BCNA Submission to City of Port Phillip
1-7 Waterfront Place Development Proposal
17 December 2012
Click here for the a pdf version of BCNA's Submission to the City of Port Phillip on the development application for 1-7 Waterfront Place
BCNA Submission to City of Port Phillip on 17 December 2012
re Development Proposals for 1 – 7 Waterfront Place,
· The Beacon Cove Neighbourhood Association (BCNA) is a voluntary association of residents and owners of properties in Beacon Cove, Port Melbourne, which exists to maintain, protect and enhance the interests of the Beacon Cove and nearby community. It includes over 150 members and delivers 2500 newsletters two to three times each year.
· BCNA seeks where possible to maintain the many desirable features of Beacon Cove, protect it against inappropriate or unnecessary developments, and encourage appropriate enhancement of the physical and social features of the community.
· BCNA recognizes that one of the features of Beacon Cove which contributes to its vitality and vibrancy is the presence of the port operations at Station Pier (primarily for the Tasmania car-ferry and international cruise ships), but identifies at the same time that this brings with it significant challenges for the community and the Port, particularly with respect to traffic. Indeed, the car-ferry route between Melbourne and Devonport is sometimes colloquially referred to as part of the National Highway (a major highway on the community’s doorstep!) This role of Station Pier as a major interstate and international gateway to Melbourne, and Victoria, is recognized as not always sitting easily with the role of Beacon Cove as a residential suburb. However the community in general respects the fact that the port was present well before the Beacon Cove development, and well before any proposed new development.
· BCNA has, along with the City of Port Phillip (CoPP), recognized for some time a number of sub-optimal, even dysfunctional, features of the complex area known as Waterfront Place (the western continuation of the beach-front section of Beach St and the associated traffic loop at the foot of Station Pier) and has contributed to recent attempts by the City to develop an Urban Design Framework for the area which would promote and guide any modifications and/or developments affecting this important public space. It is expected that this UDF process will be completed sometime in 2013 and will act as a blueprint for desirable future development.
· It is in this context that BCNA seeks to contribute, in the overall interests of its members, to the debate about the proposed development at 1-7 Waterfront Place.
Specific Background Issues
· Beacon Cove is an award winning planned residential community with high, medium and low density areas. It was promoted on the basis of balance of the medium and high density apartments and townhouses with the low density, low height open space and community facilities centre at Waterfront Place. Beacon Cove planned community is still relevant today and used as a model for other developments.
· Building of the first residences in Park Square area commenced in 1996 and the last dwellings were completed in 2005 at First Point Beach area. Through this period minor changes were made to bring each release into latest building practices but always maintaining the integrity of the same neighborhood character.
· Restrictive covenants were applied to the 1 – 7 Waterfront Place site by Mirvac and the State to protect the facilities from removal and/or redevelopment in an inappropriate manner. In order to assist the protection of the child minding, tennis, swimming and gymnasium services (collectively the sports centre), the purchasers were offered subsidised buying prices. The covenants go into perpetuity.
· The site has become vacant and poorly maintained as a direct consequence of actions undertaken by the owners. The sports centre was thriving until only short term leases were offered to the operator. With the large number of young families living in Beacon Cove and Port Melbourne there should be a thriving child minding centre as well if the owner sought out business operators
· In 2007 Action Group Australia purchased the property at 1 – 7 Waterfront Place for a high price with the assumed purpose of redeveloping this site into a larger built form and hence generating substantial corporate profits. This was a high risk commercial decision given the pivotal role of the existing facilities in the overall estate planning, the existence of a perpetual covenant and the chronic traffic congestion at this limited area site.
· Independently CoPP initiated the Port Melbourne Waterfront UDF (including 1 – 7 Waterfront Place) process in 2010 and held many community meetings to determine what changes could better enhance the liveability of the waterfront. There was good engagement with community and stakeholders and the overwhelming feedback included the need to keep the open community area and community facilities at 1 – 7 Waterfront Place and to resolve the chronic traffic management problems.
· Around this time there were some initial discussions between the community and the developer’s representative for 1 – 7 Waterfront Place, however the flow of information and dialogue soon dried up. This was possibly due to awareness of the developer that input to the UDF was unfavourable to large development at the site.
