“Consultation” sessions

Plan at bottom of page

Salta representatives conducted two information sessions on Wednesday 13th and Saturday 16th July. These sessions were in no way a “community consultation process”.

Feedback sheets were available, but as many attendees did not know they were there, and as the sheets are to be collated by Salta representatives, they are worse than useless due to the lack of transparency or independent scrutiny. As we pointed out in May, the Minister needs to institute proper, independent community consultations, untainted by the involvement of the developer. Otherwise, Minister Wynne and the Victorian Government risk repeating mistakes made by former Planning Minister Justin Madden, who was responsible for the original Salta deal on the MFB site, and for making it a Priority Development Zone, enabling over development of the Yarra River Corridor, and the design of “Walmer Plaza”.
Many people remember the 2010 “consultations” scandal of former Planning Minister Justin Madden.  On 25 February 2010 the ABC revealed an email mistakenly sent from Mr Madden’s office containing a media strategy document which contained plans for a sham consultation process http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-02-25/government-email-reveals-plans-to-deceive/343430

We need a proper open consultation process this time.

The Meetings
Salta reps stated that their design for “Walmer Plaza” was the best solution, and the minor changes are a generous response to community concern.

When pointed out that there were a number of alternative designs and access routes possible, but which may require the sacrifice of a couple of apartments, Salta reps stated again that their design was the best solution.

When questioned about the fact that the “Walmer Plaza” design focus was purely to provide more space for more apartments in the developments, particularly the development at 647-649, Salta reps stated that their design was the best solution.

When questioned about “Davidson Plaza” (on the other side of the development) Salta reps agreed that it was a “drop off zone” akin to the failed Southbank designs. They again stated that it was the best solution.

When questioned about the dedicated traffic lanes in Victoria St for the developments, Salta reps stated that these met Vic Roads  requirements, and it was the best solution.

All attendees at the sessions could agree on one fact. All Salta’s designs are the best solutions… for Salta’s commercial interests.

The changes that Salta have made are:
1. To put in a bicycle channel on the new steps to make it possible to wheel bikes up these steps.
2.To double the path width to 3.1m, with widened rounded edges to two of the switchbacks.
3. To shorten the length of the mid-level switchback paths (formerly 2x80m distances; no new distances provided on plan). This switchback is the most direct proposed cycle/disabled access to and from the Trail, and is an abrupt 180 degree turn across two way pedestrian traffic. This is a very dangerous major congestion point.

The issues that were not addressed:

  • The “Plaza” is still 2m higher.
  • The new stairs are still there.
  • The current simple and efficient bike ramp  which allows voluntary separation of pedestrians and cyclists is still gone.
  • The switchbacks are still there, with the dangerous one from upper path to middle path still containing the most dangerous shared, two-way, 180 degree switchback.
  • The detour still runs awkwardly under the building, next to the restaurant space. (Plan does not show the building over the path).
  • The paths are still two-way shared use paths, with no data offered on the amount of users expected to compete for space.
  • The car tunnels are still there.
  • The crossings in front of the car tunnels are still dangerous.
  • The “Plaza” still looks exactly like the concrete roof for a carpark, which it is.
  • The space is still not user-friendly, and it is still unwelcoming for all users, but especially for the disabled or elderly.
  • The entire space and the paths are still unfit for the amount of competing users.
  • There will still be difficulties for emergency access/responders.
  • Salta reps stated that there was provision for access to the footbridge for repairs and possible replacement. This is in direct contrast to the concerns expressed by the council about the access issues and inability to move heavy equipment down from the new levels for repair or replacement.

The issues of the height, bulk, environmental impact and the diminution of community amenity which the developments would cause to the Yarra Corridor and the river itself were raised by attendees, but were not responded to by Salta representatives. It was made clear to attendees that the only changes to be considered would be minor cosmetic ones.

Please voice your objections, and demand a transparent process of real community consultation from our Planning Minister (and Member for Richmond) Hon Richard Wynne, and our Premier Hon Daniel Andrews, who can decide to retain public ownership of the Crown Land of Walmer Street; Hon Lisa Neville, Minister for Water; and Hon Lily D’ Ambrosio, Minister for Energy, Environment,Climate Change and Suburban Development.
We urge you to copy in Mr David Davis, Shadow Planning Minister, Mr Matthew Guy, Leader of the Opposition, Mr Brad Battin, Shadow Environment Minister and Mr Greg Barber, Leader of the Greens.
Addresses:
Hon Richard Wynne:   richard.wynne@parliament.vic.gov.au
Twitter  http://twitter.com/rwynnemp
Premier Hon Daniel Andrews:   daniel.andrews@parliament.vic.gov.au  http://www.facebook.com/DanielAndrewsMP          http://www.twitter.com/DanielAndrewsMP
Hon Lisa Neville:   lisa.neville@parliament.vic.gov.au
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/@LisanevilleMP
Hon Lily D’ Ambrosio:     lily.d’ambrosio@parliament.vic.gov.au
Twitter http://twitter.com/LilyDAmbrosioMP

