Good news from VCAT, but much more to be done

The Wesley Historic Precinct Action Group (WHPAG) congratulates the Melbourne City Council (MCC) for the firm stand its planning officers took in defending the city’s refusal of the town planning permit application by Brady Jones Pty Ltd for 109-111 Little Lonsdale St.

It is indeed good news that VCAT supported the original refusal by the MCC in its decision of April 5, and no permit was granted. But much has to be done to strengthen the planning scheme and give CBD residents a clearer picture of future developments, a better definition of their amenity rights and better processes to allow resident views to be taken into account in building our future Melbourne.

A vital immediate issue for our neighbourhood is that of the proposed Wesley/Leightons 39-storey building now in the hands of the Minister for Planning. This proposal was, in fact, highlighted in the MCC presentation to show the total impact of both Brady Jones buildings and the Wesley site development on overall amenities of Regency Towers.

The Brady barrister actually argued in his presentation to VCAT that if the property to the western side of Jones Lane (Wesley) could be developed in terms of bulk, scale and height, so therefore could 109-111 Little Lonsdale.

Given that VCAT ruled otherwise, the argument should work the other way. The Wesley proposal, which imposes a much greater reduction in amenity on the western side of Regency Towers (but nonetheless recommended for approval by the MCC), should be fundamentally reconsidered.

A second issue that must be tightly overseen by the MCC is that of the next steps on the development under the approved permit for the 113-115 Little Lonsdale site.

The VCAT decision was highly critical of the lack of integration between the two sites owned by Brady Jones.

Any further development of these sites should require an integrated plan, which should be subject to either the interim planning controls in place or those to come into effect on 15 September 2016.

Maureen Capp

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