News / Planning

Second high-rise project approved for Albert Street

VCAT clears the way for Stockland to construct eight and nine storey buildings near Clifton Park

Members of the Scale It Down campaign express their anger last year.

Mark Phillips
Friday, May 20, 2022

CAMPAIGNERS against high-rise development near Brunswick’s parks have suffered a second blow after the state planning tribunal approved new eight and nine-storey apartment buildings in Albert Street.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has issued a planning permit to Stockland Developments for a 129 dwelling project against the objections of Moreland City Council and the Scale It Down residents group.

It is the second of two significant decisions in favour of developers to be issued by VCAT for the same precinct in Albert Street close to Clifton and Gilpin parks.

VCAT members Peter Gaschk and Gregary Chase issued their final order earlier this month following nine days of hearings during November and February.

It means Stockland will be able to proceed with construction of 129 apartments and town houses on the site of timber yard at 429 Albert Street.

The majority of the dwellings will be within an eight storey and a nine storey apartment building.

The Stockland decision follows a VCAT ruling in March to allow Mirvac to go ahead with a development which includes an 11-storey apartment tower at 395-411 Albert Street.

All eyes will now move to another Mirvac project in Park Street, opposite Princes Park, where the developer has directly applied to Planning Minister Richard Wynne for fast-track approval of apartment buildings up to 10 storeys high.

Both Albert Street developments were appealed to VCAT after Moreland Council refused to issue a planning permit and they had attracted dozens of objections.

That led to the formation of the Scale It Down group in the middle of last year to campaign against high-rise apartments near Gilpin and Clifton parks, which residents claim would be an over-development in the area and have a detrimental impact on the parks.

But the campaign has been hampered from the beginning 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 or higher if they have an exemplary design.

In their decision on the 429 Albert Street project, the VCAT panel rejected most of the arguments against the development.

“Having considered the submissions, the evidence, scheme provisions and site inspection, we find the design concept and layout is appropriate for the site,” the panel said. The permit issued to Stockland includes a list of tweaks to the design of the buildings.

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

A spokesperson for Stockland said the company was pleased with the VCAT decision.

 “VCAT considered various inputs in making its determination, and Stockland is now amending our plans in line with VCAT’s decision,” they said.

“We look forward to working with Moreland Council to realise the vision of the Albert Street Urban Renewal Precinct.”

Scale It Down co-convenor Rodney Spark said the final outcomes from VCAT were worse than the original proposals from both Mirvac and Stockland.

“We went to VCAT not against the developments but with strong reasons for ‘scaling it down’,” he said.

“The cruel irony is VCAT has allowed both Stockland and Mirvac to scale it up. Stockland is allowed to build up to nine storeys when they originally went to council for eight. Mirvac sought 10 storeys from council and VCAT gave them 11.’

Moreland Mayor Mark Riley said that while the decision was disappointing, there were some concessions to reduce the size and impact of the buildings on nearby Clifton Park.

“The VCAT decision scaled back the proposal, by increasing the upper level setback and providing more space at ground floor for meaningful landscaping,” he said.

But Cr Riley said by allowing one of the buildings to be one level higher than the recommended eight-storey height limit would cause additional overshadowing of the open space.

“The introduction of planning controls to protect sunlight is an issue for many Councils as more multi-storey developments are built in the inner city,” he said.

A third high-rise development at the corner of Park Street and Sydney Road, opposite Princes Park, is currently under consideration by Mr Wynne.

Developer Mirvac wants to build several apartment buildings between six and 10 storeys high, along with a row of four storey town houses, containing a total of 168 dwellings.

It has applied directly to Mr Wynne to approve the project under a new post-COVID program to speed up assessment of big projects that will generate jobs and economic activity.

But Moreland Council says this is undemocratic and the decision-making power should stay with local government.