Residents still “ignored” in planning matters

By David Schout

The president of a CBD residents’ group has said locals continued to be ignored when it came to life-affecting developments within the Hoddle Grid.

EastEnders president Stan Capp said while he understood the need to stimulate the economy in a post-COVID environment, bypassing residents’ concerns was “gobsmacking”.  

He said the latest example, a complete refurbishment of the 28-storey former Shell House at 1 Spring St, showed an “absolute ignorance to the rights of residents”.

“If you go through the proposal, there’s a discussion about people who might be impacted, and the consequences of the development, with everybody but the residents,” he told CBD News. “And yet this is right at the back door of many people. There’s been a total lack of consultation. There is just an ignorance of taking on board key stakeholders who are residents.”

Mr Capp said the works would have a “significant impact” on residents at addresses 17, 31 and 35 Spring St and more broadly, was another example where no consultation had taken place, despite significant impact on quality of life. 

“I just think the ignoring of any rights that residents have is a very sad reflection on the City of Melbourne,” he said.

“I know exactly what the planning officers and the government will say, that ‘this is a part of living in Melbourne etc’. But when you lose all your [natural] light, and you have to put on all your lights inside every moment of the waking day, it’s a huge impact.”

Mr Capp has long condemned the lack of say CBD residents were afforded during the planning process for large-scale development.

He said while locals were realistic about living within a capital city zone and associated nearby works, both levels of government had to do better. 

“There’s a huge pressure on both the City of Melbourne and state government to stimulate construction. I get that. But it’s got to be sensible, it’s got to be sensitive, and something we can be proud of in 10 years’ time and say ‘that was a good outcome’,” he said. 

“It’s the people who really are the lifeblood of the city. If you talk to cafe owners, the people who kept them going during lockdown was really the residents … I just think it’s a very sad reflection when there isn’t really attention to the impact on residents in these sorts of decision processes.”

As a pre-election pledge, Lord Mayor Sally Capp (no relation) promised to create a new residents’ representative panel to give locals a more “direct” and “stronger” voice on council matters.

The group would comprise residents’ association leaders across the municipality. 

Mr Capp said this was a “good thing”, but a widespread cultural change was needed. 

“I think there’s got to be built into the psyche a much more systematic way of recognising and consulting with residents on these significant developments. And that really hasn’t happened.

“Development is going to happen. We just want it to be good development.”

The refurbishment of the office tower at 1 Spring St is currently before Heritage Victoria •

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