Media Releases 2012

Mayor disappointed in Panel Report on Smith Street

25 July 2012

Smith-StreetYarra Mayor Geoff Barbour has expressed shock and disappointment at the findings of a Panel Report which recommends abandoning a planning amendment for Smith Street despite seven years of Council and community involvement in forming the amendment.

The report, prepared by a single panel member, has rejected Amendment C140 to the Yarra Planning Scheme (which seeks to implement some of the objectives outlined in the Smith Street Structure Plan) following a panel hearing in late May/early June.

He said Council would act quickly to set up a working party of Councillors and senior officers to distil the key issues and ramifications of the Panel Report for Smith Street and for future structure planning work in the City of Yarra.

"We are also seeking a meeting with the Minister and representatives from the highest level of the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) to find a way forward that respects the community’s vision for Smith Street and the years of planning and hard work that has already gone into this vital structure plan,” Cr Barbour said

“The Panel’s recommendation simply to abandon Amendment C140 sends a very poor message to Councils and communities everywhere about the value of pursuing structure planning processes,” he said.

Cr Barbour rejected the Panel’s main criticism that the Amendment had insufficient strategic justification and did not allow sufficient development and intensity for a Major Activity Centre.

He said the Smith Street Structure Plan was prepared in the policy context that included Local Planning Policy framework for the City of Yarra (including the Municipal Strategic Statement), Inner Melbourne Action Plan, the State Planning Policy Framework and Melbourne 2030. 

Consideration was given to the mix of land use activities, public spaces, transport and buildings, the area’s cultural and economic role including acknowledging existing heritage fabric, landmark buildings, heights and lot sizes.

Cr Barbour said he was disappointed that the Panel Report seemed to place the views of three major developers who made submissions at the Panel hearing, ahead of years of widespread community consultation and work by Council in preparing the structure plan.

“This is a major blow to a plan for Smith Street that was developed after wide consultation with residents, traders and landholders,” Cr Barbour said.

“Our process, which commenced in 2005, has been exhaustive with public meetings, advertising and promotion, submissions from the community, and the establishment of a stakeholder committee which even involved senior DPCD representatives,” he said.

“We communicated with thousands of residents, business owners and other stakeholders throughout the process to develop a structure plan that expresses the community’s vision and aspirations for the Smith Street Major Activity Centre. 

“We believe the Plan both underpins and informs, the development of more detailed planning controls to help achieve outcomes that are consistent with the vision.

Cr Barbour questioned the State Government’s focus on development in heritage shopping strips.

“Our approach, as expressed in the Inner Regional Housing Statement 2005 and the City of Yarra Housing Strategy 2010, has been to preserve our heritage strips putting extra density on large ex-industrial and ex-commercial sites, which can accommodate Yarra’s share of population growth.

“Yarra is exceeding our housing targets, so if there are new ones that might justify a different approach, we ask the State Government to tell us what they are.

“At the end of the day we don’t want to have to go back to square one in this important precinct.”

Cr Barbour said Council would keep the community informed of the outcomes of this issue.

Here is a copy of the Panel Report: pdf format Yarra C140 Panel Report - Smith Street Structure Plan (345.60 KB)

Further information
Toby Walker
Senior Communications Officer
9205 5120

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