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Enshrined in protection: height limits to retain view

The Sunday Age

Sunday February 6, 2011

ANNA WHITELAW

PLANNING Minister Matthew Guy has made his first ministerial intervention, blocking several high-rise developments proposed near the Shrine of Remembrance on St Kilda Road.Last week, Mr Guy quietly made a ministerial order to impose mandatory height limits of 60 metres on land between St Kilda Road and Kings Way, south of Dorcas Street in South Melbourne, including Albert Road. The area had only discretionary height limits of 30 to 60 metres.Mr Guy told The Sunday Age that he stepped in to place a moratorium on high-rise development near the Shrine after meeting with Port Phillip Council.Port Phillip mayor Rachel Powning said the council had raised concerns about height controls after seven or eight applications in the past few month for high-rise towers that exceeded council's discretionary limits by as much as 20 storeys."We're very supportive of high density in growth areas," she said, "but we're very much aware it needs to be supported by infrastructure. We also believe the Shrine vista is very important and needs to be protected."The moratorium will be in place for two years, during which time Port Phillip council will review the long-term planning needs for the area. "It's temporary, not a permanent control. We don't support the idea that these kind of mandatory controls should be indefinite."Port Phillip Council will have to present its review to the state government for approval within two years. The height controls will have an impact on development proposals, including a 28-storey tower proposed for 32 Albert Road.The ban on development near the Shrine follows Mr Guy's decision in December to overturn the previous Labor government's plan for high density development along tram and train routes.Mr Guy insisted the Baillieu government was "not anti-development, but we do believe in commonsense in planning".He was adamant that the ban on high density was a one-off but would not rule out imposing similar height limits to protect other significant landmarks. "I won't do it on a whim," he said. "We see this as a last-resort mechanism, not something we would make a habit of. This government does not want to micromanage the planning system."The move was welcomed by the Shrine's chief executive, Denis Baguley, who had advocated a study into planning laws around the Shrine."There is no question in our mind [that] there needs to be planning protection for the Shrine," he said. "We believe those controls should be mandatory. It's very clear there has been planning protection for the Shrine for a long time, but we're beginning to see increased development pressures along St Kilda Road." The height controls would protect the vistas of the St Kilda Road boulevard and Albert Road boulevard, he said.

© 2011 The Sunday Age

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