GURNER™ wins battle against Planning Minister Richard Wynne with permit for Fitzroy North development

After two years of fierce public and legal battles, luxury developer, GURNER™ has won approval for a landmark three-tower project in one of the inner-north’s most important regeneration sites at 26 – 56 Queens Parade, North Fitzroy.

The approved scheme features 263 one, two and three bedroom apartments across three towers of eight, nine and 10 storeys, anchored by a 450sqm ground plane public realm including a restaurant and retail precinct.

The site has been the focus of much controversy after the Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne stepped in just three days before the developer’s scheduled VCAT hearing last year, to impose oppressive height and setback controls in what the developer suggested was a strategic and politically motivated move, given the project was in his own electorate and the timing in which the controls were executed.

The original scheme before the Minister’s intervention was for three buildings, of 12, 9 and 8 levels respectively. The final approved design results in three towers of 10, 9 and 8 levels.

This final approved scheme has only seen a reduction in area of 9.8 percent or 2,273sqm of Net Sellable Area (NSA), to 23,250sqm.

This is GURNER™’s third planning victory in as many months in the City of Yarra with the developer recently also gaining a permit for its $350m Wellington Street project and its $110m development planned for 23 – 33 Johnston Street, where Wynne had also intervened to impose similar site-specific restrictions, this time just five hours before the developer’s scheduled VCAT hearing.

The developer’s 23 – 33 Johnston Street site is currently the subject of Supreme Court proceedings with the developer suing the Planning Minister for costs, and seeking a declaration that the Minister’s decision to approve Amendment C237 was affected by legal error, and was invalid or alternatively unlawful, and of no force or effect.

“ After an exhausting two and a half year process we are thrilled with VCAT’s decision to approve our permit application for the project with just a 9 percent reduction in sellable area, after such a crazy and unprecedented process, however this has come at great cost to the local council and to taxpayers.

“ It has been a challenging process for us but in terms of the actual effect on the project it is insignificant compared to the costs incurred by Council, taxpayers and other stakeholders.

“ For the Minister to claim that a project is of State Significance to warrant intervention and waste so much time and money for an outcome that represents just a 9 percent reduction in massing is ludicrous, however we are pleased with the outcome and believe this new design will deliver on our vision a world-class precinct for the area.

“ With any project we undertake we are usually able to successfully negotiate all community objections however with this project, the aggression we encountered from the local neighbours and point blank refusal to communicate meant it was impossible to work collaboratively and talk through their issues.

“ We held information sessions which the locals boycotted, then accused us of being closed to discussion – it was an intense period and one that we had never encountered before.

“ At the end of the day, North Fitzroy, and in particular the activity zone our site sits within, has been earmarked for major redevelopment to keep up with Melbourne’s population needs.

“ It is imperative that strategic planning is not affected by political intervention, particularly when the Planning Minister is conflicted and using his political power to influence planning matters in his own electorate, when developers are acting within the Minister’s own planning guidelines.

“ We are now just happy to be able to get on with the task of creating an amazing precinct that Melbourne can be proud of as we work towards delivering buildings that foster community integration and enhance the area’s character and charm,” said GURNER™ founder and director, Tim Gurner.

GURNER™ will now commence detailed design work with the appointed architects, Cox Architecture, before bringing the project to market in 2019 with construction slated to commence that same year.

Source: MP Report