Wynne imposes height restrictions on Gurner who feared "worthless overnight" intervention

Wynne imposes height restrictions on Gurner who feared
Wynne imposes height restrictions on Gurner who feared "worthless overnight" intervention

The Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne has blocked a 16-storey $350 million apartment development in Fitzroy North proposed by BRW Rich Lister Tim GURNER.

It came ahead of GURNER reportedly thinking of lodging an amended 12-storey proposal for the 8500-square-metre former Gasworks site on Queens Parade.  

GURNER, who had previously threatened to pull out of Melbourne’s inner-city development market, now says he's preparing to fight this planning decision.

The Australian newspaper revealed recently that GURNER has been considering concentrating on the Western Australian residential market.

GURNER has faced stiff resistance from the City of Yarra’s Greens-dominated council and North Fitzroy residents.

The council asked Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne to intervene and force GURNER to cap his development at six storeys, while residents have called to have a four-level limit for all new buildings in the City of Yarra.

GURNER had previously said he would stop investing in the inner-city areas if the interim planning rules were enforced.

“We have a large number of sites within the City of Yarra currently and if these mandatory height controls are enacted not one of those sites would be or could be feasible to develop,” he told The Australian.

Mr GURNER said the costs to decontaminate some development sites were so large that higher density development was required to cover costs.

“If these changes are to be mandated, the site values will become absolutely worthless overnight,” he said earlier this year.

GURNER paid $40 million for the site last year and had initially proposed a cascading 16-storey development with over 470 apartments. 

This was rejected by the City of Yarra who referred the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in December with a hearing due to commence next week, with GURNER considering amendments with 135 fewer apartments and a height reduction to 37 metres from 53.7 metres.

The eleventh hour decision by Wynne to place an interim mandatory height control of a maximum of 10 storeys (30 metres) over the site means VCAT cannot grant a permit for any development that is higher. 

The Australian Financial Review advised today that "an incensed Mr GURNER" had spent $500,000 preparing for next week's VCAT hearing, and lashed out at the decision calling it a "joke" and said Mr Wynne had only intervened for "political reasons".

"The City of Yarra is the Planning Minister's own seat and it is no secret that he is right on the edge of holding power. He has clearly made a decision from a political perspective to try to win votes with no regard to fair and due process or strategic planning," Mr GURNER told The Australian Financial Review.

Despite the setback and his prior threats, he said he was more motivated than ever to ensure the project gets built.

Wynne holds the state seat of Richmond and will battle the Greens to retain the seat at next year's state elections.

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