VCAT orders redesign for development at Nylex Clock site

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has ordered the developer of a $1 billion apartment development in Cremorne, Melbourne, to amend its design due to its excessive height and high proportion of one-bedroom apartments.

The 1.4-hectare development, known as the Malt District, is designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects, with landscape practice Oculus. The development is situated on the edge of the Yarra River and incorporates the historic concrete silos where Melbourne’s iconic heritage-listed Nylex Clock currently sits.

Earlier this year, Heritage Victoria rejected the project in part because the development could have a negative impact on views of the Nylex Clock.

The project currently proposes to deliver up to 1,000 new dwellings over three stages. Stage one of the project includes an 18-storey tower, a 13-storey tower, six three- to four-storey office buildings, shops, a supermarket and 258 apartments.

Developer Caydon lodged a planning application for the project last year and brought the case to VCAT due to a “failure of the responsible authority [the City of Yarra] to grant a permit within the prescribed time.”

According to the tribunal, if “it hadn’t been for the application for review, [the City of Yarra] would have refused permission on 13 grounds.”

The proposed Malt District development designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects and Oculus.

The proposed Malt District development designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects and Oculus.

Image: Caydon/Fender Katsalidis Architects

The tribunal concluded the proposal did not “deliver an acceptable planning outcome.” In its order, it gave the developer an opportunity to resubmit a proposal that would address the tribunal’s concerns.

The tribunal found both towers on the site “exceed the recommended building height of RL38” (relative level in metres). The 18-storey southern tower “rises to a height of AHD 62.25” (metres above sea level) and “the extent to which it exceeds the recommended height is not acceptable,” the tribunal reported.

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It also found the proposed 18-storey tower will have a shadow impact on the Yarra River, as well as causing apartments in the lower levels of a neighbouring building to have “about 1.5 to 2 hours of access to sunlight between midday and 2pm at the equinox.”

The tribunal heard evidence from expert witnesses including architects Robert McGauran (MGS Architects) and Jim Holdsworth, who both recommended a reduction in height of four storeys. “We acknowledge that such a reduction would in all likelihood address our concerns, but a lesser reduction may also be acceptable,” the tribunal stated.

The proposed Malt District development designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects and Oculus.

The proposed Malt District development designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects and Oculus.

Image: Caydon/Fender Katsalidis Architects

The tribunal also raised concerns about the number of one-bedroom apartments proposed for stage one of the development. Of the 258 dwellings proposed, 207 are one bedroom. “A concentration of 80 percent single-bedroom apartments is not consistent with policy outcomes encouraging housing diversity,” the tribunal said.

The developer argued the proportion of one-bedroom apartments reflected market preferences. The tribunal said, “while market preference [is] relevant and important, so too is planning policy.” It noted that the developer’s own expert witness, professor Philip Goad (The University of Melbourne) “did express concern about the high concentration of one-bedroom apartments.”

According to the tribunal, McGauran recommended that 25 percent of the apartments should be “capable of being redesigned or combined to provide larger apartments in the event that the market dictates a higher proportion of larger apartments.”

“We regard Mr McGauran’s recommendation as an absolute minimum level of change we might consider acceptable,” the tribunal reported.

The tribunal also required the developer to reduce the car parking provision from 269 to 181 carparks and a rearrangement of a proposed north-south laneway.

The developer has until 15 April to respond to the tribunal’s order.

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