· In December 2011, Councilors released a draft UDF that was relatively not contentious except for the suggestion of a major development on 1 – 7 Waterfront Place in direct contradiction of the community feedback in the consultation period
· Community submissions to the draft UDF in early 2012 resulted in over 150 objections from individuals and organisations opposing the 1-7 Waterfront place heights and, along with a 1300 strong petition to CoPP and the State, caused Council to reconsider. As mentioned above, the UDF process is still happening and it is expected to result in a new determination by mid 2013. The community contention is that the developer application should be considered as either part of or subsequent to the second version of the UDF and not before the UDF is completed
· In June 2012 the developer filed notice of a Supreme Court action to remove the covenants. But after the Court’s orders in September allowed the benefited parties reasonable scope to be parties to defend the action the developer applied for a time extension which is effectively an adjournment
· On 27 November the developer sought of CoPP, the planning authority, consent to approve a development of three buildings of 5, 10 and 19 storeys with time requirements for Council to make decisions by 27 December in the middle of normal public holidays. It also is applying simultaneously to remove or vary the covenants.
· Throughout the process listed in these points, the developer appears to take actions that in effect limit the opportunity and the time for good decisions to be made.
· In their application documentation, the developer and his agents have made many incorrect assumptions and claims and hence the proposals lack sufficient substance.
It appears that the developer has limited knowledge of the community, its needs, the environment and the neighborhood character.
· It doesn’t give the community any confidence that the proponent has concern for the community interest. Ultimately it is the community that lives with the outcome, as the developer will soon depart.
· The developer’s inadequate awareness and/or willingness to appreciate current local features is demonstrated in the fact that the site plans do not show the light rail and boom gates almost next to the entry/exit driveway of the proposed buildings. They also fail to show the elevations in north south section of the 19 story tower and its proximity and impact on the Beach Street housing.
· BCNA addresses both the consent and the application actions simultaneously in the following section
The developer’s proposal assumes that the covenants are redundant due to the build out of Beacon Cove. However they are still as valid today as when they were granted in order to protect the facilities and the subsidies. As indicated in the following points, the developer proposals are lacking in valid reasons to remove them
The consent request to seek development of three buildings up to a towering 19 storeys is totally inappropriate and is addressed under the following headings
Loss of community facilities
The proposed development includes a small gymnasium and swimming pool but it fails to return the two tennis courts and the child minding centre. This is a significant loss especially due to the increasing number of children living nearby.
Exacerbation of current traffic congestion
A major concern of the community is the problem of exacerbating the already difficult issue of managing traffic delays and blockages around 1 – 7 Waterfront Place
· Adjacent to the nominated site, Beach Street is a local road that is not meant to have through traffic along the waterfront
· Current peak hour and cruise/ferry arrivals and departures cause frequent gridlock along Beach street, Park Square and Waterfront Place
· In morning and evening peaks cars from Park Square are now faced with waiting for many minutes to enter Beach Street and this is the very time that the majority of the 431 car spaces will see incoming and outgoing traffic.
· Often on afternoon ferry sailings, cars are banked up from the Station Pier Gatehouse to the Princes Street roundabout and Port of Melbourne Corporation is currently looking at how it can assist in managing this problem
· An additional 241 residences in the proposed development will add an extra 20% to the dwellings in Beacon Cove!
· The 422 new car spaces will be approached through the single lane, local roadway of Beach Street between the light rail line and Princes Street.
· There will be additional service vehicles coming and going through the same inadequate roadway. The pedestrian access along the Beach Street footpath will become so slowed that inherently unsafe behavior may become prevalent.
· The traffic study commissioned by the developer claims that journey times will only be increased by a few seconds. This is not believable – the assumptions used do not relate to representative examples/times of the issues. No assessment is included at times when one or more cruise ships were docked at Station Pier nor on busy times on the weekend
· The proposals talk about the abundance of public transport available but adding a large number of occupants of the 241 dwellings on the buses and trams will stretch the already bulging services, especially evident during cruise ship season
Encroachment on Privacy
With the north facing windows and balconies, the 19 storey tower directly intrudes into the house properties below and across Beach Street. The proposed and existing buildings appear to be separated only by 38 metres horizontally between building edges. The privacy of the existing properties will be greatly diminished.
In other areas of Beacon Cove, the separation of towers to the town houses across Beach Street is approximately 60 metres.
(These calculations are approximate as the plans received are not very detailed.)
Overshadowing open spaces and creating increased wind impact
Residents are concerned that the low level community meeting spaces at Waterfront Place will be compromised by the dominance of the tall structures as follows
· The sunny open meeting area around the tram stop, heritage station platform and the Spuntino cafe will be shaded by the buildings in the mornings when people come to sit for coffee or wait to catch a tram
· The 19 storey tower appears to shade both the north footpath of Waterfront Place and also the waterfront bicycle and pedestrian beach walkway on the south side
· Additionally, opening up the site with Y design pathways will funnel the cold southerly winds into the residential properties on Beach street
· There needs to be an independent analysis of the wind modeling and whether the correct assumptions have been used
Out of Context with adjacent properties
The proposed development is out of context with adjacent properties
· The developer submission is very misleading on describing adjacent buildings. It ignores all the buildings in close proximity and chooses large scale buildings farther away as its comparisons.
