Press Release the RAiD 3051 response to VCAT finding in favour of Woolworths

R.A.I.D. 3051 Media Release – 21 May 2013

RAID@3051 was stunned by the VCAT decision released late on Friday, May 17 2013 in which VCAT upheld the Minister for Planning’s decision to grant a permit for the North Melbourne Woolworths development, subject only to minor variations. Whilst RAID@3051 acknowledges that the Woolworths development comes at a time when North Melbourne and the Melbourne Planning Scheme are undergoing significant change, RAID@3051 had hoped that VCAT would give some consideration to the concerns expressed by the community and Council.

Instead, VCAT has dismissed outright RAID (and Council’s) major concerns as to incompatibility of height with the Arden-Macaulay Structure Plan, stating that “on many levels this proposal will ‘lead the way’ in terms of the urban renewal that is sought in this precinct, in a manner that achieves a high level of architectural merit and urban design outcomes… We find that the overwhelming opportunity that this site presents to achieve a substantial intensification of development in a location which is extremely well serviced, must be given greater weight than any desire to achieve a development that respects the existing scale of development in the surrounding neighbourhood (refer paragraphs 23 and 14: P2313 2012 Melbourne CC v Minister for Planning (md mp 170513).

RAID is astounded that the Tribunal members praised the Woolworths proposal, given the obvious short comings identified by the community. This decision has trashed good urban design principles and the years of work by Council in developing the Arden-Macaulay Structure Plan – a plan which would have established a 30 year vision for the sustainable growth of the area and which is yet to be implemented into the Melbourne Planning Scheme. VCAT completely ignored RAID@3051’s and Council’s main submission and the clear direction set out in Amendment C162 (and recommended by the Planning Panel) that until the objectives and strategies of approved structure plans are approved and implemented via a planning scheme amendment, the existing local policies for the area will apply. Although, the Tribunal conceded that the development did not comply with the existing local policies.

VCAT’s decision represents a planning outcome which is inconsistent with the strategic direction, policies and controls currently being implemented by Council. More importantly, it undermines the strategic planning process and usurps the power of Council, its panels, submitters and the Minister to plan for the Arden-Macaulay area. There must be no doubt that VCAT’s decision sets a disastrous precedent for planning in the City of Melbourne and more particularly in North Melbourne, and that it has further shaken the community’s faith in the planning processes in this state and in VCAT itself.

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This decision opens the gate for the Arden Macaulay precinct to become the new Docklands, an area now universally considered to have serious shortcomings. Whilst the Planning Minister seems determined to repeat the failures of Docklands and ignore its lessons about how NOT to effect urban renewal, RAID@3051 is determined that these mistakes will not be repeated.

RAID@3051 has advice that the decision of VCAT failed to take into account relevant considerations and that the decision can and should be appealed to the Supreme Court. RAID@3051 will be lobbying the Lord Mayor and the Melbourne City Council to pursue an appeal, which we believe would be successful. Any appeal must be lodged within 10 days of the decision issued by VCAT on 17 May 2013.

For further comment or follow up questions please contact Peter Hogg of RAID on telephone 0400 784 779.

Peter Hogg

Chair RAID@3051