Mr David Davis:   david.davis@parliament.vic.gov.au
Mr Matthew Guy:   matthew.guy@parliament.vic.gov.au
Mr Brad Battin:  brad.battin@parliament.vic.gov.au
Mr Greg Barber:   greg.barber@parliament.vic.gov.au
http://www.facebook.com/GregBarberMP    Twitter: http://twitter.com/GregMLC

plaza_salta

^^ Salta’s revised plan shown at meetings. Note, building undercroft over path is not shown, but will still be present, as below:

steps01

VCAT Decision on 647-649

The VCAT tribunal handed down it’s decision on 29th June.
There are no surprises in the decision. VCAT has, once again, supported a billionaire developer against objectors from the local community on both sides of the river, Yarra and Boroondara Councils, Melbourne Water, National Trust, and the Yarra Riverkeeper, as well as the Planning Minister himself.

In spite of Minister Wynne’s positive assessment of the VCAT decision on the Channel 9 6pm news on Sunday evening, and in The Age article of 3rd July (note Age article contains inaccurate statements about Salta gifting land/extension of trail), the VCAT decision on 647-649 was not a positive outcome for the Yarra River corridor, for views of the Skipping Girl sign, or for users of the Yarra River trails and environs.  It was a substantial win for the developer, which confirmed for many people that our Planning system, Government processes, and VCAT,  are deeply and irrevocably flawed. It is understandable that the Minister would wish to present the decision in a positive light, as his own contribution was substantially ignored by VCAT (see Minister’s letter HERE).

The appearance of a decision made by rote might be summed up in the fact that the permit and conditions order (page 27), is actually for the wrong address. Instead of 647-649 Victoria Street, the address given by VCAT is 645-647 Victoria Street.

The developer was permitted to tender modified plans, amendments, and extra evidence throughout the hearing, and was granted an extra day of hearing.

A permit was granted for a nine storey building, to a height of 47.22 m with lift and plant equipment. It incorporates  a “cutout” podium on level two to allow some views of the Skipping Girl Sign  from Victoria Street. The interruption to the view of the Skipping Girl Sign from the Walmer St Footbridge was not considered, even though this is a view often appreciated and photographed by tourists and residents alike, both during the day, and at night.

Summary of major points.
Skipping Girl Sign/ Victoria Street
The Skipping Girl Sign is recognised by an individual Heritage Overlay (H0353) and is on the Victorian Heritage Register (H2083). The Planning Scheme includes four provisions dealing specifically with the Skipping Girl Sign.

However, the Tribunal considered that the sign does not “catch the eye”as in times past, and will be lost amongst all the new taller developments along Victoria and Burnley Streets (the developments on all 4 corners are Salta developments). It will be especially affected by the proposed  new Salta development on the west corner of Walmer Street (607-627).

The peculiar planning illogic that holds sway, dictates that, as the other proposed Salta development at 607-627 will interrupt views of the Skipping Girl Sign, the Salta development at 647-649 should be permitted, because the views will be impeded anyway.  If you want to be permitted to impede the view of a landmark, it seems you only need to plan to build another building further away which will also impede the view, and then point to either as a reason for the other to be allowed. People outside the planning sphere might suggest that perhaps a more sensible and just solution would be to impose height limits on both proposed developments and not impede the view at all.

The Tribunal also decided that no additional measures were needed to protect the view of the sign from the East at night, as although lights from the development will affect the visibility, “future residents with east-facing windows may well keep the curtains and blinds closed at night in order to limit annoying light spill from the sign into their dwellings”.  It is puzzling that dwellings subject to such annoying light spill would be allowed to be built and sold. This would be a particular issue for those buying off the plan as it may not be evident that some apartments will be subject to annoying light spill.

Walmer Plaza
The Tribunal stated that they have no jurisdiction regarding issues affecting Walmer Plaza, and they do not form any part of the consideration of the proposal for 647-649.

