News / Planning

High-rise apartments battle heads to VCAT

Developer Mirvac will ask for approval of buildings higher than those rejected by the council

An artist’s impression looking east towards the 429 Albert Street project in its earlier eight-storey iteration.

Mark Phillips
Monday, November 15, 2021

A HEARING begins in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal this week which will decide whether or not a nine storey apartment complex can be built on the edge of Brunswick’s central parklands.

Ahead of the hearing, 429 Albert Street property developer Stockland has upped the ante by resubmitting its planning application to increase the building height by an extra storey from the original plans.

Stockland appealed to VCAT after Moreland Council in May refused a planning permit for the project, which would consist of 155 apartments in 12 buildings on the site of a timber yard. The plans rejected by the council included two eight storey buildings.

But opponents fear the project, and another one by Mirvac/Milieu Properties also in Albert Street, would ruin Gilpin and Clifton parks.

A residents group called Scale It Down – Protect Brunswick’s Parks will be represented at the VCAT hearing by town planning consultant Dianne King after the group raised $21,000 from 150 donors.

She will be representing about 300 objectors under the Scale It Down banner. During winter and autumn, the residents group collected almost 1400 signatures on a petition calling for apartment heights to be limited to four storeys. It also surveyed more than 400 park users to inform its submission.

“We think Dianne presents a brilliant analysis of the situation and a convincing, evidence based case for rejecting the development application,” said Scale It Down co-convenor Rodney Spark.

“It clearly demonstrates that our community demand for four storeys on park boundaries is warranted.”

The group’s submission prepared by King Town Planning argues that the development would have major overshadowing and visual bulk impacts on Gilpin and Clifton parks, is not in keeping with neighbourhood character, and would worsen traffic and parking issues.

It also says the Stockland proposal must not be considered in isolation from the Mirvac and other future development projects.

The submission urges VCAT to consider the importance of the parks to Brunswick residents who have limited access to open space compared to most other parts of Melbourne. Clifton Park contains a football oval, soccer field and skateboarding ramps, while Gilpin Park is popular for joggers, dog walking, picnics and bird watching.

Related story:

Park users unite to oppose multi-storey apartments

“The pandemic has transformed our local parks into a place of refuge, an opportunity to slow down, reconnect with the outdoors and with our community,” it says.

“Communities have again discovered the importance of local green spaces, access to sunlight and fresh air; to escape the school desk or home office throughout the day and spend some time outdoors.”

But the group’s case is hampered by the planning scheme for the formerly industrial Albert Street area which was amended by the state government in 2017 and allows for residential buildings of up to eight storeys.

The Scale It Down group is also gearing up for a second VCAT hearing next month, this time for the appeal by Mirvac and Milieu Properties against Moreland Council’s rejection of their development of 527 residences in two 10-storey buildings plus town houses and shops at 395–411 Albert Street.

Once again, Scale It Down wants to use a town planning expert to argue its case, but to do so it needs to raise between $7000 and $18,000 before the eight day hearing begins on December 3.

“These two cases are both critical to win as they will set the VCAT and planning precedent for all further development along the boundaries of Brunswick’s parks,” Mr Spark said.

He said the group was confident it had the collective strength to give both Stockland and Mirvac “a few sleepless nights”.

More information about the Scale It Down campaign, including how to donate, is available on its website.