Reasons for decision to exercise power of intervention




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REASONS FOR DECISION TO EXERCISE POWER OF INTERVENTION

UNDER SECTION 20(4) OF THE PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENT ACT 1987

MELBOURNE PLANNING SCHEME AMENDMENT C183

The Planning and Environment Act 1987, the Heritage Act 1995 and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 provide for the intervention of the Minister for Planning in planning and heritage processes.

In exercising my powers of intervention, in accordance with the Ministerial Powers of Intervention in Planning and Heritage Matters Practice Note, I have agreed to:

Make publicly available written reasons for each decision; and



Provide a report to Parliament at least every twelve months detailing the nature of each intervention.



REQUEST FOR INTERVENTION


  1. Not applicable.

WHAT POWER OF INTERVENTION IS BEING USED?


  1. I have decided to exercise my powers to exempt myself from all the requirements of sections 17, 18 and 19 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the regulations in respect to Amendment C 183 to the Melbourne Planning Scheme (the Scheme).

  2. Section 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 enables the Minister for Planning to exempt an amendment which the Minister prepares from any of the requirements of sections 17, 18 and 19 of the Act or the regulations.

  3. In seeking to exercise this power, section 20(4) of the Act requires that the Minister must consider that compliance with any of those requirements is not warranted or that the interests of Victoria or any part of Victoria make such an exemption appropriate.

BACKGROUND

  1. I have decided to exercise my power under section 20(4) of the Act to exempt the proposed amendment from the usual notice requirements which would otherwise apply. I have decided to prepare, adopt and approve an amendment to the Melbourne Planning Scheme.

  2. The amendment affects land in the Batmans Hill area of Docklands as follows:

  • The section of Wurundjeri Way (RDZ1) between Mayfield Place (north of the Medibank building at 700 Collins Street) and the Flinders Street/ Aurora Lane junction.

  • Land adjacent to Wurundjeri Way generally bound by Collins Street (to the north), the railway track approaching Southern Cross Station (east), Flinders Street (south) and Aurora Lane (west). The land is also know as Parcels 5B, 6, 6A, 6B and 6C.



  1. The amendment will facilitate the overall development of the land. In particular it will:

  • Re-zone the section of Wurundjeri Way (Road Zone, RDZ1) to Docklands Zone (DZ3) in order to ensure that the entire area a consistent zoning. This will allow the road to be ‘decked’ with new development above. It will facilitate the development of the land and air rights above Wurundjeri Way for an appropriate mix of commercial, residential and business to occur on the site whilst ensuring the continued functioning of Wurundjeri Way.

  • Revise the Docklands Zone (DZ3) to remove the prohibition of the shadowing across the south bank of the Yarra River between 11.00am and 2.00pm on the 22 June for Parcels 5B, 6, 6A, 6B and 6C. This is a mandatory control currently contained in the applicable schedules to the Docklands Zone north of the Yarra River and in the Capital City Zone.

  • Remove the existing Design and Development Overlay (DDO51) for the site.

  • Include VicRoads as a Section 55 referral authority in the schedule to Clause 66.04 for certain types of development on the land which requires access or altering the access to Wurundjeri Way. Both the Docklands Zone (DZ3) and Capital City Zone (CCZ1) will be altered to ensure proper referral is triggered.

  1. The revised Docklands 3 Zone (DZ3) will incorporate all the features of the Road Zone (RDZ1) and will essentially be a neutral translation into the revised DZ3. The appropriate land uses will be transposed from RDZ1 into the corresponding sections of the schedule to DZ3. If a permit was not required under the RDZ it will not require a permit under DZ3. Wurundjeri Way will continue to operate as an arterial road and may be built over in part.

  2. VicRoads control the operation of Wurundjeri Way and will continue to act as a referral authority for new access / works as appropriate, similar to the balance of the length of Wurundjeri Way which will remain as Road Zone Category 1.

State Asset

  1. The site is owned by State Government. The land south of Collins Street is currently being marketed by VicUrban as a prime development site nationally and internationally. There are a number of consortiums bidding to win the right to regenerate the site and this tender process concludes in October 2011.

  2. It is considered that development of the site will assist VicUrban in carrying out urban renewal projects and contribute to the implementation of Government urban planning policy and to link the Docklands area to the city.

  3. The site is complex and located in a position that will have great significance in the overall development of Docklands and Melbourne. It has been identified that the existing planning controls may hinder an innovative development of the site and reduce the economic return to the State.

Site History

  1. There has been several failed attempts to redevelop the site.

  2. In 1998 the ‘Grollo Tower’ was proposed at a height 560 metres high and the proposed tower would be the world’s tallest building at the time. The proposed tower was designed by Denton Corker Marshall and comprised a tower of approximately 120 levels plus a 108 m light pinnacle. It incorporated commercial office space, residential apartments, a room five star hotel and associated retail facilities. The project did not proceed at the time.

