West Melbourne has been jolted into the reality of planning politics in the twenty-first century with official support for the ten storey development on the Zagame site in King Street by both the State Government and the Melbourne City Council. If approved, this project establishes a precedent for wholesale high rise redevelopment of West Melbourne and North Melbourne, at heights and shapes that were not possible under previous planning regimes. It introduces all that is ugly, intrusive and inefficient in building form and will do little to raise overall standards of amenity for inner city residents. Look at Docklands and Southbank as the models.
Around thirty local residents of this Roden Street vicinity attended a briefing meeting in the Zagame showroom on Monday, 26 July at 6.00pm. The meeting, hosted by the Zagame Family and their advisors, outlined the details of their application for the residential development of their very large 5000m site – Remember; large sites equal extra large developments. The application has been made to the State Department of Planning as the project is over 25000m2 in size.
The project features 259 units
- 119 one bedroom
- 118 two bedroom
- 8 three bedroom
- Plus a number of multi-storey units facing the streets.
The boundary units are the only part of the development which conforms with the current Design and Development Overlay(DDO) over this area in that they are not over 14 m(4 Stories) in height. Unfortunately, the main body of units are part of a ten storey ‘boomerang’ spine that stretches from close to the Roden King Streets corner to the middle of the site on the south west boundary ( allowing for a 5m setback) and then parallel with that boundary toward Stanley Street. It is this ten storey development that is of most concern to the residents. It is completely out of kilter with the heights that have been traditionally part of this area. We do not need this sort of Docklands style development in West Melbourne.
Other concerns that come immediately to mind.
1 If we believe the developers, and we do not have much reason not to, they were strongly encouraged, by both the Council and the State Department of Planning to develop this site to this level of density and height, and possibly even more. This is our State Government and our Council, so democratic in their image, that are so clearly working against us as residents. The up-coming State election in November provides us with the opportunity to test the responsiveness of all candidates, and especially the incumbent ALP, on these matters. As for the Council, we have been dudded by both the Kennett and Bracks/Brumby Governments who ensured that the Council does not represent us as resident ratepayers.
2 The developers seem to believe that resident objections are only based on their loss of lines of sight toward the City. Our concerns are broader than that. Privacy and overlooking are certainly part of this, but this was trivialised by the developers at the meeting. We are also concerned that we do not need the shadows cast by these towers denying broad areas to the south access to the sun. The designers thrive in a planning environment that stipulates all shadow diagrams should be done at the equinox and ignore the rights of others who are overshadowed badly through the winter months around the June solstice. This project shows commendable commitment to using solar energy on its rooves. However,
- How many other sites are they disadvantaging through the shadows that they create, unless they go higher and higher.
- How many lines of sight will also be lost by this wasteful competition?
- And what about aesthetics? What ugliness and bulk do we have to look at on a daily basis!
- What congestion do we have to tolerate on the streets and in the shops? There are not enough car parks on site for one for each unit.
3 When placed under some resistance to their plan, the developers threatened to ignore the residents and plough ahead with the support of the Department of Planning and the Council. They claimed they did not have to brief us. They did not concede that this proposal would have benefitted, had they consulted with residents before the plans were prepared. When questioned, they stated that they would not compromise on height.
- When will the locals have some constructive say in the future development of the ‘community’ in which they live?
4 The orientation of the high rise does not utilise the northerly aspect in an efficient way.
Where to Now?
The developers agreed to inform all participants who provided their email and postal addresses of where they could access a copy of the plans.
1 We have a list of email addresses to form the basis of future communication
2 We need to clarify the right to object and the process we must follow with the Department of Planning.
3 We need to maximise the number of objections and letters to the press and appropriate authorities.
4 We need to work on the Minister’s process for making a decision and try to make it transparent, in terms of how and where the decision is made and the criteria on which it might be based.
5 Do we want to appeal the Department of Planning decision to VCAT, should it go against us, as it may well do? We will not have the Council’s back to ride on as we did with 87-101 Roden Street.
6 Our activities do need to have as much support as we can generate. Every one must be prepared to pull their weight and provide funds, if necessary.
7 Do we need to exert political pressure especially on Bronwyn Pike as our local member and a senior Minister in the Government that allowed these projects to be taken out of the hands of the Council?
8 Do we wish to organise some public protest meeting/s to let the politicians know what we think of their planning scheme?
9 We also need to consider the future impact on our area of the Council’s new Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS) It has the potential to make the planning of this area between Roden Street and Dudley Street much worse in terms of allowing height limits to increase and towers to proliferate. The developers made indirect reference to these proposed changes in justifying the project.
10 Dare I suggest a meeting to consider these issues?