Yarra Corridor Interface
Clauses 12.05-1 and 12.05-2 were introduced into the planning scheme on 21 December 2015 via Amendment VC121. These clauses seek to ‘protect and enhance the significant river corridors of metropolitan Melbourne’ and ‘maintain and enhance the natural landscape character of the Yarra River corridor in which the topography, waterway, banks and tree canopy are dominant features providing a highly valued, secluded, natural environment for the enjoyment of the public’

On 14 January 2016 Design and Development Overlay Schedule 1 – Yarra River Corridor Strategy (DDO1) was introduced via Amendment C195.  The following discretionary controls apply: Beyond 15m ‘mandatory minimum setback line’ a maximum height of 18m.
Pursuant to clause 3 of DDO1 ‘an application to vary the discretionary provisions specified in Table 1 of this schedule must demonstrate how the development will achieve the design objectives of this schedule to the satisfaction of the responsible authority’.

The VCAT Tribunal decided to vary the height of 18m to 47.22m including equipment and plant.

DD01’s  design objectives which we consider the development failed to meet, and which the VCAT Tribunal appears not to have considered in its decision :

1.0 Statement of significance
The Yarra River and the landscape through which it passes has metropolitan significance as an environmental, aesthetic, cultural, recreation and tourism asset. The river corridor links parklands and reserves into a near-continuous vegetated landscape experience that
provides, for local and metropolitan communities, a highly valued refuge from the urban
environment.

2.0 Design objectives

  • Maintain and enhance the natural landscape character of the Yarra River corridor, in which the topography of the river and its banks, and a naturalistic corridor of canopy trees, are the dominant features in public views of the river and its setting.
  • Minimise the visual intrusion of buildings and works, when viewed from major roads, paths, bridge crossings, public open space, the Main Yarra Trail and the Yarra River.
  • Ensure that the siting and design of buildings is of a high architectural standard, with all elevations, external colours and finishes demonstrating a positive interface with the Yarra River and its natural landscape and environmental character.
  • Minimise visual bulk impact and allow views to the Yarra River and its vegetated corridor by providing spacing between buildings.
  • Set back development from the river edge to protect the landscape, topography and vegetation of the riverine environment as dominant visual elements.
  • Ensure all buildings, particularly on visible hill slopes, crests, skylines and ridgelines, are subordinate to existing vegetation and landscape values.
  • Ensure public views of any buildings and works are filtered through vegetation and trees.
  • External materials visible from the Yarra River should complement the landscape setting and be softened with appropriate screen planting where practical.
  • Avoid visually dominant buildings and buildings finishes that contrast with the surrounding landscape character.
  • Ensure that built form does not overshadow public open spaces, the Yarra River, the Capital City and the Main Yarra Trail.
  • Ensure development provides passive surveillance of public areas.
  • Ensure lighting is designed to minimise light spill on public open space, the Yarra River, the Capital City and the Main Yarra Trail.
  • Maintain the sense of seclusion the Yarra River corridor provides, particularly around Collingwood Children’s Farm and upstream of Johnston Street.
  • Within the “Current and Ex-Industrial” landscape character type, simple, uncluttered former industrial brick facades should be retained where they allow the Yarra River and its banks to remain the dominant feature.

Defend the Yarra believes that the VCAT members have fundamentally misinterpreted the provision to ensure development provides passive surveillance of public areas, contained in the DD01. This is not meant to reduce the opportunities of the public to view and enjoy the river environs, by privileging the private view enjoyed by the small number of occupants of the proposed apartment building. The effect of this building is to reduce and impact upon the public enjoyment and “surveillance” of the river environs. It is not an exaggeration to state that millions of people – tax paying people – will have their enjoyment and opportunities reduced over the coming decades for the benefit of a very few residents of these apartments, and the economic gain of a developer who has profited from the City of Yarra to the tune of a billion dollars.

The “increased surveillance opportunities” enjoyed by residents of the proposed Salta apartment developments are not meant to be at the expense of the “surveillance opportunities” enjoyed by the public.

The Tribunal did express concern regarding the landscaping shortcomings in the proposal, as it was criticised by Council and objectors for its “lack of detail and extent of landscaping”. (eg the landscape proposal suggests a “copse” of river red gums. One tree is not a “copse”, and it is even doubtful whether one such large tree might be accommodated in such a small space)
However, the Tribunal expressed itself satisfied that the plan was a “conceptual scheme”, and Council and Melbourne Water would have the ability to respond.

Other Issues
A permit was granted for the removal of a tree. (Many locals are under the impression that this tree was removed some time ago, and would be urging the Council to investigate the dates of any tree removals).

The Tribunal considered that it is an uncontroversial issue that the corner of the building extends into the LSIO (Land Subject to Inundation Overlay). LSIO applies to all land subject to flooding. Other landowners are required to meet all LSIO provisions.

One of the policy outcomes sought by Clause 22.11-3 is the creation of a dual pathway system along the Yarra River. The Tribunal does not consider this practical and feels little benefit would be achieved.

