Skyscrapers Put New Vic Government to the Test

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
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334 City Road
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Two massive skyscrapers currently being considered for approval in Melbourne’s Southbank precinct will provide a significant test for the determination of the new Andrews government in Victoria to end what it refers to as the ‘forests of towers’ approved by its predecessors.

Earlier this week, senior officers of Melbourne City Council suggested they wanted plans for a 57-storey tower featuring 432 apartments at 334 City Road on the city’s western fringe that went before the council for consideration on Tuesday to be knocked back, saying the proposal was incompatible with the built form of the area, Fairfax Media has reported.

Fairfax has also reported that the council had also asked the Planning Minister not to approve a 50-level tower with 720 apartments in Kavanagh Street in Southbank, citing concerns about a lack of setbacks, the height of the building, wind impacts and potential damage to street trees.

The towers are set to be an interesting test for the newly elected Labor government, who in opposition frequently questioned then Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s tendency to approve high towers, and whose planning policy prior to the election stated a desire to tackle ‘wind tunnels, congestion and forests of towers.’

Scaled back from an original height of 82 storeys, the new tower (if approved) is set to overlook the West Gate Freeway and would feature a restaurant and café, landscaping and public art as well as extensive community facilities including a 120-seat cinema and a pool.

Despite greater setbacks and separation compared with the original tower, however, both the council’s planning and finance chiefs feel even the new, lower, proposal was too high, setbacks were still insufficient, and that the new tower might impact the area’s future character, create wind issues and accentuate traffic problems.

“It doesn’t fit in with the built form in the area,” council planning chairman Ken Ong said.

Council finance chairman Stephen Mayne said it remained to be seen  how Victoria’s new government would approach planning applications like this, and added that also remained unclear how many of the towers approved by the former government would actually proceed into construction.

“If you approve 100 towers in an unprecedented frenzy, how much is actually going to be delivered, and what does the new government do with their planning powers when things are not built?” Mayne told Fairfax.

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