News / Planning

Park users unite to oppose multi-storey apartments

New group wants a four-storey limit on new buildings near Clifton and Gilpin parks

Heather Barr and Gail Jessem get the message across on Sunday.

Mark Phillips
Tuesday, August 3, 2021

A NEW lobby group has been formed to fight against the encroachment upon central Brunswick’s parklands by multi-storey apartment developments.

Residents from around Brunswick who use Gilpin and Clifton parks for exercise, dog walking and recreation have combined to form the Scale It Down — Protect Brunswick Parks group.

The establishment of the group follows the rejection in recent weeks by Moreland Council of two multi-storey developments totaling 682 apartments in a block of Albert Street near the parks, which are the two of the largest areas of open space in Brunswick.

Both developers have taken their applications to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a final decision.

The group is worried that Albert Street could become a block of “giant” apartment towers dominating and overshadowing the parklands. Both projects are more than twice the height of anything else in the area, where most properties are single storey houses.

One of the co-ordinators of the new group, Rodney Spark, said its primary concern was to protect the two parks for public use by placing a four-storey limit on any developments nearby. He said activists were concerned that if the two projects are successful, they will set a precedent allowing multi-storey towers to abut any park in Brunswick.

“We’re not against high density living,” he said.

“We support universal housing as much as we can and know that’s happened a lot in Brunswick but where it’s supported is along the public transport routes, along the railway lines, the main roads.

There’s not an issue with that.

“But not at the cost of our parklands. If anything, high density living needs large open space areas where people from the high density [buildings] can go to with their children, their dogs or whatever.”

Both projects — at 395–411 Albert Street and 429 Albert Street — are in an area designated for urban renewal with an eight-storey limit.

Developer Stockland wants to build 155 dwellings in 12 buildings, including two eight-storey towers, at 429 Albert Street. At 395 Albert Street, known as Albert Fields, developers Mirvac and Milieu Properties want to construct 527 apartments, including two 10 storey buildings. More than 200 objections were lodged against this project before it was considered by Moreland Council’s Planning and Related Matters committee meeting last Wednesday.

Members of the new group including co-ordinators Linda Bennett (front with sign) and Rodney Spark (right with pink clipboard).

The group has mobilised to survey park users and to collect signatures for a petition to the council, VCAT and Planning Minister Richard Wynne calling on them to reject both multi-storey projects and to ensure that any future developments within the immediate vicinity of Brunswick parklands are limited to four storeys.

They also want any future developments in the immediate vicinity of the parklands to be assessed for their impact on the ‘green’ environment including flora and fauna, park usage and the surrounding residential needs.

“Gilpin Park previously was the Brunswick tip,” Mr Spark said.

“It was really a rundown industrial area and we’ve been living here in Brunswick for almost 40 years and over that period of time the council has developed that tip into a pretty amazing park — and credit to them — where it’s got high usage, bird life has returned and is amazing.

“The parklands area covers 19 hectares and it’s like a connected parkway if you walk it that goes all the way through from Hope Street almost to Dawson Street. People come from far and wide to use it.”

Members of the group, which was formalised during lockdown, met face-to-face for the first time on Sunday and began distributing information about the projects and collecting signatures at Gilpin Park.

They will be pushing the petition in the parklands over coming weeks and have also created a Facebook group.

South Ward councillor James Conlan signs the group's petition.

The group intends to be heard at the VCAT hearings later this year.

The group has taken to heart advice from South Ward Councillor James Conlan, who has warned that it will be difficult to prevent the projects going ahead because of the local planning scheme allowing eight storey building heights.

“I can’t stress enough that it’s going to take a co-ordinated, organised and concerted community campaign to stop this development,” he said at last week’s Planning and Related Matters committee meeting.

“So I encourage residents to start talking to each other, collaborate, co-ordinate and get organised.”

Cr Conlan showed his support for the new group by meeting with them at Gilpin Park while they were collecting signatures on Sunday afternoon.

Council rejects second multi-storey project near parklands