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Residents living to the north of Victoria St have had a small taste of what it is like to live in an urban renewal area. While the City North Structure Plan is still awaiting a ministerial tick, its effects are being felt by residents of 222 Victoria St.

On February 10, City of Melbourne councillors unanimously approved a permit for a 12-storey building immediately to their north, which they say will rob them of natural light and fresh air.

The proposal to build a new headquarters and training facilities for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation at 529-541Elizabeth St was hotly contested by neighbouring residents.

Councillors eventually approved a compromise proposal, which granted some extra setbacks, but councillors clearly would had a different view had the site been in a purely residential area.

Greens councillor Rohan Leppert spelled this out when he said: “Expectations about what can be built in an urban renewal area are very different (to a residential area).”

“Given that this is going to be a 40 metre height area, we have to do everything we can to use the tools available to us to make that interface as sympathetic as possible,” he said – claiming that the building would still look like it was only 40 m tall because the two-storey building plant facility on the top was set back from the edge.

Planning chair Cr Ken Ong said: “It’s a large building but generally complies with the City North plans.” He said four metre setbacks addressed heritage issues.

The council approved the demolition of the current Autobarn building at 529-533 Elizabeth St, despite it being included in a proposed heritage overlay.

Apart from their specific concerns about light and air, objectors also cautioned councillors that the proposal would overshadow the Queen Victoria Market in winter.

At the February 10 meeting, Graeme Poole told councillors the proposal would severely detract from the heritage value of the market. He said the building was grossly over-sized, should be limited to six storeys and that the plant should be located in the basement.

Neighbouring resident Judy Cowen predicted that residential development would halt in the city if residents continued to get “built out”. She said of the proposed building: “The bulk of it is breathtaking and it is completely out of place.”

“There will be no sunlight to the affected residents for most of the year as permanent overshadowing will start at about 9 o’clock in the morning,” she said. “Natural light will be diminished and only small glimpses of sky will be possible.”

“Noise from plant and toilets will also be introduced into our peaceful environment. Th e health and well being of residents will be drastically impacted.” Ms Cowen’s concerns were reinforced by fellow resident Lynn Nicholson, who said: “We won’t get any light. We won’t get any air.”

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