By Shane Scanlan
Opponents of the Queen Victoria Market redevelopment are ramping up their campaign, despite a Robert Doyle victory at the October council election.
Losing lord mayoral candidate Phil Cleary says there is enough community feeling and potential political alliances to convince Cr Doyle to revisit the City of Melbourne’s development plans.
“I’m extending the hand of friendship to Robert Doyle,” he said. “We think there’s a better solution which will save money and preserve the integrity of the market.”
“Other options need exploring. But if he isn’t interested, we’re prepared to go to war with him,” Mr Cleary said.
Mr Cleary said that, with the election of a new council, it was appropriate to revisit the planned redevelopment.
He said the market should be renewed via a refurbishment, better marketing, better management and a sustainable energy refit. He doesn’t support the council’s plans for temporary removal of sheds and excavation for basements under Sheds A, B, C, D, H and I and says the existing car park should be preserved with the addition of a second storey for public open space.
Mr Cleary said he was motivated to continue the fight to support traders who were unhappy with the proposal.
And he may well have the ultimate political ally in Planning Minister Richard Wynne, who told CBD News he was determined to protect the market.
“I am fired up about it simply because this is an iconic part of Melbourne that people love and I want to protect it. I want to protect it and I want to make sure that any redevelopment of it is sympathetic to the integrity of the market,” he said.
To avoid perceptions of conflict, the council has insisted that Mr Wynne be the planning authority to judge its proposal, which potentially should limit what he has to say.
“At the moment, there is not a proposal before me,” Mr Wynne said. “It’s changing all the time. They’re looking at different road alignments and where the car park entrances might be. Is it going to be in Queen St? Is it going to be on Therry St?”
“There are still serious questions to be answered in relation to Aboriginal cultural heritage. There are serious questions that still have to be resolved in relation to any impact on the cemetery. It’s not yet clear that there are not burial sites potentially under Sheds A, B, C, D and E.”
“And obviously there remain significant concerns from the traders about how this is all going to go and the other area that has no approval at this stage is heritage. So there’s a long, long way to go.”
Mr Wynne said he didn’t consider the planned redevelopment as an integrated plan which provided badly needed community infrastructure to City North while, at the same time, renewing the market.
“They’re stand alone projects,” he said. “I am concerned that any development that occurs on the market does not overwhelm the market. This is an incredibly important heritage site. It is much loved by Melburnians and I’m concerned about it.”
The Friends of the Victoria Market group have also been lobbying Mr Wynne. Spokesperson Mary-Lou Howie agreed with Mr Cleary that people needed to put aside their entrenched positions and come together for the sake of the market’s future. She also warned that, if that didn’t happen, the fight would intensify.
CBD News sent this story to the City of Melbourne three days before publication seeking a response from the Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle.
A spokesperson said: ” Unfortunately the Lord Mayor is unavailable to comment.”
Cr Doyle appears to have adopted a “crash or crash through” approach to progressing the council’s QVM renewal plans.
This is a pity as the plan is a good one and deserves community support.
But his unwillingness to engage is fast becoming THE issue.
This tactic will only strengthen the arm of his opponents and, in the end, it will be the future of the market that suffers.
It is apparent that the council has failed to communicate properly its plans for renewal.
This failure has allowed both politically-expedient opponents as well as people who are genuinely concerned to grasp onto rumours, half-truths and falsehoods.
CBD News respectfully suggests that Cr Doyle starts talking.
Minister Wynne would be a good place to start.