By Shane Scanlan
In an outcome that will please local residents, the Melbourne City Council has sent a developer back to the drawing board until it comes up with a better plan for truck deliveries and waste pick-ups.
Steadfast Capital Pty Ltd has applied for permission to redevelop a site containing eight buildings around the Walk Arcade between the Bourke St Mall and Little Collins St.
Consultant Larry Parsons asked the Future Melbourne Committee on September 18 for a positive recommendation to Planning Minister Richard Wynne to give the developer “confidence” to keep refining its proposal.
“To continue on, we need an approval and we realise that the state government is going into a hiatus period and we are continuing to work and we’ll work through the details but we’re seeking confidence to do that,” Mr Parsons said.
But councillors want issues that threaten the integrity of Union Lane as a shared, public thoroughfare resolved first before they would offer their endorsement.
And while the developer made much of a recent downward estimation on the number of trucks that would visit each day, Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood laid down a challenge that perhaps no garbage trucks might be needed at all.
“The waste management issue is critical so, whether it’s over 40 trucks or 22, have you given any consideration to trying to use this restriction here in the inner city to drive innovation?” he asked. “Can we deliver a zero-waste development here?”
“Trucks coming in, picking up waste and moving out – it’s a system that’s been around for hundreds of years. So, have you given any consideration to really using this impost to drive something really spectacular in terms of waste management?”
In answer to a question from another councillor, Mr Parsons, who was previously the state’s director of development approvals and urban design, revealed his ignorance of residential sensibilities when he said of truck movements: “It’s all designed in the management plan to happen between midnight and 7.30 am. So it isn’t a time when we should be conflicting with pedestrians.”
Mr Parsons said small retailers within the complex could be served by trucks unloading in Little Collins St.
Cr Wood later said: “I think it’s time, in this city where we’ve ticked over now to five million people in metro Melbourne, that we’ve got to do things differently with truck movements in the city and we’ve got to do things differently with waste management particularly when we are in one of the densest parts of the retail core.”
Councillors were concerned about the developer’s plan to situate its loading bay off the middle of Union Lane. The developer proposes to demolish the Book Building on its corner with Little Collins St to make room for turning trucks.
Cr Nicolas Frances Gilley said: “If you’ve got three vehicles backed up, you effectively lose Union Lane. That would significantly change the feel of walking through the city.”
In a verbal submission to the committee, Melbourne Heritage Action president Tristan Davies said the developer fundamentally misunderstood what Melbourne was about.
“Union Lane is essentially going to be destroyed by this development,” he said. “This graffiti laneway is one of the highlights of Melbourne. It has that essential Melbourne character.”
“To see it turned into essentially a loading bay will gentrify it and there will be no artists in there anymore.”
“People come to Melbourne to appreciate laneways like this, street culture and things happening. They don’t come to appreciate a loading bay.”
Cr Rohan Leppert said: “We don’t want to leave it to trust that these issues, particularly around Union Lane and ingress and egress of the trucks …, can be dealt with.”
“We want to make sure that our traffic engineers and our planners have had a look at what those solutions are before we’d give it our tick.”
Lord Mayor Sally Capp encouraged the developer to keep working on its proposal.
“We recognise the intention of the outcome that you are seeking and acknowledge that, so we are encouraging you and your clients to keep going,” she said.