The Victorian government and Melbourne City Council are at loggerheads over a 15-storey apartment development that the Health Department frets will imperil the safety of emergency helicopters flying to Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The Victorian government is seeking to overturn the approval issued for the development of a 15-storey apartment tower situated across the road from Royal Melbourne Hospital, on the grounds that it could prevent emergency helicopters from reaching the healthcare facility.

Melbourne City Council gave its approval to the development of The Principal residential apartment complex last August. The proposed $40 million residential project is situated just 160 meters from Royal Melbourne Hospital on the corner of Villiers St and Flemington Road in Melbourne’s inner north.

While the Andrews government declared in February that it had confirmed the safety of the required flight paths for helicopters seeking to alight upon Melbourne hospitals, Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services said that City Council had not apprised it of The Principal’s development prior to approval.

Fairfax has published emails sent by the department’s project manager to planning personnel at Melbourne City Council,  the contents of which indicate that the hospital was completely unaware of the proposed apartment tower even a month after the council’s decision.

“Has an application been submitted for this site?,” said an email issued by the project manager to Melbourne City Council in September 2015. “If this intrudes into the helicopter flight path (including any crane) it would likely have significant operational impacts on the heliport.”

Royal Melbourne Hospital is one of Victoria’s two main trauma centres, logging a total of 269 emergency landings at its heliport last year.

Documents lodged by the department with VCAT said the apartment development “presents a serious risk to the ongoing safe operation of the heliport.”

“If constructed the approved development will interfere with the flight path of emergency medical services helicopters access the Royal Melbourne Hospital helipad.”

The Andrews government has since requested that the state planning tribunal overturn the approval, with Melbourne City Council, The Principal’s developers, as well as the health department and Royal Melbourne Hospital, all enlisting QC’s to represent them.

The legal stoush surrounding the development is further complicated by the fact that roughly two thirds of The Principal’s 165 apartment units have already been purchased off the plan.