Question on notice and response: posed by Clifford Hayes (Sustainable Australia Party) to Richard Wynn, Minister for Planning, about proposed Connex Capital high-rise towers above the train lines between Flinders Street Station and Richmond Station:
Questions on Notice No 4760
59 Parliament First Session
Asked: 18 November 2021
Connex Capital high-rise towers
MR HAYES — To ask the Minister for Workplace Safety (for the Minister for Planning):
In relation to the proposed Connex Capital high-rise towers above the train lines between Flinders Street Station and Richmond Station:
(1) Is the Minister aware of the proposal by Connex Capital.
(2) Is the Government considering this proposal, and if so, what plans does the Government have to give the community a say concerning the proposal.
(3) Does the proposal seek a financial contribution from Victorian taxpayers, and if so, how much.
(4) Is the Minister aware of the widespread community hostility to the former Princes Gate Towers on Flinders Street which led to their demolition, at great expense, by a previous State Government.
(5) What protections does the Government have in place for the Flinders Street streetscape to ensure that eyesores such as the Princes Gate Towers are never erected in the vicinity.
(6) How many apartments, offices or other buildings which could be used for housing in the CBD, are currently vacant.
(7) Will the Government undertake an audit of vacant CBD buildings before approving any further proposals for high-rise towers in Melbourne.
(8) Has the Government undertaken a review of the role of high-rise buildings in spreading coronavirus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(9) Will the Government take into account COVID-19 and other health risks arising from high-rise buildings when considering any future high-rise building applications.
Answered: 11 January 2022
(1) The Victorian Government receives a range of market-led proposals from the private sector and is always open to discussing ideas for Victoria. The Connex Capital proposal is not currently being assessed by the government under the Market-Led Proposals Guideline.
(2) As stated above, the Connex Capital proposal is not currently being assessed by the government under the Market-Led Proposals Guideline.
(3) As stated above, the Connex Capital proposal is not currently being assessed by the government and therefore there is no assessment of funding for the proposal.
(4) The demolition of the former Gas and Fuel (Princes Gate) towers and the subsequent development of Federation Square has made a positive contribution to the city and the cultural life of all Victorians. It has opened the city up to the Yarra River and Birrarung Marr and created world class public spaces for events and gatherings.
(5) The planning provisions in the Melbourne Planning Scheme provide a robust framework for development outcomes in the city, and there are extensive planning policies and controls to protect the amenity of the Yarra River, its banks and adjacent parklands and public spaces. There are also stringent overshadowing controls that protect sunlight access to significant public spaces such as Federation Square, Birrarung Marr and the Yarra River corridor, and these controls were strengthened under Amendment C270 to the Melbourne Planning Scheme, which I approved in November 2016.
(6) The government does not collect data on building vacancies or potential residential conversions in the CBD, noting that vacancy rates are impacted by many factors and fluctuate over time.
(7) The government is not proposing to undertake an audit of vacant CBD buildings before approving any new tower developments in the CBD. It is important that a pipeline of new development continues to be approved for the economic benefit and growth of the city.
(8) On 22 September 2021, the Deputy Premier, the Hon James Merlino MP, announced that the government would establish a Ventilation Technical Advisory Panel to undertake risk assessments of different environments to help inform future ventilation measures. The Ventilation Technical Advisory Panel is preparing a range of guidance material to help businesses and individuals to understand the importance of ventilation to the spread of airborne diseases such as COVID-19 and to help guide them in how to improve ventilation in their buildings. Standards for matters such as air quality are set out in the National Construction Code, which is overseen by the Australian Building Code Board. I am advised that the Australian Building Code Board has commissioned work examining the adequacy of the air quality standards in the National Construction Code in light of the impacts of COVID-19.
(9) At the planning stage, design responses to COVID-19 are now an integral part of the discussion on any new planning permit applications for high rise buildings. For example, new office tower proposals that are currently being discussed pre-lodgement, where I am the responsible authority, are including features such as expansive breakout spaces for meetings, natural ventilation, outdoor terraces, well-spaced hot desks for hybrid home/office work and the like. The adequacy of air quality standards in light of the impacts of COVID-19 will be a key consideration that is taken into account at the building permit stage of new development.
HON RICHARD WYNNE MP
Minister for Planning