Limits to a 24-hour city

Council’s planning strategy for the CBD encourages a “24-hour” city where a range of activities, including licensed premises, are supported. However, this does not mean open slather.

There are other policies in the strategy that put the brakes on proposals that may have a detrimental impact on residents.

In Rangasamy v Melbourne CC [2016] VCAT 777, the tribunal considered an appeal against a council decision to refuse a restaurant at 302-308 Flinders Lane to convert to a tavern with 11.00pm closing.

There was one objector to the application, though the applicant tabled a number of letters from residents in the building that supported the application.

The applicant called a noise expert who had conducted some noise measurements from the outside of the building on a balcony near the site. However, the tribunal did not think the report was very helpful because it had been undertaken for a council planning application submission, not as expert evidence to the tribunal. The tribunal said: “The report has failings and unanswered questions”.

The tribunal acknowledged the area was already noisy. It was satisfied the operator was a good neighbour. There was some policy support for the application. But it felt that it did not have the evidence for it to conclude that it would not add unacceptable detriment to the amenity of residential properties.

It said: “What troubles me is the extent and number of people that can use the outdoor area being the laneway. Standing in the laneway where the seating would be associated with the use, if you look up, you can view the residential properties and the juliette balconies that look on to the laneway.”

Trying to balance a policy outcome for a 24-hour city with an increasing numbers of residents is challenging. It would seem the applicant did not help his cause in this case because of the deficiencies of the noise report. Seating in the laneway also appeared to be a major drawback.

The case demonstrates that tribunal decisions will largely depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and on the approach of the individual member.

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