No support for ‘‘snorkel’’ apartments
By Meg Hill
The City of Melbourne has advised the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne that it doesn’t support current plans for a massive new tower in the heart of Docklands at 694-704 Collins St largely due to issues surrounding apartment designs.
Cromwell Property Group has submitted plans to partially demolish its existing building, which is currently occupied by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and build a 54-storey office, residential hotel and apartment tower on the north end of the site.
The proposed $310 million development designed by architects Nettletontribe would include 12,800 sqm of commercial space, 182 hotel rooms and 265 one-, two- and three-bedroom residential apartments.
But the council’s planning officers didn’t endorse the proposal based on the design of “snorkel apartments”, arguing that they didn’t comply with the state government’s Better Apartment Design Standards.
A “snorkel” design describes an apartment layout where the window in an external wall is connected to the apartment via a long corridor. It is considered an insufficient way to provide light to apartment buildings.
Speaking at the Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting on September 1, the council’s chair of planning Cr Nicholas Reece said an approval of the design would set a dangerous precedent.
“Essentially there is one issue which this development comes down to, and it is this issue around the internal layout and the fact that it does not comply with the better apartment design standards,” he said.
“The better apartment design standards were debated so long and hard for years in this town and I do not want to be the chair of planning that sees us walking back from those.”
Cr Rohan Leppert agreed that it would set a bad precedent for standards of living in the city.
“This would be a precedent that would come back to bite us across the entire central city if it were so be awarded,” he said.
The motion carried unanimously by councillors did, however, note that should the development proceed in its current form that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) should undertake independent daylight testing.
In his address to councillors on September 1, Cromwell Property Group’s Chris Hansen made it clear that the company wasn’t a “speculative developer looking to simply crystallise a profit”.
“We not only retain ownership of our assets but all through our vertically integrated business model manage and operate each of our properties then outsourcing to external agencies,” he said.
Mr Hansen said the developer had acquired this site more than 15 years ago and that its redevelopment represented the “next exciting chapter of Docklands’ growth.”
Chris Godsell of Nettletontribe Architects said the expansion of 700 Collins St sought to “breathe new life” into a dreary and underutilised portion of the Docklands precinct”.
“It’s transformative,” he said. “It responds intelligently to its site.”
Mr Godsell also added that the building exceeded sustainability benchmarks in its design and was appropriately scaled for its location despite council’s planning officers raising some concern with the project’s height, bulk and overshadowing of surrounding streets •