The Victorian government has put a pause on 26 development applications for high-rise towers in the Fishermans Bend urban renewal site, a move which could potentially see $4.5 billion of development knocked back.
Planning minister Richard Wynne defended the move as necessary to protect the site from “inappropriate development” he said was the result of former planning minister and now opposition leader Matthew Guy’s rezoning decision.
When in office Mr Guy overnight rezoned 250 hectares of land in the industrial area for commercial and residential development, a move later called unmatched worldwide for its failure to plan for transport and other key services. The rezoning caused the land value of the area to skyrocket, saw a swathe of 60-plus-storey towers put forward, and has forced the current government to purchase land at great cost to ensure space for parks and community infrastructure.
Mr Guy later released a master plan and design guidelines that failed to set height limits, community space and affordable housing quotas, or sustainability goals.
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“What Matthew Guy did at Fishermans Bend stinks,” Mr Wynne said on Thursday.
Under Victorian planning law, the planning minister has the right to call in appeals being reviewed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal as well as permit applications from responsible authorities (usually local councils) under a number of circumstances, including where the determination of the application could have an effect on the achievement of planning goals.
The government said if the developments went ahead it would be a “fatal blow” to the community’s vision for the area, and could lead to densities three times that of Southbank.
“Matthew Guy’s planning mess left us with a soulless Fishermans Bend where unplanned high rises were let loose on the community, and the interests of local residents were ignored,” member for Albert Park and housing minister Martin Foley said.
“We’re fixing that mess.”
The developments will be put on hold until permanent planning controls are put in place, most likely by August, with the developments to be assessed by an independent advisory committee against the new controls to make sure “they have the community’s interests at heart”, a government statement said.
The move is unprecedented, and Mr Wynne admitted to ABC that it could see legal challenges mounted by the developers. However he remains unapologetic.
“We make no apology for putting a stop to this development free-for-all – we’ll get the planning right and give Victorian families a community they can be proud of,” he said.
The decision has been welcomed by the City of Port Phillip, where the majority of development is taking place.
“We all want Fishermans Bend to live up to its potential as a sustainable, world class urban renewal area which contributes to greater Melbourne’s ongoing reputation as the world’s most liveable city,” mayor Bernadette Voss said.
She said the council looked forward to participating in the Planning Review Panel process that would put in place appropriate controls for the site.
“The public hearings which start next month give everyone, including the development sector, the opportunity to have their say on the proposed planning controls.”