  3. In 2008 Sama Dubai and its architect Foster and Partners entered into a Development Agreement with VicUrban to prepare a development proposal that extended between Collins and Flinders Streets, west of the Media House development, and included a substantial deck across Wurundjeri Way connecting two separate development parcels.

  4. The masterplan included an integrated grouping of four towers ranging in height from 125 m up to 340 m with lower level podium buildings (30m) providing a pedestrian friendly public realm at a raised ground plane directly off Collins Street, with links through to both Flinders Street and Aurora lane.

  5. The total build out equated to approximately 289,000 m2 GFA (plus carparking). This was equivalent to about three times the floor space of the Rialto. The project was estimated to have an end value of more than $1.8 billion.

  6. A Planning Scheme Amendment was among the conditions precedent prior to the Development Agreement. The Planning Scheme Amendment if approved would enable the 340 m tower to be developed and was required due to the tower casting a shadow onto the south bank of the Yarra River. The project did not proceed due to the global financial crisis in March 2009.

  7. It is considered that the site is difficult to develop given the physical constraints of the road and rail lines and the form of the site.

Agency Negotiations

  1. There have been discussions between main stakeholders/ landowners VicUrban, VicRoads and the Department of Transport over the sites and an in-principle agreement regarding building over the road and a small corner of the railway. Building over an arterial road and an area of railway is extremely difficult in practical terms and there is unlikely to be too many windows of opportunity when all main parties are in general agreement and the market is suitable for growth.

  2. There will be an opportunity to discuss the development of the site with other interested parties such as City of Melbourne at a design development stage. Any work on the land will still require a planning permit application and the responsible authority will have the ability to consult further as appropriate.

Planning Scheme History

  1. The old format planning scheme for the Docklands contains policy for this site, which was to provide for a major landmark mixed use tower on a scale of international significance. It was also to ensure that a landmark building in the precinct is of standard consistent with the world’s best practice in quality and design excellence. This was generally transferred into the new format planning scheme via Amendment C92 to the Melbourne Planning Scheme.

Planning Benefit

  1. The rezoning to a consolidated Docklands Zone (DZ3) will facilitate an appropriate scale of development and a mix of commercial, residential and business to occur on the site whilst ensuring the continued functioning of Wurundjeri Way and the small area of railway land.

  2. The existing area is under-utilised and a blight on the landscape. It has poor amenity and pedestrian accessibility and acts as a physical barrier between the Central City and Docklands. Redevelopment will make a positive contribution to the quality of the urban form and public realm and provide benefits for residents, tourists and office workers. It will provide a safer connection between the Docklands and the City by providing an active frontage to the entire length of Collins Street, which will break down the physical and psychological barrier that exists between the two areas as a result of the bridge going over Wurundjeri Way. Development represents an opportunity to link the developing areas of Docklands to the west, South Bank and the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre to the south.

  3. Any redevelopment of the site will have to meet specific planning-led requirements including facilitating pedestrian connections and rebuilding the former Batmans Hill as a key space of public interest.

  4. The removal the existing Design and Development Overlay (DDO51) is considered acceptable as this is a non-mandatory height control and the site has previously been identified as being suitable for a landmark building of considerable scale. The current urban design controls within Clause 22.18 of the Scheme will appropriately shape development on the site in future as will the appropriate Development Agreements set down by VicUrban to the successful developer.

  5. Removing the mandatory overshadowing shadowing control in Docklands Zone (DZ3) will allow the site to be developed to its full potential and become an icon of Docklands and the central Melbourne area. This control limits any building to approximately 220-260 metres. The State is also likely to achieve a better quality planning outcome as the increased value of the land is likely to attract the highest quality land development team of experienced architects, planners, engineers, urban designers and builders.

  6. Overall this site is a favourable development site in planning terms. The current DZ3 anticipates a tall and iconic building in this area. Clause 22.02 - sunlight to public spaces – which would potentially reduce development does not apply to the docklands area. The site is large and the location is removed from potentially sensitive uses on neighbouring sites. The area displays a varied and often poor neighbourhood character as a result of the dominance of nearby transport corridors.

  7. The site’s location has the potential to attract commercial tenants looking to secure high quality office space with a Collins Street address, proximity to services and amenities including the potential for a direct access into Southern Cross Station.

