Market basement a “terrorist target”

West Melbourne architect John McNabb has cautioned the City of Melbourne over the risk of terrorism posed by its planned three-level basement under the Queen Victoria Market (QVM).

Mr McNabb, who has designed an alternative above-ground proposal, says cars and trucks entering the basement would have to be so thoroughly checked, that a basement solution could be dysfunctional.

Mr McNabb said the defeat of ISIS in the Middle East and the transfer of acts of terror to heavily-populated hot spots around the western world, had brought international scrutiny on basement parking.

He said overseas experience showed that short-term basement public car parks were being reconsidered in the light of terrorism. Mr McNabb also said Parliament House in Canberra was considering new uses for the public carpark under the forecourt of the building because of the risk.  Mr McNabb was involved in the original design of Parliament House.

And, it’s not just bombs that do more damage in the confined space of an underground car park.

He said ventilations systems used in such facilities, lent themselves to the successful deployment of chemical and nerve agents.

Mr McNabb questioned whether the City of Melbourne had assessed the relative risk of underground parking compared with the model he was proposing.

In August last year, Mr McNabb presented an alternative redevelopment plan for the QVM which involved building another two and a half levels above the current market car park.  The City of Melbourne has previously rejected this plan, primarily because it would necessitate further disturbance of Melbourne’s first cemetery, which is below the car park.

Mr McNabb acknowledges this as a problem with his solution, but says the benefits outweigh this consideration.

His plan incorporates space for 1050 cars, whereas the council is looking to park about 200 customer cars in its proposed basement.  It also incorporates a landscaped rooftop “sky park” as well as trader and community facilities.

Mr McNabb says his car park would also be vulnerable to terrorist bombing but, a resulting blast would be lessened because the space was not confined.

He said an underground basement would require “Check Point Charlie” style security searching of all vehicles entering.

He said delivery vehicles would take so long to search, that queues at the single entrance would become intolerable. Customers, he said, would not bother parking there, considering the inconvenience.

He said his plan had multiple entrances and, without heritage considerations, queuing and turning lanes could be incorporated, unlike the council’s basement plan.

The City of Melbourne has foreshadowed that it is likely to reapply for a heritage permit to remove the Peel St half of sheds A, B, C and D to allow it to dig a basement for trader facilities, storage and parking.

In March, Heritage Victoria refused a permit.

The council has so far not revealed its next step, but councillors are keen to reapply for a permit to temporarily remove the sheds to allow the basement to be constructed.

As well as public parking, it would house trader parking, storage and preparation facilities.

The council refuses to say whether it has considered the risk of terrorism in its desire to build the basement, with a spokesperson saying: “Safeguarding the Queen Victoria Markets is a priority for the City of Melbourne. However, consistent with safety and security best practice, we will not be talking about specifics of risk assessments.”

Trader spokesperson Phil Cleary said he had consistently argued that underground parking was inappropriate as research showed that women would avoid it because they would feel unsafe.

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