Melbourne Council Courts Controversy with QVM Plan

Queen Victoria Market is set to dominate tonight’s City of Melbourne Council meeting, with three items on the agenda, including a confidential item to discuss a proposal by PDG Corporation to redevelop the “Munro site” on the corner of Queen and Therry streets, the subject of a leaked confidential report covered in The Age today.

Implementation Framework

Controversy erupted last week upon the release of Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal Program Implementation Framework, which aims to provide further detail on the approved Master Plan for the site. While the Master Plan was developed following extensive community consultation, many of the issues raised by traders and heritage advocates including the National Trust have not been addressed. The Framework also includes radical proposals which have not been previously exhibited publicly, including the removal and eventual reinstatement of sheds A to D to allow the construction of underground services. The Trust has significant concerns regarding heritage impacts arising from works proposed in the Implementation Framework, and have urged Councillors to vote against the recommendation to endorse the Implementation Framework, pending further details, consultation and heritage advice.

Furthermore, it is troubling that the Implementation Framework is being discussed by Council for the first time at a full Council meeting, thus precluding the public from making verbal submissions at the meeting. We have urged Councillors to refer the Implementation Framework to the Future Melbourne Committee, to allow traders and other stakeholders to make verbal submissions to Council regarding this important project. While extensive consultation was undertaken during the development of the Master Plan for the site, little detail has been provided about its implementation, and if the market revitalisation is to succeed and retain the significance of this important place, it is crucial for stakeholders, including market traders, to have meaningful input into this process.

City of Melbourne proposal for the Queen Victoria Market (Source: The Age)

City of Melbourne proposal for the Queen Victoria Market (Source: The Age)

The Trust has identified a number of specific heritage concerns which arise from the Implementation Framework. The proposal to dismantle sheds A to D would constitute a significant heritage impact. It is not clear whether heritage advice has been sought in relation to this proposal, however it appears to be at odds with the City of Melbourne’s aspirations for National and World Heritage Listing of the market. Further, no information has been provided as to whether other options have been explored. The potential impacts of providing access points to underground areas are also unclear.

The Implementation Framework further states that “Sheds H and I, currently home to organics and fruit and vegetables, will be transformed into a key food and hospitality destination”. The National Trust submits that the current fruit and vegetable offering in this location should be retained. The Victorian Heritage Register statement of significance for the market states that “The Queen Victoria Market is of social significance for its ongoing role and continued popularity as a fresh meat and vegetable market, shopping and meeting place for Victorians and visitors alike.” Indeed, the fresh food offering is what distinguishes it from other retail and hospitality destinations in the CBD, and is intrinsic to its recognised social and historical significance, which may be threatened by any “gentrification” of the market offering. Further detail should also be provided regarding proposed works to H and I sheds prior to sign-off on any proposal for their future use.

While the Trust accepts that it is necessary and desirable to improve services for market traders, the visual and physical separation of customers from market services including storage and deliveries has the potential to impact on the historic and social significance of the market as distinct from other retail destination. This should be considered in the development of detailed planning for the location of future “back of house” areas. It is important that customers continue to experience the Queen Victoria Market as a vibrant working market, and not a sterile and pristine retail environment. This aspect of social and historical significance should be investigated further before commitments are made to the implementation of the relocation of services.

Planning Amendment C245

The other QVM-related matter on the agenda of tonight’s meeting is the recently published report by Planning Panels Victoria on the C245 planning amendment, which proposes new controls for development around the market edge. The City of Melbourne is seeking to facilitate more intensive development around the market, moving away from existing controls which step down from the higher built form of the central city to the very low scale of the market. The Trust and Melbourne Heritage Action were jointly represented by barrister Daniel Robinson at a 7-day Planning Panel hearing in May, and made an extensive submission against the proposed controls, which can be found here.

The Planning Panel recommendations have tempered some of the originally proposed controls, including the removal of height limits sought by Council on the Munro site and “Parcel D” (which contains the southernmost sheds on the edge of the current carpark, and the surrounding parcel of land). However the Trust does not believe the Panel’s recommendations go far enough to protect this site of national heritage significance, with the Panel recommending controls which would allow more intensive and higher development at the market edge than what is currently allowed under the Planning Scheme. Along with Melbourne Heritage Action, the Trust is concerned that the proposed controls assume extensive development when many buildings and a whole block have Heritage Overlays. This is likely to lead to demolition/facading.

Most troubling is the leaked confidential report in The Age which indicates that negotiations are underway with developer PRG Corporation which seeks to build a 200m tower on the Munro site. This is at odds with the Panel’s recommendations of a 100m height limit, and with the views of the Minister for Planning which have recently been expressed in the media regarding heritage impacts on the market. Furthermore, this proposal appears to be in conflict with the officer’s recommendation to accept the Panel’s recommendation and refer C245 to the Minister for Planning. The Trust therefore welcomes the Panel’s recommendation that the Minister for Planning be the Responsible Authority for approval of any planning permit under DPO 11.

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