  8. The site south of Collins Street is currently subject to the consortium of development applications to VicUrban however land north of the Collins Street Bridge has been included in this amendment. VicUrban have advised that the cost of building a deck over Wurundjeri Way will impose a significant capital cost on the project and with a larger site, there is a greater opportunity for the developer to recoup this cost over the project’s lifetime. It will also allow greater flexibility to resolve servicing and structural requirements and will assist in securing a more integrated urban design outcome across the entire site. A Masterplan will be prepared by VicUrban for the entire site that ensures key design aspirations are met (for example providing a continuous pedestrian connection from Collins Street to Flinders Street). Appropriately zoning the site and removing the height restrictions will assist in achieving several State planning policy objectives, notably:

  • Clause 11.04-4 (Settlement – Central Melbourne), which encourages the role of central Melbourne as the largest centre of activity and one that facilitates a compact city and one that encourages Central Melbourne’s role as the State’s gateway to the global economy.

  • It is consistent with Clause 15.01 (Urban Design) which seeks to create good quality environments with a sense of place and cultural identity. It is consistent with Urban Design Principles, as it removes impediments to developing a vacant site in the city that is burdened by an arterial route. Any development of the site over Wurundjeri Way will improve the access between Northbank, Docklands and the Central City areas.

  • It is consistent with Clause 15.02 (Sustainable Development) as it seeks to encourage land use and development that is consistent with the efficient use of energy and the minimisation of greenhouse gas emissions.

  • It is consistent with Clause 17 (Economic Development) as a consolidated site will encourage development that will improve retail, entertainment, office and other commercial opportunities and provide a net community benefit in relation to accessibility.

  • It is consistent with policy contained in Clause 19 which seeks to ensure that strategic planning should facilitate efficient use of existing infrastructure and human services.

  1. The determination of the development proceedings may have a substantial effect on the achievement of other planning objectives. It responds to objectives set out in the Municipal Strategic Statement, notably, Clause 21.03-1, which indicates that the vision for Melbourne will be achieved by a City that recognises and caters for a diversity of business activity and a mix of uses. It also responds to Clause 21.03-2 which indicates Council’s intent to strengthen and enhance the Capital City role of the central city.

  2. Increase in the population in this area will improve the vitality and liveability of the City and Docklands. It will enhance safety and ensure efficient use of services and infrastructure. Increased residential, office and other commercial development would contribute to the overall urban consolidation objectives outlined within the State Planning Policy Framework.

Benefits of exemption

  1. The amendment supports the objectives of Section 4 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 by providing for fair, orderly, economic and sustainable use and development of land.

  2. The benefits of exemption are:

  1. Urgency in maximisation of State asset, and

  2. Urgency as the project will deliver objectives of State planning policy quicker (Better decisions quicker).

Urgency in maximisation of State asset

  1. The site is owned by the State Government and is currently being marketed nationally and internationally as a prime development site. The amendment will provide greater certainty to parties to allow effective and accurate planning and development feasibility assessments. This will ensure the development attracts national and international investment and maintains the competitive advantage of Docklands as the leading regeneration project in the State.

  2. For this to happen the planning controls cannot be under review through a normal planning scheme amendment due to the time constraints for the tender process.

  3. The exemption will ensure that the planning controls over the land do not restrict the development of the land. This will ensure that an innovative development can be achieved in a financially sound manner whilst returning positive economic return to the State. This will also realise flow-on benefits to the local economy and employment opportunities in the short and longer term.

  4. By exempting the amendment from notice the development has the opportunity to be assessed without being burdened by restrictive planning controls. It will increase the chance that the development will commence and also increase the chance that it will commence more quickly to deliver a positive outcome for the State and the general public.

Better decisions quicker

  1. There are relatively few sites in the City or Docklands where redevelopment will make such a substantial planning impact as this site. There is a real opportunity to develop these sites over the road corridor so they properly link the Central City to Docklands from a public realm perspective. Delay in changing the planning controls will slow the development process at a critical time thus potentially diluting the planning outcomes achievable. Certainty in planning controls will allow the potential developers to achieve more on the site with potential greater public realm benefits.

  2. The re-development of Docklands is continuing at pace with many world-leading buildings of distinction already completed such as the ANZ headquarters on Collins Street and the NAB headquarters on Bourke Street. However the physical barrier of the Southern Cross Railway Station, associated rail lines and Wurundjeri Way is causing disconnection in Melbourne and diluting the positive development work that has been done in Docklands. The neighbourhood character in this area is often poor as a result of the dominance of nearby transport corridors. The existing site is a blight on the landscape with poor amenity and poor pedestrian accessibility and experience.

  3. Proper redevelopment of this site will enhance the physical quality and character of Melbourne’s streets through sensitive and innovative design and improving the active frontages for the entire length of Collins Street in this area.

  4. By exempting the amendment from notice it will allow the site to be developed in a structured manner with key planning improvements such as improving the physical linkages between Docklands, Central City and Northbank to be incorporated in the initial design. In order for these planning improvements to be implemented by the developer the proposal must be financially viable. Re-zoning the land and removing the impediments of height controls will allow more flexibility in financial planning and allow vital planning improvements to be achieved.

