of A-D sheds be removed to allow for underground construction; the southern ends of these sheds will remain, allowing a larger contiguous area for traders to continue business throughout the renewal. This has also allowed for a much smaller temporary market pavilion. We are pleased that isolating this matter and subjecting it to increased scrutiny and a standalone decision of Council has resulted in a less disruptive construction proposal.
Supporting market traders throughout renewal
In August 2016, Council agreed with the Greens motion to establish a trader compensation fund to support traders throughout renewal. On Tuesday night, the framework for a trader support program and fund returned to Council (report). The ‘Continuing Business Framework’ – at least $8 million worth – will support traders throughout renewal, including through compensation for any business losses. Compensation funding will be governed at arm’s length from Council and market management, and robust terms of reference are in place to ensure accountable processes. More importantly perhaps, the $8m fund will contribute to an ongoing trader support program to support all traders throughout renewal. Council will continue to forego revenue from the market during renewal, a policy which will contribute to the Continuing Business Framework, and which demonstrates our commitment to traders.
Setting clear expectations for the QVM Board and Management
We have been working since the previous term of Council to improve Council-QVM relationships and minimise inefficiencies that arise when the two bodies appear to articulate conflicting visions for QVM Renewal. One of the points of contention has been around the use of H&I sheds (see below), but clearly it was past time that a statement of shareholder expectations was issued to the QVM Board.
The Shareholder Statement of Expectations is a very important document; essentially key performance indicators for the board. The statement includes the following directives to the board:
— Recognise, protect and expand the Market’s original and primary role as a fresh food market.
— Support existing traders during renewal by ensuring average annual increases in fees are based on current lease and licence provisions.
— Ensure trading and retail space supports independent retail and small to medium sized businesses, not large chains or supermarkets.
— Demonstrate stewardship in preserving the Market as one of the great open air markets of the world, retaining its heritage, traditions, unique offer, diverse community of market traders, gritty atmosphere and authenticity into the future.
H and I Sheds
An ongoing point of contention between many renewal participants and market stakeholders has been the future use of H&I sheds. Last year, we changed the proposed Implementation Plan to ensure that H&I Sheds would continue to include the sale of fresh fruit and vegetables. The lack of a precise metric has led some to believe that this meant just a nominal inclusion of fruit and vegetable stalls; clearly the intention of Council was that fruit and vegetable sales would be the predominant use of H&I Sheds, as is currently the case.
So, to short-circuit this debate and make Council’s expectations completely clear and reflective of the community’s expectations, we resolved:
to communicate to the board of Queen Victoria Market Pty Ltd Council’s explicit view that sheds H and I should remain predominantly for the purpose of fresh produce trading.
There is plenty of work to come. We are a minority on Council, and not the original proponents of QVM Renewal, but we remain committed to doing everything we can to improve all proposals that come to us, and represent the interests of traders, locals and visitors to the market as fairly and strongly as possible.