As everyone has been expecting since SALTA began marketing The Park House before Christmas, Minister for Planning and Member for Richmond, Richard Wynne, has granted the permit for 607-627 Victoria Street, Abbotsford, and the sale of Walmer Street, with “Option B” chosen. The decision was made public last week.
**Option B was rejected by the public meeting attendees, the councils on both sides of the river, and Bicycle User Groups (except for Bicycle Network, which inexplicably reversed it’s objection).
Below are the conditions attached to the SALTA development of The Park House, 607-627 Victoria Street, Abbotsford. (Minister’s letter below our comments)
There is no explanation of how these conditions are to be policed, and what will happen if they are not met. A fine is not an appropriate measure in these circumstances, as current fines are negligible, and as we are all aware, developers often incorporate the costs of fines into the development budget. We would like some assurance from the Minister that continuous independent auditing of this site and surrounds, not paid for by SALTA, or in any way connected to SALTA or its subsidiaries, is done on a transparent basis, and any failure to meet conditions is immediately noted and corrected.
We note number 11, landscaping and public realm plan, and again, suggest continuous monitoring to ensure that at least the very modest planting schedule is adhered to. It is a positive that the riverbank lookout has been deleted, and that access should have limited disturbance to the bank and embankment.
Number 18 Wind Assessment does not include a directive to assess the impact of new wind speeds, created by the canyon between The Park House and Walmer House, on users of the Walmer Street Footbridge.
Number 22 Construction Management Plan states that 24 hour access must be maintained along Walmer Street between Victoria Street and the bicycle/pedestrian bridge over the Yarra River. This does not guarantee that the Footbridge itself will remain open, and SALTA has previously stated that the Footbridge would need to be closed for an indefinite period.
The conditions include number 26, an Environmental Assessment. We would like to reiterate that this assessment should be carried out by independent professionals, with no links, of any kind, including Board memberships or donations, to SALTA, and that this process and its findings are transparent to the public, and to other environmental organisations. The environmental issues posed by these developments are so extensive that a single assessor would not have sufficient expertise in all of the issues, and a number of experts with specialist knowledge should be consulted. Individual experts in small mammals, marsupials, birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles and fish need to be consulted. Other issues which require individual expertise include light pollution and urban heat islands, and their effects on the River Corridor and habitat. We would suggest that an independent community environmental organisation such as the Yarra Riverkeepers should be appointed to supervise this process.
Number 50 notes a number of flood restrictions required by Melbourne Water. When Minister Justin Madden approved the original development, we understand Melbourne Water did not have input to the decision. These are important issues for future residents of The Park House, and certainly for future residents of Walmer House. Mandatory Melbourne Water flood controls were put aside by VCAT for Walmer House (with part of the building envelope below flood level on the NE corner). It is to be hoped that Melbourne Water restrictions will be adhered to for The Park House. Future residents may face difficulties in obtaining flood insurance when mandatory controls are disregarded.
SALTA has been given extremely generous and extraordinary permissions to profit from the amenity of the area, while seriously downgrading that amenity for the public, including their own future buyers. We think it is about time that SALTA showed their appreciation of this privilege, and gave back something to the community which has made this developer so rich. Even if the needs of the greater community are not of interest to SALTA, it seems appropriate that SALTA should consider the future residents of their own developments, The Park House and Walmer House, who will be major users of Walmer Street, the Main Yarra trail and the amenities of the river area, and will face the same difficulties as other users, once outside their apartments.
In spite of repeated requests by a number of people to the Minister of Planning and his department, no reasoning for Justin Madden’s granting of the original permits/sales has been provided, other than the “Yarra Gardens Precinct Plan 2009” prepared for SALTA by BatesSmart, Urbis and Buchan.
Both the SALTA developments, Walmer House and The Park House, approved in 2007, contravene almost every one of the policies and controls in DELWP’s own report from 2005. See: REVIEW OF POLICIES AND CONTROLS FOR THE YARRA RIVER CORRIDOR:PUNT ROAD TO BURKE ROAD. Consultant report to The Department of Sustainability and Environment, June 2005. Ironically, the photo on the cover of this report is taken from the Walmer St Footbridge (as the area looked before all the vegetation was removed).
Minister Wynne’s letter and conditions: