By Lina Le
The illuminated Fivex signs on top of the River View House at the corner of Elizabeth and Flinders streets may not be there for long.
The City of Melbourne on March 6 rejected an application for its continued display.
The signs displays the word “Fivex” and was installed two years ago by the building’s owner, Fivex Commercial Property.
A planning permit for the signs was first issued in 2003 for 15 years and will expire in May 2018.
In February, the council refused an extension. According to a report to the March 6 Future Melbourne Committee, the signs were deemed to have had an impact on views from the Yarra River corridor. Council’s current policy discourages the display of high-wall promotional signs around the area.
Representatives from Fivex and Mecone, the company’s planner, spoke to the committee, but the decision was upheld after a major debate.
Fivex contended the signs were for business identification and were not promotional as suggested by the council.
“No one at any point in time told us prior to the six times this application has been reviewed by the council previously that we could only keep it up for two years,” Leslie Berger, Fivex’s managing director, said.
Eight councillors voted for the decision whilst two councillors voted against it.
Cr Rohan Leppert shared his view that, even though the decision seemed punitive, it was important that the policies must be followed.
“That policy quite clearly discourages the signs of this height, of this nature, and of this brightness in this sensitive area,” he said.
Cr Philip Le Liu said in favour of the sign: “I like the fact that we have corporate signage because I think it’s the fact that it’s a badge of honour for Melbourne where we bring in international business.”
“I think it shows that we are an international city and people want to come here to do business.”
He said that refusing to grant the permit would be “unfair”.
Acknowledging that it was a complicated debate, Acting Lord Mayor Arron Wood supported the decision on the grounds of policy change.
Since the planning permit was first granted, the policy has changed to discourage such signs within the precinct.
“When you consider the look of Darling Harbour for example, Sydney, [there are] a lot of high-wall signs at night heavily illuminated. [It’s] some people’s cup of tea and I love it. But Melbourne is much more understated than Sydney is, and it is something that we pride ourselves on.”
Fivex Commercial Property has appealed the refusal and it will be heard at Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in May.