Victoria's planning minister defends decision to trim Gurner project

Victoria's planning minister defends decision to trim Gurner project
Victoria's planning minister defends decision to trim Gurner project

Victoria's Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s decision to shave two stories off a proposed 12-storey apartment tower project by BRW Rich Lister Tim Gurner in Melbourne's inner north has met with mixed reactions, even though the minister justified his stance.

The decision, made just days before a planning tribunal was to consider the project, was the talk of the room at a major Property Council of Australia address by Wynne on Wednesday, reported Fairfax Media.

Wynne this week imposed a height control of a maximum of 10 storeys, or 30 metres, on the North Fitzroy site where Gurner had already amended his original plan for a 16-storey tower with 470 apartments.

To a question from Property Council of Australia executive director (Victoria) Sally Capp on the move, Wynne said he felt justified by the local council’s initial planning for the site more than 10 years ago but which it failed to include into its planning rules.

The Yarra Council did not finishing structure planning for the site that was begun in 2008 but never submitted to the state planning department.

"There were these holes in the scheme. It was clear to me that I was not prepared to intervene unless the council had done the strategic work that would justify an intervention," Wynne said.

"The council officers' report clearly established the 10-level height was complementary to the height the council had agreed some years before for the Gas and Fuel site that is directly opposite.

"I thought that a 10-level development was reasonable."

Gurner has criticised the minister’s decision, calling it a politically motivated move. He said Wynne is under pressure in his inner-city seat of Richmond, where the Greens are gaining ground.

"I do not know of any other cases where a planning minister has got involved in a site-specific issue like this. It is as unheard of as it is not fair," Gurner said.

"Melbourne is in the middle of a housing affordability crisis and actions like this for political reasons are only going to make it worse."

Wynne held his seat by just 1.9 per cent from the Greens at the last state election and his decision could be a move to pacify Fitzroy North residents fighting the proposed apartment tower, reported The Age.

Gurner was cited by The Age as saying he would press on with the project despite Wynne having "intervened to satisfy NIMBY locals who pretend they care about affordable housing”.

Wynne said that residents had "made no secret of their concerns" about the project.

"We've struck a balance that caters for our growing population, while also addressing the views of hundreds of locals who objected to the scale of the original proposal," he said. "Good planning is about balancing the needs of existing residents and future residents."

Resident group Protect Fitzroy North had been campaigning for eight levels, saying 16 levels would have been a huge over-development of the site.

Architect, Koichi Takada initially proposed a cascading 16-storey development of about 550 apartments, covered in greenery inspired by the rice paddies of south-east Asia.  

Apartment Development GURNER

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