  5. For many years the design and planning intent for this area was to produce a landmark building of international significance. This has not happened and the reasons for this must be examined. The reality of what constitutes a ‘building of international significance’ has shifted markedly and to meet this criterion a building taller than the 300metre Eureka tower is likely to be required. This would not be possible without the removal of the height controls. Rezoning the land to a more ‘development friendly’ zoning and removing restrictive height controls at this juncture is important as it will maximise the chances of achieving this planning objective through the current tender and design process.

  6. By exempting the amendment from notice it will allow the site to be developed more quickly and therefore meet State planning objectives by providing a site to the market at the opportune time in order to maximise its potential to be developed.

  7. Exempting the amendment from notice will contribute to the social, economic and environmental well-being of the community by ensuring Victoria does not lose the potential for an iconic development that is located in the Central City/ Docklands area where transport and other infrastructure already exists.

  8. All of the tenderers have a proven track record of delivering large scale development projects in Victoria. Any delay in this re-zoning and removal of height restrictions as a result of provision of notice could risk the opportunity of such financially secure developers investing in central Melbourne and improving urban densification in a significant way, in a reasonably short timeframe.



Effects of Exemption on Third Parties

  1. The effect of the exemption will be that potentially affected parties will not have the opportunity to make submissions on the Amendment and have those submissions considered by a Panel.

  2. In practical terms, the removal of the mandatory height control will allow a taller building than is allowed currently and potentially will overshadow the south bank of the River Yarra. The current control would potentially limit any building to approximately 220-260 metres and removal would allow a much taller building. Any shadow of the south bank of the Yarra from this site is going to fall on land around the Casino and Melbourne Exhibition Centre and Convention Centre. The affected parties are potentially the State Government and the City of Melbourne as owners/ custodians of this land and the public realm areas and also users of the public open space in this area.

  3. The removal of the height restriction does not exempt the development of the site from a planning approvals process under the Planning and Environment Act. It is envisaged that either further planning approvals will be required to develop the site either via a planning permit, an additional amendment to the planning scheme or a development plan approval.

  4. The rezoning would affect the current owners of the sites in question namely VicUrban, VicRoads and the Department of Transport.

Assessment as to whether benefits of exemptions outweigh effects on third parties

  1. It is considered that the interests of Victoria would be better served if the delay associated with compliance with the notice requirements for an amendment was avoided.

  2. The notice requirements and potentially panel requirements of an amendment may be lengthy and at the conclusion I have the ability to make the decision to approve the amendment and re-zone the land and remove the height restrictions on the land.

  3. There is a degree of urgency in introducing appropriate planning controls over the site. The site is owned by the State Government and is currently being marketed nationally and internationally as a prime development site. To enable interested parties to effectively plan and undertake development feasibility assessment the planning controls cannot be under review through a normal planning scheme amendment due to the time the process may take and to provide for certainty to achieve the innovative development of the site and to ensure that the economic return to the State is appropriate.

  4. Rezoning the land to a more ‘development friendly’ zoning and removing restrictive height controls at this juncture is important as it will maximise the chances of achieving key planning objectives (such as pedestrian connectivity and public realm improvements) through the current tender and design process.

  5. There is urgency in securing an appropriate developer for the proposal as quickly as possible as development on this site has stalled several times in the past and any more delay could result in the development of iconic status not being viable. This is considered unacceptable as an iconic building in this location and the supplementary public realm improvements will have a positive effect on the achievement of State planning objectives.

  6. On this basis it is in the interests of Victoria to exempt the amendment from notice provisions and I consider the benefits outweigh the effects on third parties.


DECISION


  1. I have decided to exercise my power to exempt myself from all the requirements of sections 17, 18 and 19 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the regulations in respect of Amendment C183 to the Melbourne Planning Scheme.

REASONS FOR INTERVENTION


  1. In accordance with the Ministerial Powers of Intervention in Planning and Heritage Matters Practice Note I provide the following reasons for my decision to exercise my power under section 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

  2. I am satisfied that -

The interests of Victoria or any part of Victoria make such an exemption appropriate

because:





  • It will provide greater certainty to parties to allow effective planning and development feasibility assessments to ensure the development attracts national and international investment and maintains the competitive advantage of Docklands as the leading regeneration project in the State.

  • It will facilitate key improvements to urban form, public realm and pedestrian connections for a strategically important site for Melbourne, Docklands and the Northbank area.

  • It will facilitate a landmark mixed use tower development of international significance that meets State planning objectives of sustainability and urban consolidation whilst increasing employment and housing opportunities.

Signed by the Minister

MATTHEW GUY MLC

Minister for Planning



Date: 19 August 2011


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