News / Planning

Council rejects second multi-storey project near parklands

The building would threaten birdlife and green space in Gilpin Park, say objectors

With the old brickworks chimneys forming a backdrop, Gilpin Park is popular spot for walking dogs off their leashes, even more so during lockdown.

Mark Phillips
Friday, July 30, 2021

A SECOND high rise apartment development within a stone’s throw of the Brunswick West parklands has been rejected by Moreland Council, with the fate of both projects now set to be decided by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The council’s Planning and Related Matters committee on Wednesday night resolved unanimously not to support the application by a joint venture of Mirvac and Milieu Properties to develop 527 apartments in two 10-storey buildings at 395–411 Albert Street. The project also includes a small number of retail outlets in a single storey building fronting Albert Street.

It is the second of two large projects proposed for the same area of Albert Street adjacent to Clifton and Gilpin Parks.

The $200 million development to be known as ‘Albert Fields’ dwarfs one at 429 Albert Street, which was rejected in May. Both developments abut Clifton Park and are across the road from Gilpin Park.

The newer project also attracted greater community opposition with 221 objections registered before the council meeting on Wednesday.

But the decision about whether it goes ahead has already been taken out of the hands of the council with the developer referring it to directly VCAT before the council had a chance to consider it.

Councillors unanimously agreed with an officers’ recommendation that the project at 395–411 Albert Street not be supported on the grounds of unacceptable bulk and height, inconsistency with the local area planning scheme, its impact on the development potential of the surrounding area and its impact on local car parking.

The decision again highlights the tension between residents supported by the council, and the objectives of the state government mandated planning scheme for an area of Albert Street marked for urban renewal.

South Ward councillor James Conlan, who moved to reject the application, warned that it will be difficult to block it in VCAT.

“This is just an example of developers testing the absolute limits of what they can get away with in the planning scheme … Unfortunately the planning rules in this site do say eight storeys and that’s thanks to the Minister [for Planning].

“VCAT will be deciding on those rules, which makes it very challenging. So I think it’s going to take a gigantic community campaign to stop this development.”

An artist’s view of how the development would look from Clifton Park.

The development at 395–411 Albert Street combines several parcels of industrial land. The developers are proposing a ‘build to rent’ model where they would retain ownership of the buildings with all residents as their tenants. There would be 16 “affordable” dwellings offered for discounted rental within the complex, the equivalent to about 3% of the total project.

Mirvac bought the largest parcel of land, a warehouse building, for a reported $25 million in 2019. 

Mirvac and another national property developer, Stockland, have moved in on the area after Planning Minister Richard Wynne used his powers to rezone the 1.74 hectare with a discretionary eight storey limit in 2017. The council had earlier sought to place a six storey limit on the area.

Battle rages over the future of Albert Street

Thirteen people spoke against the development at Wednesday night’s council meeting.

Many raised concerns about the impacts of two multi-level apartment projects on the sensitive parklands in the area.

Susan Marshall said Gilpin Park had been reclaimed for recreational use after serving for many years as Brunswick’s tip, and before that as a quarry.

“It took a long time to thrive because it had been a tip, the gases and everything coming up,” she said.

“It wasn’t great. But in the last maybe 10 or 15 years it is really thriving and I think if we have this huge development that will overshadow it, it won’t thrive. In another 30 years it could be the most amazing thing in Brunswick. There is no other space in Brunswick like it but if you walk around Brunswick there are so many spaces where you could build huge buildings.”

South Ward councillor James Conlan described the development as “offensive”.

Helena Bender said Gilpin Park had become a bird sanctuary with 60 bird species frequenting the site including the endangered Swift Parrot.

“Green quarters like the Brunswick parkland precinct are unique and limited in supply in Melbourne and should not be compromised by this or other developments,” she said.

Those sentiments were echoed by Hunter Street resident Huon Seymour.

“I think it’s a sensitive site that deserves a lower rise treatment,” he said. “The 10-storey buildings really feel like a visual assault. They cast shadows over public spaces making them colder and less hospitable.”

Mr Seymour also expressed scepticism about the affordable housing proposed for the complex, which he said “feels like it’s dangled as a tiny carrot in an attempt to gain acceptance”.

Planning consultant Paul Little, appearing on behalf of the developers, said the project conformed with the local planning scheme and would realise the vision for the area to transition from industrial to residential use.

While the developers were committed to seeking an outcome at VCAT, they would also consider the objections lodged in amending the proposal, he said.

Cr Conlan, who described the project as “offensive”, said the battle to reduce the size of the project was just beginning.

“I can’t stress enough that it’s going to take a co-ordinated, organised and concerted community campaign to stop this development. So I encourage residents to start talking to each other, collaborate, co-ordinate and get organised.”

A VCAT hearing is scheduled for September.