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Editions

No tall towers for Harbour Town

06 Dec 2016

No tall towers for Harbour Town Image

By Shane Scanlan

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) last month confirmed that high-rise development will not be allowed in the small “in-fill” pockets surrounding Harbour Town Shopping Centre.

Local developer Capital Alliance earlier this year challenged in VCAT the Minister for Planning’s refusal in March for a 109m tower at 3-43 Waterfront Way.

Capital Alliance in December 2014 purchased a number of the “in-fill” sites from Ashe Morgan but must now assess its future development options.

The November 18 VCAT decision is also a blow to Places Victoria, which supported Capital Alliance against the planning ministry and the City of Melbourne.

Capital Alliance managing director Mohan Du told Docklands News: “In short, we’re disappointed with the result and, as you could imagine, Docklands has quite a complex framework and is not so straight forward.”

“Will have to look towards the future and work with all stakeholders to ensure we can still accommodate the country’s first Marriott Hotel in 20 years. Our vision for the precinct remains unchanged.”

In March, Planning Minister Richard Wynne refused the application on the grounds that: it was inconsistent with the Waterfront City Outline Development Plan 2003; it exceeded the preferred height of 45m; was out of scale for the surrounding area; would not activate the street or protect it from wind; would overshadow the future NewQuay Central Urban Park; and would have provided poor internal residential amenity.

Capital Alliance had planned to build a 37-storey residential tower comprising 260 apartments and a 200-room Marriott hotel.

It was Queens Counsels at 10 paces during the four days of VCAT hearing before presiding member Rachel Naylor and member Stephen Axford on July 27, 28

and 29 and August 31.

Before ING Real Estate sold Waterfront City to Ashe Morgan in March 2014, it had acquired a permit to build a 52m tower on the site comprising 240 apartments.

But the VCAT hearing heard that the

City of Melbourne granted extra height

on that occasion because it was to be

used for low cost accommodation for

lower income households.

VCAT members Naylor and Axford said: “We find this proposal fails primarily because of the combination of the existing character of the immediate area and the broader precinct as established through the existing and emerging built form; and the urban design expectations contained in the relevant approved development plans.”

“We agree with the Minister that the urban design framework for taller buildings within the established built form of Harbour Town Shopping Centre is lacking in terms of strategic justification.”

“Given the findings we have made about a tall building on this site in the context of the proposed amended development plan, we anticipate that any future development on this site is likely to involve a lower building height. Hence, the merits of a particular design on this site will need to be considered afresh when/if this occurs.”

Capital Alliance argued that small sites within existing development plans could be assessed on their merits. It proposed a “Harbourtown Southern Sites, Docklands, Development Plan 2015”. During the application and appeal process, it produced three versions of its plan.

Members Naylor and Axford found, however: “In our view, neither versions 2 or 3 of this proposed amended development plan provides an acceptable urban design rationale for such a change in scale for the three remaining vacant sites that are effectively located within the extent of the low-rise Harbour Town Shopping Centre.”

The members also said views from the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel needed to be taken into consideration.

“As we see it, the larger the development contemplated on this site and the other two vacant sites that are effectively within the Harbour Town Shopping Centre buildings, the more potential there is to diminish the landmark status of the Melbourne Star. This is a matter that should be addressed in any amended development plan(s) for these three sites,” the members said.

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