Light spill issues on the Yarra Corridor and the effect of large areas of glass on populations of insects and consequent chain reaction through the eco-system of the Yarra Corridor. Whilst the Tribunal did not reject the importance of these issues, because the issues are not covered in Victoria Planning Provisions affecting all Planning Schemes, the Tribunal did not feel the permit should be affected. No other ecological issues/effects were considered.

The Tribunal did not support contentions about increased traffic congestion, although they acknowledged that it is “inevitable that any increase in the number of off-street car spaces associated with new dwellings will increase traffic movements on the local road network. There are 146 car spaces associated with 647-649. (The reconfiguration of Victoria and Burnley Street and the dedication of traffic lanes for the development were not presented and were not within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal).

The Tribunal stated that the building to the East would not be unfairly affected in terms of future development, due to the fact that it would be constrained by Heritage Overlays on the Skipping Girl Sign and the building, and by the DD01 controls. (Both varied for 647-649). Therefore the balconies of 647-649 only need to be setback 3.6m from the common boundary.

If you wish to read the full decision see:

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2016/1045.html

 

Age article 3/7/2016

An article has been published in The Age regarding the VCAT decision on 647-649.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/new-buildings-will-dominate-the-yarra-at-abbotsford-says-riverkeeper-20160703-gpxjs7.html

The article is generally correct, with pertinent comments by the Yarra Riverkeeper, although it is certainly debatable whether the National Trust “hailed the decision”, and the land referred to in the article here:

“Salta was gifting 1630 square metres of riverfront land to the residents of the City of Yarra and providing land to extend the Yarra River bike track.”

is not part of 647-649. The land in question was land in lieu along the bank of 607-627, and was required as part of the development approval. It is steep, unable to be built upon, and is proposed to be used not for an extension of the bike track, but rather as only an inferior series of narrow switchback shared paths intended to make the removal of the current bike/disabled ramp possible. The land is proposed to be landscaped in a manner which primarily benefits the residents of the future development, and which the Council has criticised as an unreasonable privatisation of the bank which was supposedly to be for public use.

 

Why the Crown Land of Walmer Street should not be sold to a developer.

Walmer Plaza should not be sold to a private developer.

Building car tunnels which will take up two thirds of the available space in Walmer Street, raising the level of Walmer Street, and removing the bike/disabled ramp isn’t necessary.  It is simply a way for the developer to increase their profits at the expense of public amenity, access, and safety.
There are a number of alternatives for the developer:
1. An entrance/exit to the “Park House” development  is already possible via the car park openings at 611 Victoria Street. The car park extends all the way under the developments. There are two roller door openings already shown as entrance/exits to this side of the development.
2. Remove apartments ALG01 and ALG02 in SJB Architect’s Drawing TP04.1 to allow access via Shamrock Street.
3. Re-locate the Waste Collection area to give access to Shamrock Street.

The development at 647-649 which has just been decided at VCAT already has secondary vehicle access from Victoria St at the eastern end of the frontage to an internal Porte Cochere.

The only reason for the car tunnels in Walmer Street is to increase the space available in the developments at 607- 627 and 647-649, and therefore increase the profits for the developer.
Including the access to 647-649 under the “Park House” development also enabled the developer to avoid Council and public scrutiny of access for 647-649, and to avoid the question of “Walmer Plaza” and it’s consequences at the VCAT hearing.

The bike/disabled ramp could quite easily stay – except the developer wishes to build right up to and over that space, and the bike/disabled ramp also interrupts the “private garden” landscape effect given by the narrow switchback paths.

The “Walmer Plaza” car tunnels/access also have the considerable disadvantage to the public that will occur by the proposed re-design of the Victoria/Burnley/Walmer Street intersection. The Cardno report refers to provision of a dedicated, controlled right hand turn lane from Victoria Street into Walmer Street and the removal of the current left turn slip lane into Burnley Street. This area is already a traffic bottle-neck, and the four Salta Developments built to the maximum area on all corners leave no possibility of ever mitigating the traffic problems in this area. To remove or dedicate existing lanes simply for the convenience and increased profit of a developer is reprehensible.
Why would Vic Roads agree to these modifications?

The GTA survey of proposed traffic from the “Park House” indicates an additional 91 vehicle trips per peak hour. No current data is available to us for expected traffic from 647-649, but there are 146 parking spaces for this development.

The addition of this many vehicles to the area should, at the very least, oblige the  developer to use their own land for entry and exit, rather than placing the entire burden on the public, by redesigning major roads for their own convenience, and using public land to maximise their profits.