· Additionally, in the existing built form of today there is a deliberate gradual lowering of building heights moving from buildings in the North West and the South East into the proposed development site. This supports the city view lines and creates the balance of low density building for the community services and meeting area
· The actual situation today of adjacent buildings is as follows
o To NW – 1 storey heritage train station, followed by open area at tram stop, followed by 2 storey foodstore and then open space
o To N - 2 storey houses on Beach Street and in Park Square
o To SE – open road roundabout, followed by 3 storey hotel, followed by 6 storey apartment tower
o To S – beachfront walkway, open foreshore/beach and ferry truck marshalling yard
· In general the Victorian public believes that high towers close in on beachfront roads are no longer acceptable
· The proposed 19 storey tower appears to be 50 metres from the beach walkway/bicycle pathway. Whereas the only other 19 storey tower along the beach front in Port Melbourne (HMAS) is approximately 100 metres away from the beach walkway/bicycle path. HMAS is also a further 0.7 km south east of the proposed development site. The proposed 10 storey tower is approximately 20 metres away from the beach walkway/bicycle path and only a few metres away from the northern footpath of Waterfront Place.
· This encroachment will change the character of the whole Waterfront Place precinct, the principal open space community area of Beacon Cove.
City, maritime and neighbourhood view lines
This area is the next biggest gateway for tourists to Victoria after Tullamarine airport. View lines are an important part of the first images of tourists and the impression of the liveability of the City. The planning rules in CoPP for other beachfront areas try to protect the view lines along the waterfront and from the Bay to the City.
· The hotel at the Princes/Beach Streets roundabout is the nearest structure to the SE boundary of 1 – 7 Waterfront Place. Existing CoPP planning requirements for this building fit within DDO1-1a which allows for a preferred maximum building height of 3 or 6 storeys and an Absolute maximum height of 8 storeys. Under this DDO, the higher development occurs when it does not disrupt the view lines of the CBD from Station Pier and the Bay or dominate the lower scale setting of Beach Street. The foreshore, including associated bicycle and pedestrian paths, (should) enjoy good solar access in mid winter
· If the current buildings were not to be retained, then perhaps DDO1-1a could be the model for the maximum development allowed, so long as it addresses all the other valid community concerns
· In general, the experience of ferry and cruise line passengers would be greatly diminished by blocking the skyline of Melbourne by a 19 storey tower
· The statements in the application that the city needs a landmark (i.e. very tall) building to reflect the area’s maritime history and provide a focal point for arrivals from the pier is totally unsubstantiated and is out of keeping with the well documented community vision in the draft UDF. The majority of the community called for the low rise passive site to be maintained.
Impact on Benefited Property Owners
The proposal seeking to justify the removal of the covenants states that the benefited parties are not losing anything that they have now. However the reality is far different
· Benefited property owners are losing the community sports and child minding facilities as advised above
· A 19 storey tower will change the vista available from most of these properties as it will dominate the skyline from windows and outdoor areas in nearly every property in Beacon Cove, Garden City and Port Melbourne in general
· Increased traffic congestion at and around the site will apply to these owners along with the whole community
· No valid justification has been given by the proposal as to why the ‘benefits’ of the covenant should be removed
Impact on all Beacon Cove Residents
· All Beacon Cove residents will lose community services of tennis and child minding facilities
· There is significant shading of open areas, walkways and beach paths and the heritage railway station
· There would be visual blocking of the skyline looking out to sea and the maritime environment
· The traffic situation will become unworkable not only around the site which already has heavy congestion but also for all Beacon Cove residents using Beach Street as an access to their properties. Inevitably this would drive traffic through the narrow alternative routes through Beacon Cove
· Privacy loss to nearby residents from encroachment – the 19 storey tower will be approximately 38 metres away from the building line of the Beach Street houses to the north
· Recent trends in Victorian case law have included recognition of the need to consider non beneficiaries, but nevertheless impacted parties, in an application to remove a covenant in residential situations. See Hill v Campaspe which was referenced in an article in the December 2012 issue of LIJ.
The proposal for a three tower development and the proposal to remove the covenants are in contradiction of the reasons that the restrictions were applied in the first place to keep the community services as an integral part of Beacon Cove. No reasonable case has been made to remove the covenants which do not have a sunset clause, arguably because their design and function were correctly determined and subsidised by the State and the original developer. Hence the applications should be rejected.
BCNA supports CoPP finalising the UDF and then viewing these proposals within the context of that final UDF.